Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Television leads in telling LGBTQ+ stories: report

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Story at a glance

  • LGBTQ+ regulars on scripted broadcast primetime programming hit a record high in 2021. Representation grew on cable programming and on streaming services as well.
  • GLAAD this year added five new streaming services to its tally of LGBTQ+ characters on scripted originals.
  • Off-screen, the percentage of U.S. adults identifying as LGBTQ+ doubled in 2021 from a decade earlier, climbing to 7.1 percent.

LGBTQ+ representation on scripted television shows has grown notably over the last year, according to a recent report by the media advocacy group GLAAD, as LGBTQ+ people on and off screen drive ratings higher.

Of the 775 series regulars on scripted broadcast primetime programming, 92, or 11.9 percent, identify as LGBTQ+, according to the group’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report, an increase of 2.8 percentage points over last year and a new record high.

Including an additional 49 LGBTQ+ recurring characters, in all, 141 LGBTQ+ characters appeared on the five major broadcast networks tracked by GLAAD: ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX and NBC.

In a first, lesbian characters represented the majority of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast television, at 40 percent. That’s an increase of 22 characters and 6 percentage points from a year earlier.


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Lesbian characters also led LGBTQ+ representation on cable for the first time in 15 years, which GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said was likely tied to the return of Showtime’s “The L Word: Generation Q.”

Overall, the number of LGBTQ+ regular characters on cable programming increased slightly to 87 from 81 the year prior, while the number of LGBTQ+ recurring characters grew significantly, from 37 to 51.

Notably, transgender representation on cable programming fell this year, as did the number of bisexual women in scripted cable series.

GLAAD this year added five new streaming services — Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock — to its tally of LGBTQ+ characters on scripted originals. The group had already been tracking representation on Amazon, Hulu and Netflix.

Nearly 250 LGBTQ+ series regulars were featured on streaming services this year, according to GLAAD, which also counted 113 LGBTQ+ recurring characters, bringing the total to about 360. Running counter to broadcast and cable, lesbian representation on streaming services fell slightly by 1 percentage point, while bisexual female representation grew, accounting for 21 percent of all LGBTQ+ characters on streaming platforms.

Off-screen, LGBTQ+ audiences are also growing. According to a Nielsen report released in June, LGBTQ+ audiences were between 16 percent and 71 percent more likely to have used streaming services over the last week compared to the total population, depending on the platform. 

LGBTQ+ users of streaming services were also found to be nearly twice as likely to be heavy social media users, often spending more than three hours a day online.

The percentage of U.S. adults identifying as LGBTQ+ also doubled in 2021 from a decade earlier, climbing to 7.1 percent, Gallup said Thursday. In 2020, 5.6 percent of adults said they identified as LGBTQ+.


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