GLAAD’s 2015 Network Responsibility Index Is Its Last, ‘Cause Counting The Gays Isn’t The Point Anymore

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
– William Bruce Cameron, Sociologist, 1963

This year’s “Network Responsibility Index,” released yesterday, will be GLAAD’s last, says GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a Variety column. The organization will instead be focusing more on their annual “Where We are On TV” report, which should come out this month and will provide statistics on overall diversity and describe what LGBTQs can expect in the 2015-2016 TV season. There’s a few reasons why the NRI feels less useful these days: the plethora of programs to evaluate, changing methods of consuming television and an overall shift in the cultural climate. So, basically, GLAAD is changing its focus from evaluating the past to preparing us for the future.

I mean, the only channel GLAAD evaluated this year that was entirely lacking in LGBTQ impressions was The History Channel. So.

As a data nerd with a spreadsheet imprinted on my brain listing every LGBT female character to ever appear on an American TV show, I’ll obviously mourn the death of this report. But Ellis is right that the focus has shifted from quantity of representation to quality. This year is definitely the first where every network (except The History Channel) at least did something, although it’s been swinging that way for a while. We are there. We are in the picture. But it’s often a very white, very male, very middle-class picture. It’s also pretty deplorable that although the trope of “Bury Your Gays” has managed to fade overall, lesbian and bisexual female characters of color remain particularly prone to sudden death, serving to desensitize viewers to imagery that we really should be more sensitive to these days. I’ve long felt that what the Network Index missed was a penalty for each gay person you kill off.

The method of evaluating network-by-network has been useful for holding networks accountable, but it’s becoming somewhat meaningless for viewers who only watch one channel: Hulu. The networks GLAAD evaluates in depth — broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The CW) and the largest cable networks (ABC Family, FX, MTV, TNT, ABC, TBS, USA, TLC, A&E, HBO, Showtime) — barely provide a comprehensive picture of what’s out there, with so much LGBTQ content showing up on channels like PBS, Starz, BBC America, E! and SyFy; as well as streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix. I honestly forget every week that Scandal is on ABC, and I’m a person who started subscribing to the USA Today at the age of eight so I could keep up with the Nielsen Ratings. (They came out every Wednesday in the “Life” section, which I always thought was a weird name, because it wasn’t ever about life. It was about fiction. But fiction has a life.)

We’re getting to a certain quantity of representation where the quality standards can be higher — but the challenge that kind of analysis presents is an interesting one. At what point are there enough LGBTQ characters that no single instance of misrepresentation is significant enough to be condemned? I’d say when it comes to white cisgender gay men, we’re there, we’re at that point, we can afford a Cyrus Beane. But for other sub-groups of the LGBTQ umbrella, it’s hard to say. Within the LGB female community, the battle rages on regarding whether it’s lesbians or bisexuals who are the most poorly represented in the media. Even the most qualitatively poorly represented group in the media — transgender women — already have at least a few viewers who are done critiquing the quality of representation, as evidenced by a lengthy email we received from a transgender reader following our Pretty Little Liars finale recap (which gave a balanced analysis of the reveal, in my opinion), in which the reader insisted “trans people can be literally anything in society that people who aren’t trans can be. This includes the bad things. This includes being villains… you can’t tell me that A shouldn’t do evil things just because she’s trans.” The emailer suggested we abandon “the groupthink BS that so many of us actual trans people are against,” even though our recap, which many actual trans people agreed with, was created in consultation with our Trans Editor, Mey.

Why do we care so much about the quality of our representation? Why are so many outraged by what went down on Pretty Little Liars? Why are we so pissed about the ending of Orphan BlackWhy are so many viewers scared that Amy’s gonna fall for a guy this season on Faking ItWhy is representation so crucial for LGBTQ people specifically? Well, unlike many other minority groups, most queers are unlikely to have another family member with the same affiliation, which means media can stand in for real-life community. In the 2000 book Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and TelevisionSteven Capsuto writes that “in America, broadcasting wields a power once reserved for religion: the power to tell people what is real.”

