We’re seven years out from Time magazine’s “transgender tipping point,” but LGBTQ representation in film still has a long way to go: For the third year in a row, mainstream movies failed to depict a single trans character, according to a new report from GLAAD.
For its 2020 Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), the advocacy group took a deep-dive into the quantity and quality of LGBTQ representation in films released in the past year from Hollywood’s highest grossing studios: Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, STX Films, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. And its findings were illuminating. Of the 118 big-budget movies analyzed by GLAAD’s researchers, not a single one depicted a trans or nonbinary character or storyline.
Some movies—like STX Films’ Hustlers, which included Transparent alum Trace Lysette in its star-studded cast—featured transgender actors in roles that are never established as trans. These characters were not counted in GLAAD’s 2020 SRI.
“While we are pleased to see trans actors being cast in roles that are not explicitly written as transgender, for this report, GLAAD did not count those characters in its tally based on what was on screen,” the group stated.
Although the overall number of LGBTQ characters in major studio films increased marginally, the diversity of those characters leaves much to be desired. GLAAD observed a “concerning continuation of a downward trend” of queer characters of color, who made up just 34% of the 50 total LGBTQ characters counted in this year’s report. That’s down from 42% in the previous SRI.
What’s more, the number of lesbian and bisexual characters in mainstream movies also dipped, with lesbian representation taking a particularly significant hit.
In a media statement, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called upon Hollywood to “prioritize telling LGBTQ stories and the stories of all marginalized people”:
Despite seeing a record high percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films this year, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of fairly and accurately representing the LGBTQ community. If film studios want to stay relevant to today’s audiences and compete in an industry that is emphasizing diversity and inclusion, then they must urgently reverse course on the diminishing representation of LGBTQ women and people of color, as well as the complete absence of trans characters.
Read the new report in full here.
Main image: Trace Lysette in Hustlers (2019).