TV's LGBTQ Representation Is Down, and Mass Cancellations Aren't Helping

GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” study this year found a 6% decrease in the number of LGBTQ characters across broadcast, cable and streaming — and the cancellation/ending of shows surely isn’t helping matters.

Ahead of the latest study’s measurement period, the cancellation of Batwoman, Charmed, DC’s Legend of Tomorrow, 4400, Legacies and Naomi (on just The CW alone), plus Killing Eve, Claws, Dickinson, Astrid and Lily Save the World, The Wilds, Genera+ion, Y: The Last Man, Dear White People, Gentefied and Saved by the Bell (to name but a few), had already made a dent in LGBTQ representation.

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But as reflected in this year’s report, the ending or upcoming ending of 54 shows such as Queer as Folk (which was home to 11 LBGTQ characters), Warrior Nun, Star Trek: Picard, Westworld, New Amsterdam, Reboot, Nancy Drew and Riverdale will result in the loss of no fewer than 140 LGBTQ characters — or 24 percent of all LGBTQ characters on TV. An additional 35 LGBTQ characters counted in this year’s study (which monitors shows that premiered or are expected to return between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023) will not be returning due to a character leaving the series or a closed-ended anthology or miniseries format.

‘The Rookie: Feds’ (Courtesy of ABC) - Credit: 'The Rookie: Feds' (Courtesy of ABC)
‘The Rookie: Feds’ (Courtesy of ABC) - Credit: 'The Rookie: Feds' (Courtesy of ABC)

'The Rookie: Feds' (Courtesy of ABC)

Other top lines from this year’s 40-page report, which can be read in full here….

* GLAAD this year tallied 101 LGBTQ characters on broadcast, 139 LGBTQ characters on cable, and 356 LGBTQ characters on streaming (Apple TV+, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock and Paramount+).

* The overall percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on scripted primetime broadcast TV is 10.6%, down 1.3 percentage points from last year’s record high; there were an additional 31 recurring LGBTQ characters, down from last year’s 49…. On scripted primetime cable, GLAAD counted 86 series regular LGBTQ characters, one fewer than last year; there were an additional 53 recurring LGBTQ characters, up two YOY…. GLAAD counted 239 LGBTQ series regular characters on streaming, down six less from last year’s count; there were an additional 117 LGBTQ recurring characters, up four from last year.

* Of the 596 LGBTQ characters counted across all three platforms, 35% were gay men, 30% were lesbians, 25% were bisexual+, 4% were queer, 2% were straight trans characters, 2% had an undetermined sexual orientation, and 1% were asexual. (Those marked as “undetermined” are transgender and/or nonbinary characters for whom networks were unable to confirm sexual orientations.)

* Across all platforms, GLAAD counted more LGBTQ women characters (52%) than men (44%), while 4% were nonbinary.

* The percentage of bisexual+ characters on TV (25%) continues to land far below the actual population of bisexual+ people, which account for 58% the LGBTQ community (per Gallup).

‘The White Lotus’ (HBO) - Credit: Courtesy of HBO
‘The White Lotus’ (HBO) - Credit: Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

* For the first time since the 2014-15 report, HBO had the most LGBTQ characters on cable, with 26. That tally includes but is not limited to The Last of Us‘ Ellie, Somebody Somewhere and The White Lotus. Showtime, which is typically No. 1 in this measure among cablers, had 24 LGBTQ characters — down 11 year over year, and half of whom appeared in Season 4 of The L Word: Generation Q. Freeform followed with 16 LGBTQ characters, meaning that almost half of all LGBTQ characters on cable were accounted for by three networks. FX this year had 15 LGBTQ characters, followed by Starz’s 12, AMC’s 11 and Disney Channel’s 11 (including trans and gay characters on the animated freshman Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur).

* Netflix (by the sheer volume of what it produces) led all streamers with 183 LGBTQ characters, followed by Prime Video’s 43 (including A League of Their Own and Harlem), Hulu’s 37 (including Reboot and Love, Victor), HBO Max’s 34, Peacock’s 24 (2o of whom are on now-cancelled shows), Disney+’s 14, Apple TV+’s 11 and Paramount+’s 10.

* Regarding racial diversity: On cable and streaming, at least 50 percent of LGBTQ characters on each platform were people of color. Broadcast-TV had met the 50% benchmark the past four years, but this time around delivered 48 percent. Of the LGBTQ characters who were POC, the breakdown is as follows: 20% Black, 14% Latino, 9% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4% multiracial, 3% Middle Eastern/North African characters, and 1% Indigenous.

‘Quantum Leap’ (NBC) - Credit: Courtesy of NBC
‘Quantum Leap’ (NBC) - Credit: Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

* Several new broadcast-TV series feature central LGBTQ characters, including ABC’s The Rookie: Feds, The CW’s Gotham Knights and NBC’s Quantum Leap.

* Of the 596 LGBTQ characters counted in this report, only 27 (4.5%) have a disability, far below actual population estimates. What’s more, the three from broadcast-TV — Roswell, New Mexico‘s Sgt. Alex Manes and New Amsterdam‘s Dr. Bloom and Dr. Wilder — were from ended series. On cable, six of the nine LGBTQ characters living with disabilities were from the anthology American Horror Story: NYC, and thus won’t be seen again. Speaking of which,,,,

* GLAAD counted eight LGBTQ characters living with HIV — six from FX’s American Horror Story: NYC, and the remaining two from the cancelled series The Midnight Club and Queer as Folk.

Launch Gallery: 22 LGBTQ TV Characters Who Made an Impact Over the Past 50 Years

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