NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

The State of the LGBTQ Community on Television and in the Workplace

The State of the LGBTQ Community on Television and in the Workplace

Transgender Awareness Week

With National Transgender Awareness Week underway, it's a good time to take a look at where the cable community stands when it comes to not only supporting transgender issues, but in encouraging an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ community--from the programming that airs on television to the policies in the workplace.

GLAAD, the non-profit advocacy group that works to build acceptance for LGBTQ groups in media and entertainment, recently released their annual "Where We Are on TV" report from the 2017-2018 TV seasons, which examines the diversity and number of LGBTQ characters on broadcast, cable networks, and streaming services. Cable saw increases in several categories. For one, the number of LGBTQ characters, regular and recurring, totaled 173--up from 142 last year. Lesbian representation increased seven percentage points from the last report, now at 47 characters. Cable also included one asexual character this year from Freeform's Shadowhunters.

Freeform came out on top again as the most LGBTQ-inclusive network on cable with 25 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters appearing this season. The network is known for its pioneering efforts in LGBTQ programming, with breakthrough shows such as The Fosters. Showtime followed with 21 characters. Showtime has stepped up in recent years to focus storytelling on communities and individuals whose stories remain untold. Its show Billions includes "one of the most prominent-non-binary characters on TV," according to the GLAAD report.

GLAAD also remarked that this is the first year that all three platforms have included non-binary characters in scripted series, and that the number of transgender characters continues to increase each year: "The increase in trans characters year over year is welcome progress. With more characters, programs are beginning to include members of the trans community that have historically been left off screen, including trans men and non-binary people." This past year, cable included seven transgender characters.

Also worth a mention, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released its 2018 Corporate Equality Index this month, which rates corporate workplace policies and practices surrounding LGBTQ employees. Charter Communications, Comcast NBCUniversal, Time Warner Inc., Univision, Viacom, and The Walt Disney Company all earned a perfect 100 percent score, meaning each demonstrated a deep commitment to LGBTQ employees and provided standards, coverage and benefits for their needs, such as health insurance and transition-related medical coverage for transgender employees, or protection policies surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation.

Cable serves one of the largest and most diverse audiences of any other industry. While there's still progress to be made to accurately reflect the many voices, faces and perspectives out there, it's important to highlight the strides underway to support the LGBTQ community, whether it’s on the screen or behind the scenes.