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Why LGBTQI+ Representation in the Media Matters

Photo by Nabil Saleh on Unsplash

The 2023 – 2024 Where We Are On TV Report released by GLAAD, a non-profit organization focused on LGBTQ advocacy and cultural change has found that compared with the previous seasons there has been a decrease in the percentage of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer series regulars on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms

GLAAD has been tracking LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on original primetime scripted programming for nearly three decades and in those decades has seen a growth of over 13 times more LGBTQ characters on television since the inaugural count in 1996.

Research from Ohio State University has shown that showcasing diverse types of people, especially young LGBTQ+ individuals, in media and stories can positively impact how they see themselves and the world. When we see positive depictions of LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, it helps LGBTQ+ folks feel more accepted and like they belong. It has also been show that adding LGBTQ characters and storylines to entertainment isn’t just about showing how diverse our society is; it actually shifts how people see the LGBTQ community.

On the decrease shown in the new report GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said “it is imperative for the queer community, especially transgender people, to see our lives reflected on screen” concerning the surge in transphobic speech among politicians and in the news she also noted that positive media representation was an important way to counteract “the “misinformation and harmful rhetoric”

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

In recent years, TV shows and movies worldwide have undergone a remarkable evolution in accurately portraying the lives of queer people, reflecting broader societal shifts towards acceptance and inclusion. Shows like “Will & Grace”, Queer as Folk and The L Word have provided nuanced portrayals of gay life, pushing boundaries and humanising queer experiences.

More recently, “Pose” has garnered acclaim for its authentic portrayal of transgender characters and their struggles and triumphs within the ballroom culture of the 1980s. These shows, among others, have contributed to a more diverse and empathetic media landscape, affirming the validity of queer identities and narratives.In the past few years shows such as “Heartstopper”, “It’s A Sin” and “Schitts Creek” have addressed topics like coming out, homophobia, HIV/ AIDS and bullying while building fully realised authentic queer characters that resonates with audiences globally.

The GLAAD report notes that as we move into the 2024-2025 season the SAG-AFTRA and WGA memberships strike and a number of LGBTQ-inclusive series ending or being cancelled will lead to a further decrease in queer representation and Megan Townsend GLAAD’s Senior Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis advised that “networks and streamers looking to maintain relevance and brand longevity with the growing LGBTQ audience should be developing their future slates with an eye towards stabilization” including multiple season orders, prompt renewals, and a sustained investment in inclusive storytelling.

If you want to learn more about the history of LGBTQI+ Representation in television, listen to YesterQueer on Spotify a brand new podcast which asks the question. When it comes to the queer community, how have we been seen on screen?

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