LGBTQ characters at all-time high on TV, new study says

Things look to be heading in the right direction.

October 25, 2018, 11:00 AM

A new study from GLAAD is touting some very exciting news for LGBTQ representation on TV.

The annual "Where We Are on TV" report looks at diversity across primetime scripted series and found that LGBTQ regulars on shows are at an all-time high at 8.8 percent, up 2.4 percent points from the previous year.

Furthermore, LGBTQ characters are at a parity when it comes to men and women, almost split right down the center.

The last glaring bit of information from this comprehensive study is that people of color represent more LGBTQ characters than those that are white, making this the first time that's ever happened.

"GMA" spoke to Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, about these findings and she said this growth in diversity all stems from diverse shows and characters proving they are wanted and performing well in the eyes of Hollywood.

PHOTO: Nicole Maines as Nia Nal in a scene from "Supergirl."
Nicole Maines as Nia Nal in a scene from "Supergirl."
Bettina Strauss/The CW

"The main takeaway is we are absolutely heading in the right direction," she said, adding that while hate of many forms may dominate national headlines, "We are seeing purveyors of culture step up and help with telling stories, humanizing people, especially diverse people."

Ellis is not surprised that the study found streaming services like Netflix are still and have been leading the way in LGBTQ inclusion, but she thinks Hollywood is in the middle of a "domino effect" with networks and cable channels finally "following suit."

For example, seeing FX's "Pose" take home an Emmy last month "rewards and acknowledges" having so many "trans people both in front of and behind the camera."

Who is leading this charge?

Streaming services like Netflix, along with its counterparts Hulu and Amazon have really taken things to the next level.

The report shows that the number of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters increased more than 50 percent to 112 this year within the streaming category.

Netflix boasting shows like "Orange is the New Black," "Luke Cage" and more are tops among this platform.

But cable networks have also contributed with FX boasting the highest number of LGBTQ characters. The CW is tops for all broadcast networks with their impressive lineup of programming led by producer Greg Berlanti.

PHOTO: Laverne Cox and Arden Myrin in a scene from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" Season 1.
Laverne Cox and Arden Myrin in a scene from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" Season 1.
Paul Schiraldi/Netflix

Some of the other highlights in the study show that LGBTQ roles aren't just for minor characters anymore with shows like "The Red Line" and "Charmed" placing LGBTQ role models front and center.

Then you have this year's firsts like Nicole Maines playing the first transgender superhero on CW's "Supergirl," a show that previously broke ground in the genre with one of the show's main characters Alex Danvers coming out to her sister, Supergirl, early on in the series.

In all, GLAAD found 26 trans characters across all platforms, also a number on the rise.

Ellis said Maines' new role is one that is "breaking the mold like we've never had before."

What does the future hold?

Ellis and GLAAD make recommendations within each section of the study and something they've done this year that they've never done is set their sights on double digits.

"We've given them a target of 10 percent [from the 8.8 now] by the year 2020," she said. "We think it's a number is everybody ready for and a goal to aim for."

The gender parity and fact that people of color are the majority among LGBTQ characters is something really astounded and amazed the head of GLAAD.

"We'll see if that sustains," she said. "That's going to be an interesting part. To be able to tell LGBTQ story, have to tell diverse story. We are everywhere. We are the one group that's the intersection of all marginalized identities."

Shows to look out for:

In addition to "Supergirl" and "Pose," there are a slew of other shows you know and love, or maybe you don't, that are really taking inclusion to heart.

Here are a few (but not all) as listed in the report:


  • "Arrow"
  • "DC's Legends of Tomorrow"
  • "The Cool Kids"
  • "Modern Family"
  • "Empire"
  • "Grey's Anatomy"
  • "This Is US"
  • "Blindspot"


  • "Now Apocalypse"
  • "Shadowhunters"
  • "Vida"
  • "American Gods"
  • "Preacher"
  • "Andi Mack"
  • "The Magicians"
  • "Wynonna Earp"
  • "Shameless"
  • "Billions"


  • "Tales of the City"
  • "Luke Cage"
  • "GLOW"
  • "BoJack Horseman"
  • "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"
  • "The Bisexual"
  • "Find Me in Paris"
  • "Marvel's Runaways"
  • "The Handmaid's Tale"
  • "Transparent"

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