Year In Review

Each year, our statistics team identifies original shows across all platforms that contain lesbian, bisexual, and other female characters whose sexuality is undetermined so that we can analyze information on as many characters as we can for the current television season. While other organizations also capture statistics each year, ours digs a bit deeper and looks into areas (like love interests) that other research has not. We don’t rely on network reporting or forecasting for the future; our stats are based on what we see on screen for the current year only as our aim is to show a complete picture of how representation is portrayed.

On this page, we’ve set up slideshows for each category of stats we capture to enable people to see the changes from year to year. You can also find links to our in-depth evaluations of each year we’ve completed, which includes the full statistics breakdown used for our infographics.

Lesbian & Bisexual Representation 1976-2016
Broadcast Network TV 2015-2016
Year In Review 2016-2017 Full Statistics
Year In Review 2017-2018 Full Statistics

Breakdown of Queer Female Characters

An overall look at the total number of queer female characters who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or whose sexuality is undetermined across all television platforms.
  • Year In Review - Breakdown - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    In our first year of this project, we found 258 total lesbian and bisexual characters on television.
  • Year In Review - Breakdown - 2017-2018
    2017/2018
    We saw an increase in total characters by 22, with the majority of those being lesbian characters. While there was a very slight increase in bisexual characters, because the overall total number of characters went up, the percentage of bisexual characters actually went down from 42% to 39%.

Broadcast/Cable/Premium/Streaming

We break down the total characters by platform (Broadcast, Cable, Premium, Streaming) for a look at where we see the most representation.

  • 2016/2017
    Broadcast is leading the way with the 87 total characters; Cable and Streaming are close behind and tied with 75 each.
  • Year In Review - BCPS - 2017-2018
    2017/2018
    Streaming, Cable, and Premium had their number of characters increase; Broadcast however, went down by 1. The character growth was most prominent in the recurring category (up by 15), with regular and guests only increasing slightly.

Leads/Co-Leads

Having representation on a show is the first step, but too often we find our representation in supporting roles. In this section, we track the number of leading or co-leading queer characters to determine how many, if any, queer storylines were deemed important enough to have a show built around them. Seeing someone like oneself starring in a show has a well documented positive impact of helping one’s well being and self acceptance, so the more, the better.
  • Year In Review - Leads - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    Of the 258 characters across all of the platforms, only 31 are leads or co-leads.
  • 2017/2018
    Up from the previous year, there are now 17 lesbians and 24 bisexuals leading or co-leading shows across all platforms. Upward movement is positive, but with over 500+ shows airing last year, only 41 of those had a lesbian or bisexual leading character.

Love Interests

Romantic relationships are often the most influential representation for queer audiences, which is why we look at how many characters actually have significant others or sexual relationships.
  • Year In Review - Love Interests - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    There were 290 love interests, of which 94 were straight men, leaving 196 queer love interests.
  • Year In Review - Love Interests - 2017-2018
    2017/2018
    The love interests for lesbians went up as expected with the total character growth. However, the bisexual love interests actually went down in both the MLI and FLI count.

On/Off Screen Love Interests

At times, there are “love interests” a character has that we never see. A girlfriend mentioned once, an off-screen crush. We count them because many times, they are a writing device used to establish a characters sexuality, or to remind us of it. We feel it’s important to distinguish which ones we see and don’t, which is why we track them here.

  • Year In Review - Love Interests On Screen - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    Lesbian characters had 94.6% of their FLI and 81.8% of their MLI on screen. The numbers for bisexual characters were a bit closer, with 96.1% FLI and 92.5% MLI on screen.
  • Year In Review - Love Interests On Screen - 2017-2018
    2017/2018
    The number FLI for lesbian characters that we saw on screen stayed roughly the same (94.5%), though we did see 100% of their MLI; however, there were only 7 of them. FLI and MLI for bisexuals were almost identical, with 93.8% and 93.5% respectively.

Platform & Network

Below we separate the characters by original (US) networks, with each line representing the total characters on a network, in order to map which networks offer the most representation. The longer the line, the better the network is performing; the shortest ones have a lot of catching up to do.
  • Year In Review - Platform - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    Netflix is leading the way with 45 total characters. ABC is a distant second with 27, and Fox rounds up the top three with 18.
  • Year In Review - Platform - 2017-2018
    2017/2017
    5 more networks added representation last year, bringing the total to 38. Netflix still reigns supreme in total characters (53), with ABC holding second (30). Third place did change hands, with Fox (14) falling to sixth and The CW (24) barely sneaking into third over Freeform (22).

Race

The experiences of queer people from different racial/ethnic backgrounds can be very different and it’s important that they see themselves represented on screen. Unfortunately, since representation overall can be lacking, queer POC representation is even further behind, which is why it’s so important that we track these stats and keep calling out for more diverse characters on our screens.

  • Year In Review - Race - 2016-2017
    2016/2017
    Unsurprisingly, the numbers here are grossly uneven, with 63.9% of lesbians and 76.1% of bisexuals being white.
  • Year In Review - Race - 2017-2018
    2017/2018
    The number of POC representation saw an increase in lesbian and bisexual characters, bringing the total percentage of white characters down across the board. While this is an improvement, there is still a long way to go as the numbers, especially in the bisexual category (still over 70%), skew heavily white.