At the launch of the 2012-13 television season, GLAAD estimated that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scripted characters comprised 4.4 percent of all scripted series regular characters on the five major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, the CW, Fox, and NBC.
Of the 701 regulars counted in primetime scripted television programs, 31 are LGBT. This is the highest proportion of LGBT characters ever recorded in 17 years of surveying LGBT representation in the media.
“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick on the organization’s website. “More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives.”
While the increase of LGBT appearances in television is wonderful, the quality of these portrayals usually leaves much to be desired. The adage of balancing quality and quantity certainly applies here. Most LGBT portrayals in the media are rife with stereotypes and clichés. Gay male characters are usually shown as effeminate, dramatic and fashion-obsessed. Lesbian characters are usually written to seem as masculine as possible. Bisexual characters are often portrayed as promiscuous. Transgender characters are rarely seen at all.
It is important that young LGBT people see characters they can relate to and identify with. Strong characters like “Degrassi’s” transgender teen Adam Torres can inspire LGBT people to live openly and courageously.
LGBT characters are also less likely to show affection on TV than heterosexual characters. When television and media wipes out normal, same-sex affection or makes it a “very special episode” to show a same-sex couple kissing, it further reinforces that it is outside the norm and perpetuates the idea that homosexuality is unnatural. If television networks simply showed a realistic representation of how real LGBT people interact, it would go a long way in shaping cultural and societal ideas of how gay couples interact.
Society is clearly changing. More people support gay rights than ever before. The media should reflect that.
Marie Chaney is an 18-year-old mass communication and fashion freshman from Monroe.