The Number of LGBTQ Characters in TV Is Declining, GLAAD Study Finds

Of all this season’s series regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast programming, 8.6% are LGBTQ

The Last of Us
The Last of Us

The latest edition of GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report shows there’s been a recent decline in representation of LGBTQ characters and storylines.

As 2024 inches closer to pride month, GLAAD dropped its 19th study on Tuesday, reporting both dips and stagnancy in LGBTQ representation, particularly as it relates to transgender talent. For series regulars across primetime scripted broadcast programming, 8.6% were LGBTQ. On top of that, of all the LGBTQ characters that were counted (468), 50% were LGBTQ people of color while only 5.1% identified as transgender. The study also found 36% of LGBTQ characters included will not be returning next season.

“The findings from this year’s ‘Where We Are On TV’ study reveals several inarguable truths when it comes to LGBTQ storytelling,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “We know that LGBTQ-inclusive series can indeed be successful, as demonstrated by shows like ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Yellowjackets.’”

“We know it is imperative for the queer community, especially transgender people, to see our lives reflected on screen to counteract the misinformation and harmful rhetoric going unchecked by politicians and journalists. And we know that younger audiences are hungry for shows that truly reflect the world around them,” she continued. “The answer behind impactful and long-lasting television is right there for studio executives, showrunners and Hollywood at-large and the stakes could not be higher.”

The annual study maps the presence of regular and recurring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters on original primetime scripted programming. This edition covered the 2023-24 television season.

Here are some of GLAAD’s key findings from its most recent study:

  • 8.6% of series regulars across primetime scripted broadcast programming were LGBTQ, which includes a decrease of 31 characters and 2% from the previous year.
  • GLAAD counted 49 LGBTQ series regulars and 28 LGBTQ recurring characters on primetime scripted cable, for a total of 77 LGBTQ characters. This is a decrease of 62 characters from the previous study.
  • GLAAD counted 208 LGBTQ series regular characters and 119 recurring LGBTQ characters on streaming scripted original programming for a total of 327 LGBTQ characters. This is a decrease of 29 characters from the 2022-23 study.
  • Of the 468 LGBTQ characters counted across all platforms (broadcast, cable and streaming), there are 24 transgender characters (5.1% of all LGBTQ characters), a decrease of eight characters and 0.3% from the previous study. Of those, there are 11 trans women, five trans men and eight trans non-binary characters.
  • Of the 468 LGBTQ characters across all platforms, 232 (50%) are characters of color. This is a decrease of 72 characters and one percentage point from the previous study.
  • There was only one LGBTQ character (0.2 percent) counted this year living with HIV: Tim Laughlin in Showtime’s miniseries “Fellow Travelers.”
  • Of all 468 LGBTQ characters counted, at least 170 (36%) will not be returning due to series cancellations or endings, miniseries/anthology format, or a character dying or otherwise exiting the show. Of those 468, 112 LGBTQ characters (24%) specifically won’t be returning due to series cancellation or ending.

GLAAD’s senior director of Entertainment Research & Analysis Megan Townsend said the findings in this year’s report included “concerning decreases” to which the entertainment industry needs to pay attention.

“GLAAD’s ‘Where We Are on TV’ study found a number of concerning decreases across the board in the past two years, alongside a changing industry on all fronts which is seeing increased vertical integration and contracting budgets and staff. We know that LGBTQ storytelling is powerful and a priority for key audiences,” Townsend said. “It’s clear that networks and streamers looking to maintain relevance and brand longevity with the growing LGBTQ audience should be developing their future slates with an eye towards stabilization. This includes multiple season orders, prompt renewals and a sustained investment in inclusive storytelling through meaningful marketing, promotion and production budgets given to new and returning titles.”


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