At the intersection of gender and images: A Women’s History Month Series - Pt. One

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we begin a retrospective of the gains women - in particular lesbian, bisexual and trans women - have made in entertainment media over the three decades since GLAAD was founded.  Throughout this time, their numbers have stayed generally the same at 51% of the U.S. population, growing to a 2 to 1 split (67%) over men by age 85.  But their representation on big and small screens is nowhere near that number.  So we pose the question:  what does it mean when our stories aren’t told?

Sarah Kate Ellis GLAAD President & CEO“What we know to be true at GLAAD is that images matter,” states GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Onscreen images of diverse characters and storylines are usually society’s first entrée into understanding a community that doesn’t look like them or act like them.  Hollywood must recognize that LGBT people are worthy of depictions crafted with care and humanity, and we should be part of the stories they tell.”

The roots of National Women’s History Month go back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month. Every year since, Congress has passed a resolution for Women’s History Month, and the President has issued a proclamation. (U.S. Census Bureau)

This week, we look at their representation in feature film as evidenced by GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index (SRI).  Launched in 2013 to examine depictions of the LGBT community in mainstream Hollywood films produced by the seven largest motion picture studios during the previous year, GLAAD uses the findings to hold them accountable for the quality and quantity of these images and create a dialogue between GLAAD and the film studios that will ultimately lead to accurate and fair representation of our community.  We are currently analyzing last year’s crop of films and will soon release the 2016 SRI.

In the meantime, let’s look at some trends found by revisiting the 2013, 2014 and 2015 SRI reports.

  • Of the total number of characters identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, gay men outnumbered lesbians by more than 2 to 1.
  • There were no transgender characters in the 2012 and 2014 major studio releases GLAAD tracked.
  • Of the 102 releases within 2013, there were only two transgender female characters:  one was a trans woman very briefly depicted in a jail cell, while the other was an outright defamatory depiction included purely to give the audience something to laugh at.  This is in keeping with the trend that LGBT characters are more likely to be found in comedy films than anywhere else.

2013 SRI Gender Breakdown          2013 Studio Responsibility Index







2014 SRI Breakdown of LGBT characters2014 Studio Responsibility Index






2015 SRI Breakdown of LGBT characters           2015 Studio Responsibility Index






GLAAD Global VoicesEntertainment media reflects who we are as a people; whether we exist with dignity as whole and complete individuals or are erased from the landscape and remain invisible.  For over 30 years, GLAAD has been a force for change by recognizing fair, accurate and inclusive representations of our diverse LGBT community and the issues we face.  By empowering real people to share their stories across all media platforms, we accelerate acceptance and advance equality at home and across the globe, especially in places where simply being out can be a risk.  You can find out more about GLAAD’s Global Voices initiative here.

Among this year’s list of 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Nominees are examples of powerful women characters and their stories as portrayed on film.  These  include Carol, Freeheld and Grandma (Outstanding Film - Wide Release), as well as Tangerine and Boy Meets Girl (outstanding Film - Limited Release), among many other award nominees.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives. The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD's work to amplify stories from the LGBT community and issues that build support for equality.

For a complete list of this year’s nominees, click here

The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on April 2, 2016 at The Beverly Hilton and in New York on May 14 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Find out how you can buy tickets or host a table here.

To receive the latest updates on the GLAAD Media Awards, follow @glaad on Twitter and use the hashtag #glaadawards.