LGBTQ people of color, transgender visibility in film is bad, GLAAD report

LGBTQ representation in film saw its highest ever recorded year, but for the third consecutive year, racial diversity of LGBTQ characters in major movies decreased, and transgender characters were absent, according to a report from GLAAD.

This year marked the first time that GLAAD tracked disability status of LGBTQ characters, but only one gay charcter with a disabiility was visible in a major film (“Five Feet Apart”). Adding insult to injury, the character was killed before the end of the movie.

“Film has the power to educate, enlighten, and entertain audiences around the world and, in today’s divisive political and cultural climate, we must prioritize telling LGBTQ stories and the stories of all marginalized people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

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GLAAD’s annual Studio Responsibility Index report examines the highest-grossing films of 2019 from eight major movie studios. The films are evaluated for quantity, quality, and character diversity.

Films are rated based on GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test, a set of criteria analyzing how LGBTQ characters are situated in narratives. The test is named after GLAAD co-founder Vito Russo.

  • The film contains a character who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. They are not in the movie to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline. The character should matter.

“If film studios want to stay relevant to today’s audiences and compete in an industry that is emphasizing diversity and inclusion,” Ellis said, “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.”

GLAAD Report Rocketman

Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in the bio pic “Rocketman.” Photo: Paramount Pictures.

The 118 films in the report are from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, STX Films, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros.

Here are the report’s findings, some vinegar followed by honey:


  • Visibility for LGBTQ people of color decreased for the third year in a row to 34%. It was 42% in 2018 and 57% in 2017, respectably.
  • Although gay men saw an increase in representation, lesbian representation decrease to 36% of inclusive films, and bisexual representation dropped to 14%.
  • Screen time for LGBTQ characters decreased; more than half of the characters had less than three minutes of screen time, and 56% of them were seen for less than one minute.
  • Of the 9 movies STX films released in 2019, none included an LGBTQ character, leading to a “failing” rating from GLAAD. 
  • None of the studios received a grade of “good” or higher. Four studios received a “poor” rating, and 3 received an “insufficient” rating. 


  • 22 of the 118 (18.6%) films included LGBTQ characters, up from 2018’s 18.2%
  • Of all the studios, Paramount Pictures had the highest inclusion rate with 33% of their movies having LGBTQ characters.
  • Gay men appear in 15, or 68% of the inclusive films increasing from 2018’s 55%.
  • 2 inclusive animated and family films; in 2018, zero.
  • 4 of the 8 studios achieved GLAAD’s goal of 20% inclusion in their films.

About the author

Richard Grant

Richard Grant is a reporter and photojournalist, but if he had to pick, he prefers shooting to writing. His Black Lives Matter protest photos in Long Beach have received global attention. Grant is also the proud dog dad of a beagle named Pepper, who happens to be the best dog in the world, better than yours.

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