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Study Finds Record-High Percentage of LGBTQ Series Regular Characters on Broadcast TV

Broadcast television has a record-high percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters, with the percentage of LGBTQ people of color topping white LGBTQ characters for the first time, according to a new report from LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD.

GLAAD’s 2018 “Where We Are on TV” report found that 8.8% of all series regulars on broadcast TV were LGBTQ characters, up from the previous record of 6.4% set last year. Among both regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on broadcast networks, people of color were more represented than white characters for the first time at 50% to 49%, respectively, GLAAD found.

The report also found that LGBTQ characters on broadcast TV have gender parity, with both men and women representing 49.6% each—an improvement from last year’s numbers of 55% men and 44% women. Across all platforms, including broadcast, cable, and streaming services, the total number of bisexual people increased to 117 from 93; transgender characters are up to 26 from 17; and HIV-positive characters increased to seven from two.

“With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, said in a statement. “Not only do stories that explore the rich lives and identities of LGBTQ people move the needle forward culturally, but they pay off in ratings – shows like Will & Grace, Supergirl, Empire, and How To Get Away with Murder all attract millions of viewers weekly and demonstrate that audiences are hungry for new stories and perspectives.”

As for overall diversity, GLAAD found that 22% of all characters are black in the new season of broadcast television—a record-high up from 18% last year. Latinx characters this year tied last year’s record of 8%, and 8% of characters this year are Asian-Pacific Islanders.

Across streaming services, Netflix featured the most LGBTQ characters. For cable networks, it was FX, spearheaded by the Ryan Murphy drama Pose.

“This year we noted two history-making television moments: the premiere of FX’s Pose, which features the largest number of transgender series regular characters on a scripted U.S. series ever, and this fall The CW’s Supergirl introduced audiences to TV’s first transgender superhero when Nicole Maines made her debut as Dreamer/Nia Nal,” Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD, said in a statement.

“This is all part of a welcome increase in television telling groundbreaking stories featuring characters whose identities have long been left off screen,” she added.