I truly believe in story, I think the stories we see and the ones we choose to engage with are one of life’s most vital elements, it’s right up there with food and shelter. This has always been true. And even sports, in a way, are a kind of story for people who invest in that particular narrative. You are always following something, some story, all of us, every day. So yes these stories matter. “The contributions of the mass media are likely to be especially powerful in cultivating images of groups and phenomena about which there is little first-hand opportunity for learning,” writes Larry Gross in the 1991 paper Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media. Gross summons the term “symbolic annihilation,” first used by George Gerbner in 1972 “to describe the absences of representation, or underrepresentation, of some group of people in the media (often based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.) understood in the social sciences to be a means of maintaining social inequality.”

Now the focus has shifted to misrepresentation and underrepresentation. Outside of ABC Family, we rarely see a lesbian or bisexual female character at the forefront of any particular cast (which is part of why Faking It is so precious to us), especially not on broadcast television. We don’t have our Jamal on Empire, Mitchell and Cameron on Modern Family or our Cyrus on Scandal. Also, when it comes to lesbian representation: why must so many lesbian characters sleep with men? Will we ever see a diversity of gender presentation amongst female queer TV characters, or just a bunch of thin femmes? WHY SO MANY WHITE PEOPLE?

But mostly these days it’s not the simple existence of queer characters that we’re fighting for, it’s for screen time for those characters and their romances. It’s so tiring, this back-and-forth we play with the people who tell the loudest stories. This is what we want to look like! Stop making us look like [other thing]! Straight white men save so much time not worrying about that shit.

So, which fictions did we tell this year, and who told them? I’m not gonna go through the whole report with you, I’ll just pick out the most interesting parts.

Like: a thing to know is that a lot of these numerical ratings can be totally thrown because of one or two shows. Showtime dominated in the mid ’00s with Queer as Folk and The L Word, then retreated, surged back again for The Real L Word, and is now, like many networks, spreading their queer eggs in multiple baskets to get back on top. Networks with gay judges on reality shows or queer hosts of news specials, like Anderson Cooper and Robin Roberts, get huge boosts that may or may not represent any qualitative measure of representation. In the capacity of judge or host, sexual orientation is often muted or aggressively desexualized, existing outside the context of romantic or sexual narratives or relationships.

2015 TV1-002

Like: this year, Empire alone enabled Fox to boast “the second most racially diverse representations on broadcast.” (PLUS HAVE YOU HEARD THAT TIANA IS GONNA BE A SERIES REGULAR THIS SEASON?!!! WE ARE SO EXCITED FOR THIS.) Over at ABC, Shonda Rhimes is responsible for most racial diversity amongst the network’s LGBTQ characters. “Collectively, there is probably no single person who oversaw more LGBT-inclusive hours of television than creator Shonda Rhimes,” wrote GLAAD. The CW scored best for racial diversity amongst broadcast networks with 38% of its representations being people of color.

But, another weakness in the GLAAD methodology is revealed in the case of The CW, who got an artificial boost in overall representation from The Flash, who had a gay police captain, David Singh, appear in almost every episode — but rarely played more than a background role in the action. The CW also killed a queer woman in Arrow, a gay vampire in The Originals and a gay warlock on The Vampire Diaries, but they’ve also got a queer Latina character on Jane The Virgin and a bisexual lead on The 100

Fox scored the first-ever “Excellent” rating for a broadcast network, mostly ’cause of Empire, So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, the latter of which dealt with its exceptional low ratings going into the final season by becoming the gayest fucking thing any of us have ever seen. I’m sure that GLAAD is relieved to be done writing the same paragraph about Bones every year, some variation of “forensic artist Angela is bisexual, but nobody talks about it.”

NBC got a shout-out for the most trans-inclusive programming, “thanks to shows like American Odyssey,” which I have never heard of.  NBC cancelled two lesbian-inclusive shows: Marry Me, which featured a black lesbian, and One Big Happy, the great lesbian hope that turned out to be kinda lousy. Ultimately, NBC scored well ’cause it has so many telethons and award shows, which are often hosted by or feature performance by gays.


