By Lotta Groenendaal and Ana Lešković
February 18th 2022. On February 17, 2022, the American LGBTQ+ media monitoring organisation GLAAD reported that the representation of queer characters on TV has never been higher.
As reported by GLAAD’s annual report for 2021-2022, 11.9% of the series regular characters who will appear on American primetime television this season are LGBTQ+. That is an increase of 2.8% from last year, and a new record-high percentage in the history of their reporting.
According to Ganymedes, the largest LGBTQ+ student organization in the Netherlands, for many, seeing queer characters on TV offers an insight into queer life that they would not otherwise have. “Everybody deserves positive examples to live up to, but not everyone has the good fortune to meet them in real life,” their President Mari Pool says.
“It’s especially about the discovery. The media can help you understand or discover that there are more people like you,” says Leon Woudstra, a gay student. “Even if you’re from a conservative place, the media will show you other ways to look at the world. In a way, representation in the media allows people to look beyond the world that they were potentially forced into.”
Both Ganymedes and Leon are from the Netherlands, where the number of people identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community is estimated to be around 800 000 to 1 million.
On a larger scale, around 10% of the world’s population identifies as LGBTQ+, according to the 2021 IPSOS LGBTQ+ Pride survey. A 2020 Guardian article reports that there has been an increase of 60% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+ since 2012. Data like this highlights the importance of increasing queer representation on TV.
Everybody deserves positive examples to live up to, but not everyone has the good fortune to meet them in real life.Mari Pool
Laura*, a bisexual student, agrees. “I think representation is very important because it enables people to understand themselves better and not to feel alone. For me, I discovered my sexuality through TikTok, but I think it’s especially important on TV because it reaches the most people in that way, since it’s watched by all generations.”
According to Laura, “more representation helps fight the stigma around the community. It is not important only for the LGBTQ+ community itself, but for everybody.”
Mari Pool from Ganymedes agrees. “Not every cis and straight person personally knows LGBTQ+ people (as far as they know, at least…), and since people tend to view the unfamiliar in a more negative way, good and diverse media representation can take away some of that bias.”
However, most LGBTQ+ people agree that the situation could be even better. Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, says that the current political climate calls for even more representation. “At a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence continues to increase, it is cultural institutions like television, that take on the crucial role of changing hearts and minds through diverse and inclusive storytelling.”
*Laura did not want to be identified by her real name for this story.
Photo: Alex Suprun/ Unsplash