As we celebrate Pride Month in 2022, we look at how Hollywood has succeeded and failed in inclusive representation. From new diverse stories, LGBTQIA+ characters, and queer-centered media at the forefront, let’s explore the importance of representation now more than ever.
LGBTQIA+ representation in Hollywood has been a difficult journey
For over 100 years, the LGBTQIA+ community has been depicted in films but frequently overlooked or not transparent. In Stacker’s “A History Of LGBTQ+ Representation In Film,” censorship and discrimination prevented queer and trans characters at the center of mainstream Hollywood films in the 1900s. When the Hays Code was enacted from 1934 to 1968, movies were prohibited from showing homosexuality. Soon after, queer and trans characters were depicted as villains, like vampire Countess Marya Zaleska in the 1936 queer-coded film Dracula’s Daughter.
As years have gone by, LGBTQIA+ representation has increased. GLAAD reported in 2020 that out of 118 major studio films counted, 22 characters identified as LGBTQ. That is a 0.4% increase from 2019’s 20 out of 110 movies. For Broadcast TV in 2022, GLAAD found a record number of LGBTQ+ representation. Specifically, 92 characters, 11.9 percent, are LGBTQ which is an increase of 2.8 percent from last year.
Audiences have validated these stories, causing more actors in the LGBTQIA+ community to feel seen and heard. Just this year, MJ Rodriguez became the first transgender actress to win a Golden Globe for her role as Blanca on the FX show Pose.
Readers share their first time being seen on screen
The first time seeing yourself represented on screen can be powerful. It lets you know you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it’s easier for cisgender, white, straight people to see themselves in Hollywood vs. people who aren’t. Everyone deserves to have a moment in their life where they can see themselves on screen. Hollywood.com readers shared some of their stories of those moments.
The television drama The L Word, which follows a group of lesbian and bisexual women, was the first piece of media where Lily G. represented.
Erica D. noticed that there were very few bisexual characters in the media during her youth, but one comic book turned CW show gave her hope.
“I always knew I liked both genders and I didn’t know how to choose one. Everyone would always say ‘that’s just Erica.’ Until I watched the first two seasons of ‘Riverdale’ and Toni Topaz said ‘I’m more into girls anyways.’ I paused the TV screen and replayed the scene maybe like 10 times before I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and I took a deep breath that I didn’t even realize I needed to take and for how long I held it in for. I realized I wasn’t alone.”
Sky D. first saw themselves on screen in the 2006 romance/drama Loving Annabelle — a movie that follows Annabelle (Erin Kelly), a rebellious student who starts at an all-girl Catholic school and becomes attracted to her professor Simone (Diane Gaidry).
Charlie St. M’s closest moments of feeling represented include the film Rocketman and the comedy series Our Flag Means Death, which follows a pirate ship where many crew members are gay, while one is non-binary.
“I am a gay, trans man and don’t think I’ve ever seen myself honestly and fully represented on-screen. The first time I ever felt I saw myself was watching ‘Rocketman,’ the Elton John biopic, seeing him choose his own name and start dressing as a rock star felt allegorically similar to my story but still was a cisgender story. The closest thing I have to representation right now is probably ‘Our Flag Means Death.’ I think it’s so refreshing to finally have a story where LGBT+ characters can be silly and simply exist without constant fear of homophobia or transphobia. Even though I don’t see myself in it yet, that’s a space somebody like me could exist, and that gives me hope.”
For Kait D., the NBC show Brooklyn Nine-Nine was the first time she felt parts of her identity seen on screen.
Fast forward to 2022: is there healthy LGBTQIA+ representation?
While we can notice growth for LGBTQIA+ representation in Hollywood, more work must be done. According to a survey conducted by our site, more than half still don’t feel fully represented in the media.
“While I feel there has definitely been a huge increase in positive representation of the LGB part of our acronym, trans and non-binary people continue to be excluded. Too often trans characters are reduced down to their transness and not shown as complex characters.” – Charlie St. M.
For queer people of color, the media still fails with adequate and healthy representation. On cable TV, GLAAD reported that representation for LGBTQIA+ people of color decreased to 45%.
“It’s really frustrating to see a lot of queer characters getting killed off or hearing stories of directors and producers choosing not to include queer storylines in media adopted from source material where the characters were queer. I wish we had more asexual, non-binary, and gender questioning representation. Not to mention more queer people of color. I personally have never seen myself fully represented in the media and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.” – Kait D.
“There are more queer characters in movies and tv shows, but there’s not a lot of diversity in the stories being told. LGBTQ+ media made for and by queer people is still pretty niche. I’ve had to search for the content I want to see. They also need to show more diversity when it comes to queer people. Not every lesbian is white, thin, and androgynous. There are queer people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, body types, religions, and aesthetics, which need representation.” – Lily G.
“There needs to be more diversity in the stories being told on the big screen or any type of media. As a person of color, I still struggle to find a show that is relatable to my culture. everyone’s coming out and life experience is different because of the way they are raised or influenced by. Every country talks about queerness differently.”– Sky D.
It’s also not enough just to have LGBTQIA+ characters in films and TV shows. Like any character, they deserve complex stories that aren’t solely centered on their sexuality.
“I don’t think the media does a good job at portraying a character storyline as expensive and in-depth as straight characters are written because they are so focused on making sure everybody knows that they are gay just to say they have gay characters and to attract queer audiences (queerbaiting) or focusing on their coming out story. There is hope at least that we are taking steps in the right direction.” – Erica D.
LGBTQIA+ representation should be 24/7 in Hollywood, not just during Pride Month
While Pride Month is a great way to look back on the progress made for the LGBTQIA+ community and look forward to the future, the work and the discussions around representation should be happening 365 days a year. Like Kait D. says, “This type of discussion happens every Pride Month, but after that, it seems like Hollywood forgets its commitment to diversity and LGBTQIA+ representation until the next pride month rolls around.”
At Hollywood.com we pledge to continue working on our allyship by internally diversifying our team and writing stories that amplify all voices, especially those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Do you have ideas on how we can be more inclusive with our content? Do you have story pitches for us? We want to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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