Meanwhile, ABC Family is KILLING IT. 74% of their original programming hours include LGBT characters, but they excel beyond even that impressive figure: 79% of those impressions were lesbian characters, 49% were people of color, and they’ve even got a transgender male character played by a transgender actor. How has ABC Family accomplished this? Well, in general, when one seeks LGBTQ representation on a show, one inserts a gay man. It’s just the default. But at ABC Family, the default is, instead, a gay woman. Somebody at that network decided to tell a different story and they went all in. Dude, a few years ago Molly Ringwald played somebody’s lesbian Mom on vaguely anti-abortion cheesefest The Secret Life of the American Teenager! They somehow got a bisexual girl and a lesbian into Chasing Life. There’s a deaf lesbian, Natalie, on Switched at Birth. And Pretty Little Liars has given us lesbians, bisexuals and queer women in droves. (Perhaps this is what happens when you have a lesbian showrunner!) PLL alone has given us more queer female characters than appeared on television for the entire decade of the ’80s: Emily, Maya, Paige, Samara, Alison, Sara Harvey, Jenna, Shanna, Sydney, Talia and, of course, Caleb.

[But why do Hanna, Spencer and Aria get multi-season arcs for their romantic partnerships but not Emily? You could combine every moment of screen time garnered by Paige, Maya, Samara, Talia and Sara Harvey and it’d still be only half of what Caleb or Toby or Ezra have racked up individually.]

2015 TV

The ABC Family summary seems to contain GLAAD’s first statement about Pretty Little Liars‘ “Big A Reveal,” noting that although most of ABC Family’s inclusive hours are from PLL, PLL made a major misstep this year that would’ve affected its grade if it had occurred within the report’s research period. “The show made some attempt to separate [Charlotte’s] transgender identity from her mental illness,” GLAAD writes, “but ultimately she was the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.” GLAAD hopes that “when the series returns next year, it makes an effort to further humanize Charlotte beyond being yet another psychotic trans stereotype.”

HBO did well as always but also said goodbye to two of its queer-inclusive shows, True Blood and Looking. Really it’s about time HBO started featuring more female lesbian and bisexual characters (I miss Kima on The Wire, y’all), as most of its most legendary accomplishments in LGBTQ representation come from exquisitely crafted male characters in critically beloved shows like Six Feet Under, Girls, True Blood, Game of Thrones, Big Love, Entourage, Oz and The Sopranos. (Many of which honored gay male characters while pushing lady-queers to the fringe.) MTV got a round of applause for Faking It, noting that “perhaps the most unique storyline… was that of Amy’s stepsister Lauren, who audiences learned was born intersex.” Showtime does “good” too, ’cause of Shameless and Penny Dreadful, as well as The Real L Word: Mississippi and Masters of Sex.

The “Where We Are On TV” report, which I await with baited breath, will contain more revelatory numbers about diversity respective to gender, race and ability status. It’ll also give us specific numbers on how many gay men, lesbians, bisexual men, bisexual women, transgender men, transgender women and otherwise-identified humans are on TV. The takeaway from this report is, really, that this methodology no longer tells the comprehensive picture about LGBT representation that we need in this bold new era, although it’s definitely served its awesome purpose. Everybody has gotten a lot better: ABC from 15% inclusive hours in 2006 to 32%, CBS from 9% to 27%, The CW from 12% to 45%, Fox from 6% to 45% and NBC from 7% to 28%. We’re also seeing so many more queer characters on cable and streaming networks that GLAAD’s report doesn’t analyze in depth, or at all, like shows on TV Land, Starz and Comedy Central.

2015 TV3

Everybody involved in reporting on LGBT representation in the media has witnessed a dramatic change we’re still figuring out how best to cover. But GLAAD has done a great deal to encourage networks to question their representation, and they will continue to do so, even without what I imagine is an incredibly time-consuming report to compile. That spreadsheet in my head is getting harder and harder to keep track of, too… and that’s a good thing.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.


