GLAAD's 'Where We Are on TV' report highlights why #RepresentationMatters

GLAAD today released its annual Where We Are on TV report; a comprehensive forecast of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) characters expected in primetime, scripted programming in the 2017-18 television season. This is the 22nd year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television, and the third year since GLAAD expanded that count to quantify LGBTQ characters on original series that premiere on the streaming content providers Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.

Of the 901 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime scripted programming in the coming year, 58 (6.4%) were counted as LGBTQ. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ regular characters GLAAD has counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters. This is 86 total LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on primetime scripted broadcast TV, up from the previous year’s 71. The five broadcast networks are ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC.






The number of LGBTQ regular characters counted on cable increased from 92 last year to 103 this year, while recurring LGBTQ characters is up from 50 to 70. This is 173 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, though it should be noted that 27 of these characters are not expected to return for the 2018 season due to series cancellations, announced finales, or characters being written off but who appeared as a regular or recurring character during the research period.


On streaming originals on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, LGBTQ regular characters are up with 51 (from 45), but recurring characters are down by one to 19 this year. This is 70 LGBTQ characters on streaming original series, up from last year’s 65.

“As LGBTQ acceptance in government and the broader American culture reverses course, television is a critical home for LGBTQ stories and representation matters more than ever,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “At a time when the Trump administration is trying to render LGBTQ people invisible, representing LGBTQ people in all of our diversity in scripted TV programs is an essential counterbalance that gives LGBTQ people stories to relate to and moves the broader public to support LGBTQ people and families.”  

For the first time, GLAAD has been able to count regular and recurring characters who are non-binary and asexual characters in the Where We Are on TV report. While these identities have been depicted on screen before, those characters were often relegated to one-off episodes, which did not allow for nuanced exploration. Broadcast is the only platform tracked without a canon asexual character; cable and streaming each count one asexual character (Raphael of Freeform’s Shadowhunters, Todd on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman).

The emergence of these new stories is reflective of the real world. GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance survey found that 20 percent of Americans aged 18-34 (a key demographic for networks) identify as LGBTQ. Twelve percent of 18-34 year olds would call themselves “not cisgender,” and four percent identify as asexual. The inclusion of these stories is a welcome change, and GLAAD looks forward to seeing more of these characters.

Other encouraging findings include a record-high percentage of series regulars on broadcast television who are people of color (40 percent, 356 out of 901), as well as a record-high percentage of regular characters with disabilities on broadcast television (1.8%).

While much progress has been made and TV remains far ahead of film in terms of LGBTQ representation, it is important to recognize where programming is still falling short. This report brings to light the continued lack of diversity among LGBTQ portrayals on television. In all forms of television that GLAAD tracks, LGBTQ characters are still predominantly white (77% of LGBTQ characters on streaming, 62% on broadcast, 64% on cable). The majority of LGBTQ characters are men (55% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast), and cisgender. There are only 17 transgender characters across all three platforms tracked – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals.

“Numbers are only a small part of the story when it comes to LGBTQ representation on TV and simply being present onscreen is not enough,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at GLAAD. “While we’re pleased to see numbers on the rise, consideration of how LGBTQ characters are woven into storylines and whose stories are making it to screen is crucial for judging progress of the industry. And there is still work to be done.”

Additional findings include:

  • Of the 901 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming this season, 58 (6.4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. This is the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the history of this report. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.
  • The number of regular LGBTQ characters counted on scripted primetime cable increased to 103, and recurring characters increased to 70, making for 173 characters.
  • There were 51 LGBTQ regular characters counted in original scripted series on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix as well as 19 recurring characters. This is an increase of five total characters from last year’s 65 total LGBTQ characters.
  • Bisexual+ characters make up 28 percent of the LGBTQ characters tracked across all platforms (broadcast, cable, streaming originals), a slight decrease from last year. These characters still heavily skew toward women (75 women to 18 men).
  • This year, there are 17 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all three platforms. Of those, nine are trans women, four are trans men, and four are non-binary. This is notably the first time GLAAD has been able to count non-binary characters.
  • Racial diversity of LGBTQ characters remains an area of concern. Of the 70 LGBTQ characters counted on streaming originals, 77 percent were white. All three platforms tracked here – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals – lacked LGBTQ characters of color.
  • For the first time since GLAAD has started this report, we were able to count asexual characters. Cable and streaming each include one asexual character (Raphael on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, Todd on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman), while there are no canon asexual characters on broadcast. While the Jughead character is asexual in the Archie comics, The CW’s Archie series Riverdale is not yet telling this story. GLAAD would like to see the series address this moving forward, as the ace community remains nearly invisible in media.
  • Only 43 percent of the regular characters counted on broadcast primetime television are women, a decrease of one percentage point from last year and a severe underrepresentation of the U.S. population, which is estimated to be 51% women.
  • The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 1.8 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. There are only two characters across all three platforms that are depicted has HIV-positive, a decrease of one from last year.

GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report not only propels national conversations about LGBTQ representation, but informs GLAAD’s own advocacy within the television industry. GLAAD uses this yearly data to create a clearer picture of the stories and images being presented by television networks, and to work alongside the networks and content creators to tell fair, accurate, and inclusive LGBTQ stories on screen.

Join the conversation by following @glaad on Twitter, and using the hashtag #RepresentationMatters. Read the full 2017-18 Where We Are on TV report at