lgbt television actor diversity
Transgender actor Laverne Cox from the series "Orange is the New Black" arrived at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Sept. 20, 2015. Seventy-one percent of LGBT characters on cable and 73 percent of those on streaming services are white. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

White men still make up the vast majority of gay characters featured in scripted television series, although the racial diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters has improved over last year, according a global LGBT media advocacy organization. GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report found that transgender characters are completely absent from broadcast primetime lineups and racially diverse LGBT characters are lacking on all platforms.

This year’s report, released Tuesday, analyzed the overall diversity of the scripted series regulars on TV networks and, for the first time, on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Coincidentally, the streaming services had the most transgender character representation, according to GLAAD’s report.

Seventy-one percent of LGBT characters on cable and 73 percent of those on streaming services are white. On broadcast TV, shows are more diverse, with people of color making up 33 percent of 881 regular characters. GLAAD also found that 16 percent of LGBT and non-LGBT regular characters will be black, the highest percentage since the advocacy group began collecting racial data 11 years ago, Variety reported.

“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,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

Scripted series that air or are expected to debut in primetime between June of this year and May of 2016 will depict 881 regular characters. But just 35 of them are identified as LGBT individuals. That’s an increase from 32 last year, according to GLAAD. The group also found 43 LGBT regular characters and 16 recurring characters in 23 series streaming on Amazon, Netflix and Hulu.

“The critical and commercial success of series like ‘Empire,’ ‘Transparent,’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ can serve as an example to network executives that audiences are looking for stories they haven’t seen before,” Ellis added.

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