  1. I can’t wait to read it!
    I’m so glad I stopped watching Faking It. I just can’t suffer through any more media where confirmed lesbians are constantly shown sleeping with men. It’s rarely a matter of if, but when.

  2. Thanks, Riese!

    Also, fun fact: The Lesbian is definitely coming back on The 100. For what by all accounts is a pretty significant story arc, even though Alycia Debnam Carey is a lead on The Walking Dead: Los Angeles.

  3. Adding to the ABC Family haul The Fosters also included, in addition to Stef and Lena, other two other queer women (Monte and Jenna).

  4. With Orphan Black (my favorite show) OITNB and PLL, it’s been some of the best years of TV watching in my entire life! What a change from just a decade ago. I can remember when L Word was new and it was pretty much all we had.

    Part of the reason these shows, especially Orphan Black, are so great is that I feel like I can trust the showrunners to respect and not play games with their lesbian and bi characters identities. That’s still pretty rare in TV. Trust is earned and a lot of TV never earns it.

    Ah, now I’m wistful for when afterellen was new and I’d ravenously consume the L Word recaps every week. *sigh*

    • Hmm, and yet they fell into the trap of killing one of those character’s off. Season three was a disappointment in regards to how they went about aspects of LGBT rep in that they reduced Cosima’s character to her sexuality when they had been great at NOT doing that for two seasons, giving the incentive that you can bait and switch characters and replace them like items at a food market instead of adding, and the biggie for me is those showrunners comment on Tara being killed in regarding to queer ladies and then knowing that, they go and do it and they do it terribly poorly. So right now, OB does not get off scot free and I don’t think out of LGBT representation still not being at a level of equality, I can allow that to slide. But nobody cares unless the character has Tat Maslany’s face right?

      • Obviously we all have to judge things for ourselves and through our own eyes. I am extremely broken up and sad about Delphine. I’m holing out hope that she’s not truly dead, but we’ll see.

        But as to the other things you wrote, I didn’t see them reducing Cosima to her sexuality. I saw them being egalitarian and fair. Letting the lesbian character have romance and drama on screen (unlike most TV) in equal measure with the other characters. Cosima has been secondary to Sarah and even Alison a lot and this season corrected that a bit for me.

        • But in actuality it’s not really that fair when you see how they treat the other characters as it more than ever. I’m not one for lauding OB as this amazing show for LGBT rep as they fall into a lot of the same traps seen before. Felix is nothing but an accessory to his sisters, Tony a gratuitous plot device, and now Cosima has had virtually no development and season three was literally her being spiteful to this apparent love of hers who is trying to save her life while she goes off with another chick. Then there’s how they’ve written Delphine, and the manipulation they’ve used and perpetuated that she’s ‘shady’ and never to be trusted which is the weirdest thing I have come across as everything she has done has been connected to Cosima and her love for her. And that’s the crux of it. Everything is okay if Cosima is fine and in a relationship with another woman, this one had absolutely nothing as a character to her, was used to bait, and then the writers used Delphine to further manipulate the narrative with her.

          It’s not either/or for me. They fucked over Delphine, and they fucked up with the rep and from how the writers have handled it, they did not anticipate the reaction it would get from fans.

          Obviously, many will disagree with this, and that’s fine. But I can see the lopsidedness from the writing and from the fans on how it’s handled, and it does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

          • I thought the paranoia around Cosima and Tara made sense because their whole life was crazy and who would not be paranoid about that? If anything, i think the potential for paranoia had been underplayed by everyone else thus far. I liked Cosima. I like that she was more than just there to emphasize the scientific origin story.
            But the Tony move was awful. Like, they couldn’t have even taken the time to think about whether a guy who has a (pretty bad) beard maybe wouldn’t have clean shaven legs? They just needed to pop in that bit of queerness and then have him jump off the show, never to be discussed again?

