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TV has more gay characters now, but most of them are white

A still from HBO's Looking
A still from HBO's Looking
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

In the 2014-2015 television season, gay characters will make up 3.9 percent of primetime series broadcast regulars, GLAAD reports. This is a good thing. It's an increase from the year before, and it's closer to the record high of 2012, when LGBT characters represented 4.4. percent of all primetime series broadcast regulars.

The breakdown and statistics of each network's LGBT representation can be found in GLAAD's extensive "Where We Are On TV" report. Begun in 2005, the report is a status update on how our television shows reflect real life.

While television is arguably America's most accessible form of art, it hasn't always been the most inclusive. And there are a lot of Americans who grew up not seeing any representation of themselves on television. And there are a lot of shows on television about the U.S. that absolutely don't reflect the people who live here.

When it comes to depictions of LGBT people, television isn't anywhere close to the mythic 10 percent figure established by Kinsey, though it is closer to a study from UCLA professor Gary Gates, who estimates the LGBT population to be closer to 4 percent of all Americans. But where there seems to be the greatest drop-off, is when it comes to the lack of non-white LGBT characters on network television:



GLAAD found that 26 percent of announced LGBT characters on primetime broadcast television were non-white. If that reflected real life, the number, as Gates told me in July, would probably be closer to 50 percent non-white.

The diversity gap is closer on cable television:


That isn't to say that white characters' stories aren't as important as non-white ones. And further, GLAAD's report isn't really a barometer of which characters are fully-fleshed out, versus which ones are caricatures. It's just that there are stories, despite these improvements, that still aren't being told, and the texture of race and ethnicity that is alive in the LGBT experience isn't translating on screen (yet).

For the full report, head on over to GLAAD.