Although the number of gay characters is reportedly at an all-time high, it’s not good enough for many gay rights advocates, as many of the characters are still white men.
In its annual “Where We Are on TV” report, GLAAD wrote that out of the 901 regular characters featured on broadcast scripted primetime television, 6.4 percent were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. According to GLAAD, “This is the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the history of this report.” GLAAD also added, “There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters” on those shows.
However, in the opinion of the Advocate’s Daniel Reynolds, this groundbreaking new number isn’t enough.
In his piece, Reynolds writes that while “LGBT Visibility Is All-Time High on TV,” it “Favors White Cisgender Men” (for those who are unaware, “cisgender” refers to anyone who is not trans).
Reynolds claims that a majority of those men—55 percent—are still “male and cisgender”:
However, diversity is still lacking, as 55 percent of LGBT roles on network television are male and cisgender. Moreover, across all platforms, most of these characters are white — 77 percent on streaming, 62 percent on broadcast, and 64 percent on cable.
Teen Vogue’s Kara Nesvig also voices similar concerns in her piece on the topic. Nesvig notes:
A new study by GLAAD called Where We Are on TV reveals that while representation of LGBTQ people on TV has definitely improved and become much more inclusive than it was in the past, it’s still not perfect.
Perfect, to Nesvig, is including more non-white and transgender characters:
However, the study found that there are only 17 transgender characters on broadcast, streaming, and cable ... and that most of the LGBTQ characters are male and white, proving that TV still has a ways to go with representation.
The concern over the whiteness and maleness of the representation on television is also a problem for GLAAD’s president, Sarah Kate Ellis. In her statement in the GLAAD report, she writes that the gay white male representation on TV is disproportionate to the real numbers in the LGBTQ community:
At its best, television should reflect the full diversity of our community and therefore our society. The LGBTQ characters who make it to TV screens tend to be white gay men, who outnumber all other parts of our community in representation on screen. In actuality, the population of the U.S. counts more women than men, and bisexual people make up the majority of the LGBTQ community. It’s long past time for television to introduce more diverse LGBTQ characters on multiple levels: more queer people of color (who have long been and remain underrepresented), characters living with disabilities, stories of lesbians and bisexual women, trans characters, characters of various religious backgrounds, and characters who are shaped by existing at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities.
Even if the entertainment community is doing its best to put gays at the forefront of television, there is apparently still a problem as long as those characters are white men.
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