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GLAAD: Transgender Characters Absent From Primetime

The number of LGBT characters on broadcast and cable networks continues to increase, but transgender characters are virtually absent on primetime cable and broadcast network lineups, according to a new report from LGBT media advocacy group GLAAD.

The organization’s Where We Are On Tv report states that the number of LGBT characters on cable networks increased to 84 from 64, while recurring characters increased to 58 from 41, according to the survey. ABC Family and Showtime lead the pack with 18 regular or recurring characters, according to the survey.

ABC Family’s The Fosters featured the most inclusive cast with seven LGBT characters.

On the broadcast networks, LGBT characters represented 35 out of 881 series regular characters -- an increase from 32 reported last year, according to GLAAD.

The report also concluded that only three recurring transgender characters appear on cable networks during primetime hours, while none of the major broadcast networks feature such characters during the 8 to 11 p.m. hour.

Only seven transgender characters appear on series from OTT services such as Netflix and Hulu, according to GLAAD.

"Each of us lives at the intersection of many identities and it's important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community," said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO & President of GLAAD in a statement. "It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; those characters need to be portrayed with thought and care to accurately represent an often tokenized community."

From a diversity standpoint, nearly three-fourths of all LGBT characters represented on cable, broadcast and streaming services are white, according to the survey.

Overall racial diversity is increasing though, with 33% of regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast programming were people of color -- a six-point increase from last year, according to the survey. African-American characters made up 16% of all regular characters on television --the highest percentage since GLADD began compiling racial data 11 years ago. Of the 145 African-American characters counted, only 59 were female, according to the survey.

Racially diverse LGBT characters are notably lacking on all platforms with 71% (cable) and 73% (streaming services) of LGBT characters being white. 

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.