    • I agree. I trust the writers as well. I don’t think Delphine is truly dead but even if she is… I don’t see this as falling under the killing off the queer character because they’re queer trope. She’s the first queer character to die out of a lot of deaths over 3 seasons. She isn’t the only queer character and in the Orphan Black world… people are going to die. They can’t all be exempt because they’re queer. She was the head of Dyad at war with Neolution. Can we really expect her to be safe after she refused to work with them and killed one of their oldest members?

  5. I think pll gets way to much credit. Most of the characters you listed came and went quickly. Hardly representation. Emily’s love life is given significantly less time than the other 3 and is frankly not well written. I watch the show and before 6.10 absolutely loved it but Emily’s love life did not factor into that love.

    • Yeah, I mean, I said exactly that in this post. It’s funny that part of the reason there have been so many queer women on PLL is because Emily hasn’t been given the extended multi-season relationships that her friends have, just Maya, a bunch of little affairs, Paige, and more little affairs.

    • I feel like ABC family in general gets too much credit for the simple fact that they even have queer characters yet they have always treated those characters differently. Case in point, the way Emily’s relationships with women are presented compared to her straight friends who have very sexual and long-standing relationships with boys. The same can definitely be said for how The Fosters dances around Stef and Lena’s sexual(or lack thereof) relationship compared to their teenage children all of whom have had sex on the show. And if this channel can continue to push a inappropriate relationship between a teacher and his student and two foster siblings as the most epic love ever to teenage fans than two moms who have been together for 10 or 15 years can damn sure have sex on your network.

  6. I think it makes a lot of sense that GLAAD is getting rid of the NRI. All you need to do is look at Glee to know that sheer number of LGBTQ characters does not necessarily equal positive representation. And that fact that GLAAD doesn’t look at Netflix shows like OITNB or Sense8 sort of makes the NRI irrelevant (like, how does Fox get credit for Unique, but Sophia isn’t included at all!?) I’m really looking forward to see what they do in the future though!

  7. I always find myself thoroughly researching a show with lesbians before watching it these days in case there’s going to be disappointment. But Pretty Little Liars somehow got way too much hype for what it is on the internetz. Was super disappointing how they flash Emily’s relationships on the screen so fast it’s like they’re trying out subliminal messaging. And then when what’s her face sleeping with the teacher had like a whole season of angst and parental disapproval to contend with and Emily’s coming out was all done and dusted in the first five minutes of an episode. Almost insulting rly. Don’t even get me started on Faking It and them all assuming every lesbian had to try it with a dude at some point. Makes my skin crawl.

  8. This was really, really great analysis and i’m really thankful we have you to write about things like this!

  9. Unless they killed off another queer lady character after I quit watching, Arrow’s Sara Lance was pretty heavily suggested to be bi (long term relationship with Nyssa, sex with Oliver). But Arrow was never willing to actually say the word.

    • You’re not mistaken, Sara Lance was (is? Legends of Tomorrow?) bisexual, and no lesbians were killed. #bierasure

  10. I looked at the source material and GLAAD identifies Canary (Sara Lance) as bisexual and the character who dies.

    • okay, i’ll fix it. i’ve never seen the show and don’t know anything about it, so i probs just mixed things up when writing.

      • Thank you, that is understandable as it was a lot of data.

        It was really jarring and frustrating to see a major lady blog (and the world’s most popular lesbian site) contribute to the erasure of a bisexual character’s identity and by extension the pride I felt to see a likeable, low-on-the-tropes bisexual character on screen.

  11. On The Flash David Singh is the police captain, not a doctor. His husband is mentioned/appears a bit but sadly not really enough!

  12. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but I really appreciate the fact that Cosima appears twice in the last graphic.

  13. “already have at least a few viewers who are done critiquing the quality of representation” …

    A few viewers? You mean 3 or 4 or 5? Because a trans person wrote an email supporting the crap PLL put on the air means it’s okay? What’s next… let’s have Dr. Ben Carson or Alan Keyes representing the “increasingly right wing views of the African American community.” Nice cherry-picking.

