We’re Seeing an All-Time High of LGBTQ Characters on Scripted TV

In 2019, there aren’t just more TV options than ever before — there are more interesting stories and characters too. One reason for that may be the uptick in representing previously ignored groups, like the LGBTQ community. But there is good news, we’re currently experiencing an all-time high for LGBTQ series regulars on primetime scripted broadcast series — a huge win for LGBTQ representation, and a huge win for viewers everywhere.

GLAAD just released its annual report on LGBTQ representation and this year’s findings show more beloved lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters on TV than ever before. The report, titled Where We Are on TV, looks at scripted shows from Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, as well as scripted broadcast and cable shows.

It’s easy to take these LGBTQ characters for granted — after all, would scripted TV even exist without Annalise Keating? — but it’s been a long road to this point. After their 2018 report, GLAAD had challenged the TV industry to make 10% of their series regulars LGBTQ. While this year’s numbers exceeded that goal, with 10.2% of series regulars identifying as LGBTQ, that’s still a pretty small percentage, all things considered.

And after all, why wouldn’t we add more LGBTQ representation? As GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis points out, viewers aren’t neutral about the change — they actively love it. “Shows like Pose, Schitt’s Creek, Batwoman, and Billions demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity,” Ellis noted, naming four beloved 2019 TV shows with prominent LGBTQ characters.

Daniel Levy, Emily Hampshire, and Noah Reid in 'Schitt's Creek.'
Daniel Levy, Emily Hampshire, and Noah Reid in ‘Schitt’s Creek.’ Image: CBC.

So, which networks and streaming platforms should you check out to make sure you’re watching the best (read: most representative) TV possible? Sadly, this year will have us saying goodbye to beloved LGBTQ couples Mitch and Cam from Modern Family, Ollie and Connor on How to Get Away with Murder, and David and Patrick on Schitt’s Creek — but we have a pretty good idea of where your next couple to ship will come from.

GLAAD reports that Netflix, Showtime, and the CW are consistently counting the highest number of LGBTQ characters on their shows — while their Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis, Megan Townsend, gets even more specific. ” Programming from four dedicated producers and creators who prioritize inclusion, Greg Berlanti, Lena Waithe, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes, accounts for 14 percent of total LGBTQ characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming originals,” she announced today.

While it’s great to call out and encourage TV creators who are upping their LGBTQ representation, we should hold everyone to the same standard. If we’re still watching TV that’s 90% heterosexual, that doesn’t exactly look like our world — and seriously, imagine the last 10 years of TV without LGBTQ characters. What would even be the point?!

To make sure we’re not getting complacent, GLAAD is giving the TV industry a new challenge. By 2025, 20% of series regulars on primetime scripted broadcast series should be LGBTQ. And by 2021, 50% of all LGBTQ characters on every platform should be people of color.

Viola Davis and Amirah Vann in 'How to Get Away with Murder.'
Viola Davis and Amirah Vann in ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’ Image: ABC/Richard Cartwright.

It definitely has felt like there’s been more LGBTQ representation on TV lately — and because of GLAAD, we can confirm, that yes, there has been. Hopefully, we’ll see a new all-time high in next year’s report — and the next year’s after that. Heck, 2019 even gave us a gay Batwoman: it truly feels like anything is possible.

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