After peaking at 3.9% of all cast members in the 2010-2011 TV season, the proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender characters on scripted prime-time TV will decrease to 2.9% in the 2011-2012 season, according to the latest "Where We Are on TV" report from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
That's also lower than the 3% share in the 2009-2010 TV season, but higher than the 1.1% share in 2007 and 2.6% share in 2008.
Altogether, there are 19 LGBT characters out of a total 647 series regulars appearing in 91 scripted, prime-time TV programs this season, GLAAD says. This figure is subject to change, based on programming adjustments over the course of the season. That compares to 23 LGBT characters out of a total 590 series regulars in the 2010-2011 season.
Still, numbers aren't everything, and some LGBT characters play highly visible roles in the shows this season.
GLAAD acting president Mike Thompson noted: "While the number of LGBT characters is down, some of the most popular shows with critics and viewers such as "Glee," "True Blood" and "The Good Wife" weave story lines about gay and lesbian characters into the fabric of the show."
Returning to sheer numbers, Fox is the most LGBT-heavy network this year, with eight LGBT characters out of 117 season regulars, or 6.8% of the combined casts. That's way up from 2007, when GLAAD found that Fox did not have any regular LGBT characters on its scripted prime-time programming.
Reality TV show casting is usually revealed later than scripted shows, making it hard to include reality shows in the LGBT count. GLAAD acknowledged that these programs frequently showcase LGBT characters in a variety of roles.
Assessing the significance of these numbers is difficult, in light of disagreement about the actual proportion of LGBT people in the general population. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has estimated the proportion at anywhere from 3% to 8%, while the UCLA Williams Institute says 4%. The 2010 U.S. Census estimated that 0.55% of all households are headed by same-sex couples.