Gay, lesbian characters better represented on TV this year
Michelle Clancy | 07-10-2012

The number of regular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) characters on broadcast television in the United States has risen to the highest ever recorded, while the overall LGBT character count also increased on cable television. That's according to the annual report from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Where We Are on TV.

The report shows that LGBT characters account for 4.4% of scripted series regulars in the 2012-2013 broadcast television schedule. This is up from 2.9% in 2011, 3.9% in 2010, 3% in 2009, 2.6% in 2008 and 1.1% in 2007. Regular LGBT characters on scripted cable television also rose this year to 35 (up from 29) for the 2012-2013 season.

Glee was found to be most inclusive program on broadcast television. Across the top five broadcast networks ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW there are 97 scripted television programs scheduled to air this upcoming season, featuring a total of 701 series regular characters. 31 of those are LGBT, as are an additional 19 recurring characters.

"This year's increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers and peers, and as audiences tune into their favourite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives."

ABC has the highest amount of LGBT characters, with 5.2% (10 out of 194) of regular characters identifying as LGBT. After leading last year, FOX is in second with six LGBT characters out of 118 total series regulars (5.1%). The CW will feature four regular LGBT characters out of 81 total (4.9%), while NBC will feature seven regular LGBT characters out of 166 (4.2%).

CBS still trails in diversity, but it also improved and will feature four LGBT characters out of 142 series regulars (2.8%), up from 0.7% last year. "The addition of a gay lead character demonstrate an authentic and conscious effort by CBS to improve its diversity," said GLAAD.

HBO's True Blood has the highest number of LGBT characters on cable with six gay, lesbian or bisexual characters. But this year's Showtime lineup features the greatest number of LGBT characters on cable with 12; seven of which are series regulars.

Also making a significant contributions to the count are HBO (9 characters), FX (8), Adult Swim (5) and ABC Family, MTV, Syfy, and TeenNick (with 4 characters each).

In terms of overall diversity, male characters continue to outweigh female characters 55.5% (389) to 44.5% (312) in overall numbers, while 78% (547) of all series regular characters are white. Compared to last year, African American representation has increased from 9.9% to 12% (84) while Latino/a representation has decreased from 5.6% to 4.1% (29). There were 33 Asian-Pacific Islander characters (4.7%) which is similar to last year's figure. This also marks the third year in a row that GLAAD counted people with disabilities, who will make up just four of all regular characters (0.6%).

Of the 31 announced LGBT regular characters in the 2012-2013 prime time broadcast season, 11 are people of color (35.5%), and one will be a person with disabilities. In one area that has seen great improvement, GLAAD counted seven regular or recurring Black LGBT characters on broadcast television, while last year counted none at all.