GLAAD’s “2020-2021 Where We Are On TV” Results See a Decrease in LGBT+ Representation

Canon gay couple Wille and Alex from "Julie and the Phantoms".

GLAAD ‘s “2020-2021 Where We Are On Tv” forecasts LGBT+ representation on television for the 2020-2021 season. Disappointingly, the LGBT+ representation reported was 1.1% less than than the 2019-2020 report, at 9.2% of characters represented on televistion. This was due in part of Covid-19 causing delays and cancellations to some shows that would have represented LGBT+ characters.

Gay men were the most represented on all platforms of television. Lesbian characters were the second most represented on broadcast television but third most represented on streaming services. Bisexual characters (primarily women) were the second most represented on cable and streaming services and the third most represented on broadcast television, then transgender characters and lastly asexual characters who sadly had no representation on broadcast television although there will be a cable series this spring with canonically asexual character.

Maze and Eve, canonically bisexual characters from Lucifer on Netflix.

Fortunately the racial diversity of LGBT+ characters on all platforms has increased, with LBGT+ characters of color outnumbering white LGBT+ characters for the third year in a row, although respresentation of LGBT+ Latinx or Asian and Pacific Islander characters decreased. The CW was the broadcast network with the most LGBT+ representation. Although, as seen with Supernatural not all representation is good representation. There was decrease in bisexual characters represented by 11% from two years ago, despite bi+ people making up the majority of reported people in LGBT+ community.

Amity (Mae Whitman) and Luz (Sarah Nicole Robeles), are prom dates on The Owl House from Disney Channel.

The number of canonically transgender characters broadcast television has increased from last year, from seven to ten. The majority of these characters were women, with no nonbinary characters.

GLAAD recommended the broadcast network try producing shows with LGBT+ centric casts similar to ones that streaming services have provided, like Pose, highlighting the fact according to their Accelerating Acceptance study 20% of people ages 18-34 identified as LGBT+.

Gay men were again the most represented on cable television as 36% of all LBGT+ regular characters on cable. Lesbian representation on cable went down significantly, by 4%. Representation of bi women decreased by 1% whereas, representation of bi men increased by 3%. The number of trans characters representeed decreased drastically, by 50%. Some of these LGBT+ characters (14%) will not returning for another season, highlighting the issue of shows with LGBT+ characters facing cancellation, burying their LGBT+ characters, or writing them out of the script. The FX channel represented the most LGBT+ characters on cable.

Sapphic couple Scylla and Raelle from Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem.
CR: Russ Martin FX’s WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS -Pictured: Matt Berry as Laszlo, Natasia Demetriou as Nadja, Kayvan Novak as Nandor, features four LGBT+ characters.

The streaming services studied were Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Representation of gay men on the streaming service shows decreased by 6%. Representation of lesbians decreased by 4% and it is the forth year in a row that lesbian representation has decreased. Representation of bisexual characters increased, 5% for women and 3% for men. Transgender representation decreased 6.4%. The majority of transgender characters on streaming shows were men. Representation of LGBT+ characters of color increased 6% although they were the only platform not to meet GLAAD’s challenge that half of LGBT+ characters represented be POC. Netflix was the service with the most representation although it should be noted that thirty-three of the characters will not returning to future seasons, like the show I Am Not Okay With This. In addition to this, several bi+ characters will not returning to tv this this year, including David of Schitt’s Creek.

Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This featured lesbian protagonist, Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis).

When we look these results together, it is clear that although there has been more LGBT+ representation in recent years, there has been a bit of a decline in 2020-2021. In part due to Covid-19, but part due to the end of series featuring LGBT+ characters and a lack of shows to fill the void. Although a cameo appearance of an LGBT+ character is great, we need to continue to have ongoing series with regular, reoccuring LGBT+ characters. Another, major area for improvement is to have more canonically asexual characters, nonbinary characters, and Asian Pacific Islander LGBT+ characters, as well as greater racial diversity of LGBT+ characters on streaming services overall. Television content may have to be modified because of Covid-19, but modified content can still feature LGBT+ characters.