    “trans people can be literally anything in society that people who aren’t trans can be. This includes the bad things. This includes being villains… you can’t tell me that A shouldn’t do evil things just because she’s trans.”

    This is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit when you’re talking about the media landscape. The imagery of trans people in media is totally controlled by cis people. Yes, while there are some signs of that changing in the upcoming season of Transparent (a show which was about cis people’s view of a trans person and the only trans actor with any real lines was a trans man). It continues to overwhelmingly be focused on transition and “reveals” and what cis people want to know about trans people. The PLL storyline had more to do with the disgusting denouement from Sleepaway Camp than anything grounded in reality about trans people.

    Moreover, these GLAAD reports never point out how “LGBTQ” media representatives like Ellen and Rachel Maddow completely ignored trans issues until about 5 months ago. That means over a decade where they said nothing, zero, nada about trans people being murdered, Time Magazine, trans students being bullied, health care issues… just empty space. GLAAD has never bothered to even mention that in their reports. Guess they were worried the celebs wouldn’t turn up at their glittery fundraisers.

    I’m glad there are some subtle shifts in the representation of the LGBTQ community and how media finally including some trans people in its storylines (although, let’s face it, most are still ignored and viewed through cis eyes), but GLAAD has long proven itself to be inadequate to the task of providing any kind of honest picture of this landscape with genuine candor.

    • i wasn’t saying i agreed? i don’t? but i’m also not a trans woman, so it’s not for me to decide. i was just sharing what somebody had sent to us, claiming that many others felt the same way. of course i don’t agree, and that’s not what i said. hopefully everything we’ve published and labeled as our actual opinions speak louder than a piece that was about how different people have different opinions on things. and yeah, i said “a few” (which, by definition, means 2-3 people) because even though this person claimed it was MOST trans women who agreed with her, that does not seem to be the case. and yet here you are, finding the worst possible way to interpret my words and getting upset at me about it.

      • “of course i don’t agree”

        Whether you agreed or not, you chose to make that the primary trans opinion referenced in your piece and, for me, that speaks a lot louder than what I supposedly should know you feel or not. (I’m speaking generally now) The business of trying to make an issue more complex than it is by including an isolated differing opinion (eg. 1960s-70s doublespeak by media: ‘oh look, we found a woman who doesn’t want to be liberated… see, it’s a complicated issue’) is an oooold tactic. You didn’t help your essay by indulging in it. Not upset… disappointed.

        • we’ve just been so ridiculously outspoken in our dislike of that storyline, despite heather’s long-time relationship with the show and its creators, that i didn’t even consider that that opinion — which is not the first time this person has emailed us on this topic — would be read as anything besides an outlier. i guess i trust our readers are smart enough to make that distinction, and read it as it was intended — that even within the most qualitatively poorly represented demographic (my exact words), there are apparently a few people who think everything is okay. which is scary, right? i think it is! and there were, oddly, lots of trans people who told marlene king they liked the storyline, i saw them on twitter, this happened, and it empowered her to ignore the masses who disagreed, including us and the majority of trans women. i didn’t mention that in the article b/c i wanted to avoid doing what you accused me of doing, implying any kind of consensus on this incorrect opinion.

          but when there are lesbians out there who feel that way about lesbian representation, then hell yeah i wanna know about it! it’s important to know what we’re up against and to talk about it, especially when it comes from within. i wouldn’t include that if i published this on huffpo, but i didn’t, we’re here.

          yes, i’m aware of the tactic you reference and how it’s been used against various oppressed groups. but that’s not the context here, at all! i linked to our recap, and pointed out that our recap was put together with the help of our trans editor, who does not agree with this woman.

          what agenda do i have here? for trans people to be poorly represented on television? did i say afterwards “so obviously it’s okay for trans women to be portrayed as psychotic murderers”?

