LGBT Representation

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Here are some statistics and resources about LGBT representation in media:

Why is LGBT representation important?

Studies have found that positive depictions of LGBT characters in media decrease negative attitudes towards LGBT people. In fact, one study that vicarious interaction with LGBT people via popular media decreased negative attitudes towards LGBT people as much as direct contact with actual LGBT people[1].

In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on her sitcom Ellen, which is widely regarded one of the most iconic and influential gay moments on television. It helped pave the way for other LGBT-themed shows such as Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and The L Word.

Will & Grace, in particular, a hit sitcom that featured a main character who was a gay man, is widely considered to have contributed to the growing acceptance of LGBT rights in American culture during the late 90s and early 2000s. In a May 2012 interview with Meet the Press, even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden cited the series's influence, saying "I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done. People fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand."[2]

A 2012 poll by The Hollywood Reporter found that 27 percent of respondents said gay characters and storylines on TV shows such as Glee and Modern Family made them more pro-gay marriage, and just six percent more anti. Among Obama voters, 30 percent got more supportive, and 2 percent less supportive. The effect on Romney voters was more divided: 13 percent got more supportive of gay marriage, 12 percent got less supportive.[3]

LGBT Representation in Books

Young adult author Malinda Lo has done an overview of YA LGBT fiction published by mainstream (not specifically LGBT) publishers for several years. Her 2014 analysis counted 47 young adult novels by mainstream publishers that had a primary character that was LGBT and/or dealt primarily with LGBT issues.

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LGBT Representation in Film

A 2015 study of 700 popular films released from 2007-2014 reported the following:

Across 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top films of 2014, only 19 were Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. Not one Transgender character was portrayed. Ten characters were coded as Gay, 4 were Lesbian, and 5 were Bisexual. Only 14 movies sample wide featured an LGB depiction and none of those films were animated. Of the LGB characters coded, nearly two‐thirds were male (63.2%) and only 36.8% were female. LGB characters were also predominantly White (84.2%). Only 15.8% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.[4]

The same study also noted that:

Of 19 LGB characters, only two were portrayed as being in a public, stable, long‐term partnership and two were shown dating. [...] No Gay or Bisexual male characters were portrayed in a committed relationship [and] no LGB characters were depicted as parents raising young children together.

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LGBT Representation in Television

GLAAD puts out an annual report called "Where We Are on TV" that analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and looks at the number of LGBT characters on cable networks.

Here are some of the key findings from their 2015 Where We Are On TV report[5]:

  • Of the 881 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime programming in the coming year, 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There were an additional 35 recurring gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters.
  • The number of regular LGBT characters counted on cable increased from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58.
  • GLAAD found 43 series regulars and 16 recurring LGBT characters across 23 series on original series that premiered on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.
  • There are no transgender characters counted on primetime broadcast programming and only three recurring trans characters were counted on cable (2%). Streaming series boast the highest percentage of trans characters at 7% (4) with two notably being series leads. Of the seven trans characters counted, only one was a transgender man.
  • Bisexual representations rose on both broadcast and cable this year with a notable increase (from 10 to 18) in the number of bisexual men appearing on cable programs.
  • Between broadcast and cable, there is only one recurring character who is depicted as HIV-positive (Oliver on ABC's How To Get Away With Murder).

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