NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

Making Transgender and LGBTQ Storytelling on Television a Priority

Making Transgender and LGBTQ Storytelling on Television a Priority


Transgender awareness week kicked off earlier this week, with organizations and communities in the internet and television industry paying tribute to transgender people across the country. Diversity is an important component of who we are as an industry and we take pride in reflecting the diverse faces and voices in the programming that we air. This week we celebrate transgender communities, but recognizing the LGBTQ community is something our industry supports year-round. Pay TV and internet providers have taken steps in recent years to highlight the stories of transgender people and the challenges they face.

We’re proud that GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV,” which tracks the presence of LGBTQ stories on broadcast, shows that cable and online streaming services are encouraging diversity on television. GLAAD reported that “the number of regular and recurring transgender characters across all three platforms tracked has more than doubled,” from seven characters last year to 16, and six of those are on our networks (up from three last year). The number of LGBTQ regular characters across cable also increased from 84 to 92 from the previous year. Freeform stood out as having the most LGBTQ characters on pay TV, with Showtime following in second.

MTV, one of the most vocal advocates on television for transgender individuals, and winner of the Golden Beacon Award for their Transgender Awareness Week Initiative last year, continues airing programming that focus on the journeys of transgender and gender nonconforming youth as they face adversity. The network is also utilizing its Look Different Campaign, a multi-year initiative aimed at uncovering the hidden racial, gender, and LGBTQ discriminations in our society, in order to provide resources on its social platforms that educate others about the transgender community. MTV will also hold an online vigil on November 20th that will remember the lives that were lost to anti-trans violence.

Logo TV is using its Tumblr site to feature transgender leaders and activists throughout the week to inspire audiences and to help make the LGBTQ community heard. Logo started off in 2005 as a network dedicated to the LGBTQ community. Though it now includes general cultural programming as well, Logo still makes a point to incorporate LGBTQ issues in its programming and social media initiatives.

Last month, Comcast aired a new docu-series that takes a close look at transgender and other individuals from the LGBTQ community from generations past, and explores the hardships of coming out or staying quiet about their identities during a less tolerant time. What Was It Like? aired on Xfinity On Demand for a two-week period. And coming up next month, HBO will air a new documentary, The Trans List, featuring 11 transgender people. The cast includes well-known celebrities and LGBTQ advocates Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, and the film will explore what it was like for them and their families to go through a gender transition.

While there’s still a lot of work to be done in ensuring representation for LGBTQ characters on television, our programming is working hard to share stories about the LGBTQ community and starting conversations around the tough issues that so many transgender people grapple with every day.

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