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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Temple chapter.

Queer characters in television are at a record high but most shows featuring queer leads, mainly queer leading women, are being canceled, it’s time to start getting representation right. 

According to a report done by the LGBTQ+ media advocacy group, GLAAD, 11.9% of regular characters on television are a part of the queer community. The  numbers of LGBTQ+ characters of color have risen and the number of transgender and nonbinary characters hasve doubled. However, streaming services such as Netflix have been canceling shows featuring queer leads, specifically shows that focus on queer women. 

Shows that notably feature queer female leads like First Kill, I Am Not Okay With This, and Everything Sucks! were all canceled in their first season. First Kill earned about 30 million hours of viewing while shows such as Heartstopper, which focuses on a a queer male relationship with a host of LGBTQ+ characters, earned about 14 million hours of viewing. While Heartstopper earned half as many hours of watch time it has been renewed for at least two more seasons while First Kill, which focuses on a lesbian lead relationship has been canceled in the first season.  

While queer representation is stepping up, there are still some problems with what is being represented, namely the  underrepresentation of some groups, tokenization, and stereotyping. Many parts of the queer community aren’t being represented enough on the screen which can make the audience feel like they aren’t seeing themselves represented in the media. Out of the 92 characters that make up the LGBTQ+ population on screen, 23 are bisexual  and 42 are transgender and nonbinary characters across all broadcast and streaming shows. The GLAAD study, however, doesn’t include the number of lesbian characters or gay male characters on screen but notes they make up the largest parts of the representation.  

Tokenization is another problem for LGBTQ+ characters on screen. Often television and streaming shows casts feature only one queer character in the midst of the main group full of straights, cis-gendered characters. Queer characters can often be made to be the butt of the joke or cast as a stereotype: the sassy gay best friend, the big mean man- hating lesbian, the slutty bi girl at work, the list goes on.  

Relying on and perpetuating these stereotypes can be harmful to the gay community. Jokes and stereotypes invalidate the identity of many people and can give audiences the wrong impression. Before I came out I would hear my mom and grandmas talking about how bisexual people are confused and need to “pick a side”, because they would only see how bisexual people were portrayed on television. It made me afraid to come out, scared of what my family would think about me. These stereotypes and inaccurate representations stick with the people of the queer community and even more so with audiences who think these inaccuracies are truths.  

Television and streaming services need more queer writers in the room to share their stories accurately and unapologetically. The range of representation could be expanded so much and more communities need to be given the chance to share the spotlight. Introducing more queer characters is a great step but all communities need to be represented in an accurate light and big broadcast and streaming services are the ones who need to make that happen.  

Hi! I'm Giovanna. I'm from Philadelphia and I'm an English Major and Temple in my sophomore year. I love reading, writing, music, and crocheting. I'm really excited to be writing for Her Campus this year.