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GLAAD study says: Broadcast TV has never been more queer

If you feel like you’re noticing more LGBTQ characters on screen, you’re not imagining things.

Across all broadcast networks, nearly 12% of regularly appearing characters are members of the LGBTQ community, according to GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report. The report documents LGBTQ representation across broadcast, streaming and cable series for the 2021-22 season ending in May; GLAAD works with networks to confirm which characters are members of the LGBTQ community.

That broadcast total is up 2.8 percentage points from last year’s report and marks a record-high percentage of queer characters in the 26 years since the advocacy group began measuring representation on TV

Progress didn’t stop with broadcast’s new record. Cable series saw an increase in representation, too, with 138 characters counted as members of the LGBTQ community, up from 118 from last year (but down from 215 in 2020). In all, the report counted 637 LGBTQ characters on TV.

GLAAD also added five newer streaming services to its report – Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock – which joined Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. The additional streamers, and more programming, led GLAAD to count 358 LGBTQ characters on streaming shows, up from 217 last year.

Netflix had the most with 155 (up from 110 last year), followed by HBO Max with 71 and Amazon and Hulu with 36 apiece (up from 12 and 19 respectively). Apple TV+ had just six, but the results are skewed by the number of shows each service offers.

On broadcast, CW had the most LGBTQ representation among series regulars, followed by Fox. On the major networks, 56 of the characters – or 40% – were lesbians – up from 34% last year. And for the fourth year in a row, GLAAD found that most LGTBQ characters on broadcast TV (58% this year) were people of color.

“To see not only the numbers go up, but particularly to see improvement when it comes to parts of the community who have been left out of the story and left offscreen is a really great change to see this year and something that we’re very excited about,” says Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis.

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