GLAAD released its annual study of LGBTQ representation on television this week, and for the most part, the findings are positive. The study found that 2017 was the best year ever for LGBTQ characters on television, with 6.4 percent of characters on broadcast prime-time TV identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
The study found that 58 out of 901 regular characters on broadcast TV identified as LGBTQ, up from 42 last year; on cable TV the number of regular LGBTQ characters increased from 92 to 103. As for streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, GLAAD found an increase of six regular LGBTQ characters across all original series.
Across platforms, GLAAD found nine characters who identified as trans women, four who identified as trans men, and four non-binary characters. GLAAD also notes that this is the first year in history it’s been able to count asexual and non-binary characters in the study at all.
Despite the progress TV has made in the past few years, there’s still definite room for improvement. The number of bisexual characters across all platforms saw a slight decrease from last year at 28 percent, and the majority of bisexual characters are women. GLAAD also reports that every platform suffers from a lack of racial diversity: on streaming services, 77 percent of LGBTQ characters are white.
The study notes that while Freeform’s Shadowhunters and Netflix’s BoJack Horseman both feature asexual characters, The CW’s Riverdale ignores progressive elements of its source material. Jughead is asexual in the Archie comics, but in the show he’s portrayed as heterosexual. Streaming services had the highest number of transgender characters across all platforms, but they also featured no transgender men.
GLAAD’s recommendations are to improve the racial diversity of television’s LGBTQ characters, and to increase the number of transgender men.
As the number of LGBTQ characters on television increases, more people around the world will have the opportunity to see themselves represented on-screen — sometimes for the first time ever. Progress has been more rapid on television than in film, where Hollywood still struggles to increase representation.