LGBTQ characters on U.S. TV are at a record-high (much higher than real-life)

LGBTQ characters on U.S. TV are at a record-high (much higher than real-life)

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LGBTQ characters on prime-time broadcast TV have reached an all-time high level of representation, but that number doesn't accurately reflect the percentage of the US population that identifies as such.

The story: GLADD is an LGBTQ media advocacy organization that, among other things, analyzes the diversity of characters on cable networks and streaming services, including the number of LGBTQ characters in primetime scripted series. The latest report shows that networks surpassed the goal of 10% a year earlier than the deadline GLAAD set. Now, the organization wants networks to increase the percentage of LGBTQ characters to 20% by 2025.

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"We made a specific call, and to see the networks surpass it is really noteworthy. It's especially exciting to see the number of trans men on TV more than double this year, which last year's report really pushed television networks to do, and to see that for the first time, LGBTQ women outnumber LGBTQ men on broadcast," GLAAD's director of entertainment research and analysis, Megan Townsend, told NBC News.

On TV: According to GLAAD's annual "Where We Are on TV" report, 10.2% (90 out of 879) of the characters identify as LGBTQ, topping last year's record of 8.8%. Out of those, 26% of identity as bisexual+ and 52% are people of color. There are nine characters with HIV/AIDS, compared to last year when there were seven, and 27 LGBTQ characters with disabilities.

Real-life: A Gallup poll, however, found that only 4.5% of the US population identify as LGBTQ in 2017, meaning that the actual number of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is almost tripled in broadcast primetime scripted programming.

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Americans "overestimate": Another poll showed that Americans think the percentage of LGBTQ individuals that live in the country is much higher than it actually is. In 2011, respondents, on average, said 24.6% belong to the LGBTQ community, in 2015, that number was at 23.2%, and in 2019, they said 23.6% of the population is gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual.

Worth noting: Despite the disparity in percentage between real-life LGBTQ individuals and characters on TV, GLAAD laments that, for example, only 26% of the characters on TV identify as bisexual+, when in reality, they represent the majority of the LGBTQ community. The group also says there is a much higher percentage of LGBTQ individuals with disabilities than are represented.

"There's a lot of great numbers to celebrate, but there's still work to be done. Progress is also still found in clusters. Even though there are hundreds of cable networks, 44 percent of LGBTQ representation on television can be found on just three networks: Showtime, Freeform, and FX," Townsend said.

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