Gay and lesbian media representation is a powerful tool for humanizing underrepresented communities. However, it can also be triggering for those who experience these narratives firsthand.
Seeing themselves represented in media helps LGBTQ children feel less alone and leads to greater cultural acceptance. Unfortunately, tokenism still lingers in our media culture.
Since TV is a powerful medium that shapes cultural ideology, the visibility of LGBT characters on television matters. The US pressure group GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) recently released its report on the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters in scripted TV shows.
According to the GLAAD study, out of 775 series regular and recurring LGBT characters on broadcast, cable and streaming shows, lesbians made up the most representation at 92 and gay men represented 49. There were also two asexual characters in TV shows this year. The study found that LGBT people of color outweighed white LGBT characters, but the numbers still need to be improved.
The GLAAD study also examined the movies released by the major studios and their “art house” divisions. It found that there was much more representation on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max and Peacock. It also looked at IMDB box office data to see if films featuring LGBT characters performed well financially. It was a positive sign that the Hollywood studios are starting to recognize that LGBT films sell.
A significant part of LGBT representation occurs in film and television and in porn movies as Masyn Thorne porn. While the popularity of shows like Will and Grace, Ellen, Queer as Folk, and Modern Family has lead to a gradual increase in the portrayal of gay characters on television, they still remain relatively rare. According to a study conducted by cultivation theory, this may be because the TV audience has been conditioned to believe that homosexuality is extremely unusual and deviant.
The increasing depiction of gay characters on TV has been aided by the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. These platforms have begun to include more LGBT characters on their shows, including some who are people of color. In 2019, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reported that in scripted television, 58 percent of gay characters on broadcast television were people of color.
However, even though the number of LGBT characters in TV is improving, they are still often portrayed as white people. This can be attributed to Hollywood’s desire to appeal to the largest possible audience with their films.
In recent years, musicians such as Hayley Kiyoko and Halsey have helped increase bisexual representation in music. Kiyoko, for instance, has been vocal about her own experience with same-sex relationships, which can be a form of inspiration and comfort for LGBTQ listeners who may also struggle in the same way. Other LGBTQ artists have used their music to help highlight issues with discrimination, such as Troye Sivan’s ‘Heaven’.
Throughout the decades, gay musicians have gone from oft-sidelined talents, waiting for just a sliver of interest from record labels, to chart-topping hitmakers with a strong following and significant social impact. Whether rocking out with Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace or blending the noisiness of Ramones-inspired punk with the delicate nuances of alternative pop like Ezra Furman, queer audiences have proven their purchasing power as being a major force in the music industry.
As a result, LGBTQ consumers have become a cultural trendsetter that can help influence mainstream music to include more LGBT content. As a demographic, LGBTQ music fans have been shown to spend more money on albums, artist merch, and concert tickets than the general market.
4. Comic Books
The escapist fun and creativity of comic books offers readers a respite from the more serious and heavy topics that can be found on television or in movies. Many comic book titles include characters that are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and offer positive representations of those identities.
The diversity of LGBTQ characters on TV is growing – GLAAD reports that this year broadcast networks reached an all-time high of 11.9% of series regular LGBT characters, surpassing cable in the process and continuing to meet their challenge for having more than half of those characters be people of color.
The popular Heartstopper TV adaptation, based on Alice Oseman’s viral comic web series, is a good example of how positive LGBT representation can be in the media. The story of Charlie and Nick’s blossoming relationship is a teen romance that avoids the usual trauma and stereotypical drama that typically surrounds LGBT media depictions and may help open the minds of younger viewers to acceptance and understanding of others. This book explores how gender identity can be more fluid than the traditional male and female – which is also an important message to convey to young readers.
5. Video Games
Video games have become a place where LGBT people can explore their identities without the stigma of real world society. However, the representation of gay people in video games has been hit and miss.
Life-simulation game The Sims has been a standard-bearer for LGBT representation, though at first it wasn’t intentional. Its developers initially removed same-sex romance options in the late 90s, but they were reinstated by a programmer.
Other games have also incorporated LGBT characters. BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age series both feature same-sex relationships, as does the MMO Guild Wars 2. Sir Hammerlock in the Borderlands series references having a boyfriend and Gone Home tells a beautiful coming-out story.
But the representation of LGBT characters in video games can be limited by the genre. If a game is primarily focused on combat, the creators may feel that including homosexual characters will distract from gameplay. Fortunately, with the rise of social media and Twitch streaming, queer gamers (or “gaymers”) have been able to find each other and create gaming communities. This has been a huge driver of change.