        • gina you are intentionally taking something entirely out of context — out of context from the entire website you’re reading and the people who run it! — to argue about absolutely literally nothing. no one here stands behind what that emailer said and riese made that clear in her piece, and additionally clearer by linking to other pieces we’ve published that stand in contrast to that emailer. you know and understand what the point of including the email was and you’re pretending that you don’t. this whole thread of conversation has been totally pointless and a waste of everyone’s time, including yours.

          • You’re being unduly defensive, and your attack on Gina comes across in a truly unpleasant way. It’s completely uncalled for. There was absolutely a point to Gina giving her opinion of the writer’s decision to quote that one outlier. As another trans woman, I share her opinion. What I really think is that there was no point to what you just posted, except to get the last word. In other words, a gratuitous pile-on.

          • I saw a sizable number of comments on the recent PLL thread which pretty much denied the season ending episode or storyline were transphobic or tried to ignore how such a progressive series could turn around and take a big dump on trans women. Heather’s breakdown of the episode was, IMO, less than cogent about what was problematic about the episode her friends created. Yes, that’s right, a show for which AS has devoted a large amount of space to and repeatedly lauded for its representation of queer women did a truly shitty thing… and no, there was no supportable nuance to it. As to the sophistication of AS readers… like most other things in this world, it’s a spectrum. I saw quite a few comments in the PLL thread which didn’t strike me as terribly sophisticated on the subject (or had the subtext of “stop raining on our fun).

            I’ve been commenting on Autostraddle for a long time, well before the site had any trans consciousness whatsoever, and can say there have been extremely positive developments in the site’s representation of trans issues yet continue to be a number of *groans* as well—from both commenters (which is understandable) but also some staff. I never suggested everything is wrong with AS, but I didn’t like her shining a spotlight on someone who’s seemingly pretty oblivious as to how trans people have been portrayed for the past 50+ years and continue to be so… even by persons who identify as progressive, queer and feminist.

            “no one here stands behind what that emailer said”

            So WHY reprint it, why reference it again, and why make it the dominant trans viewpoint of what she wrote? I’m not accusing Riese of being a transphobe, but neither do I see you (the AS staff) making a point of including the viewpoints of conservative queer women to “balance out” a story (and I’m glad you don’t) about what was really a hateful piece of media. It didn’t belong in this discussion of GLAAD and there are lots of other aspects to GLAAD’s often mediocre media reports which do bear discussing.

          • “but I didn’t like her shining a spotlight on someone who’s seemingly pretty oblivious as to how trans people have been portrayed for the past 50+ years and continue to be so… ”

            those people’s comments and opinions are the ones that make it into the national consciousness, too, though! that’s the point riese was making by including it — here’s what a person who doesn’t understand thinks, someone who thinks they DO understand. so obviously imagine what the casual passerby/watcher thinks. if a trans person who believes they have some authority to speak on this topic — even though they are clearly oblivious as you state — thinks this way and is vocal about it, imagine what other people think, what they say, the damage done by all of that. which is why good, accurate and careful representation is so key! which is why no one’s job is done here! which is why this whole topic is so important! which is the thesis of the piece.

  14. Quality over quantity! I’m past the days of watching a show just because it had a lesbian character, because I know that not much scene time will be given to her romantic life. A scene here and there to remind you that she’s gay and a couple of kisses on the check while straight couples get full on make out sessions and sex scenes.

    Give me 2 or 3 shows with a lesbian main character who’s love life gets the same treatment as the others’ and not just an afterthought and I’ll be a happy, loyal viewer.

  15. What a wonderful time to be a gay lady!

    To be able to focus on quality versus quantity is a gift. This is great news.

  16. You totally lost me at the Ian Gallagher thing. Why are you unhappy about Ian Gallagher? my bipolar friends/family have told me that they think he does a good job of acting like a bipolar person, and he is really likable. His boyfriend who cares for him even though it can be super hard taking care of an uncontrolled bipolar person made them the cutest couple on the show.

    • I’ve never seen Shameless I was just going off of what I’ve heard! I can just remove that reference though. I feel like this is probably an important sign that there are shows with gay characters I’m not only uninformed about but misinformed. That never would’ve happened five years ago!

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