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LGBTQ characters 'still invisible' in Spanish-language media, report finds

by John Paul Brammer /

The number of LGBTQ characters on U.S. television might be at record highs, but gulfs in representation still exist, particularly along racial, cultural and gender lines.

According to "Still Invisible," a recent report on LGBTQ representation in Spanish-language media published by GLAAD, LGBTQ identities and storylines are all but absent in media that caters to Latinx populations.

The report found just 3 percent of characters on scripted primetime Spanish-language television in the U.S. were LGBTQ, or 19 characters out of 698, and that 13 of those 19 were gay men. The report also noted 30 percent of LGBTQ characters were killed off.

Monica Trasandes, the director of Spanish-language and Latinx media and representation at GLAAD, and Janet Quezada, a campaign manager at the organization, co-authored the report. They said they hope the findings will help provide tangible metrics for diversity and inclusion.

"You can't know there's progress until you know where you are," Trasandes told NBC News. "We know intuitively we are not represented in Spanish-speaking media, but let's show the numbers."

Quezada noted that in both English- and Spanish-language media, LGBTQ representation is often limited to gay men.

"Some communities, like transgender men and bisexual men, aren't represented at all in Spanish language media," Quezada said. "That lack of representation is harmful. It impacts policy, because they don't think there's a problem."

The GLAAD report looked at Univision, UniMás and Telemundo(Telemundo and NBC News are both owned by Comcast-NBCUniversal), three major Spanish-language broadcast networks, and counted the LGBTQ characters on scripted primetime programming for its findings. The dearth they encountered was not new. Last year's report held roughly the same statistics.

"Last year, we did the first report on characters from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 and it was also at 3 percent, " Quezada said. "The percentage has stayed the same."

Other Latinx groups, like the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), are also calling out the lack of diversity in media. Beyond Spanish-language programs, Latinx representation, whether it is LGBTQ or not, remains scarce.

"We are the largest minority group in the U.S., but you would never know it if you watch television or films," Alex Nogales, executive director of NHMC told NBC News. "Latinos are the biggest moviegoers of all groups. The discrepancy between our numbers and our portrayals in front of camera is worse and worse."

As for LGBTQ Latinx characters, Nogales was surprised GLAAD's report found they made up as much as 3 percent of characters on Spanish-language programs in the U.S. "If someone knows of one, they should tell us," he said, "because we sure as hell don't know."

Nogales added NHMC plans to picket the Academy Awards this year, because the major studios will be in attendance.

In concert with the release of the report, GLAAD initiated the #PantallaInclusiva campaign, or "inclusive screens" in English, advocating for more and better LGBTQ representation in Spanish-language media.

"Madam Secretary" actor Sara Ramirez, who is bisexual, released a video for the campaign in which she spoke about the importance of representation.

"It would have meant so much to me growing up if my family and I could have seen meaningful LGBTQ stories on TV together," Ramirez said. "Especially in Spanish, one of the languages we often spoke at home."

Quezada stressed the importance of family acceptance for LGBTQ Latinx people and said popular media can inform whole families about LGBTQ people while entertaining them.

"It's so important to sit down in front of your TV and see yourself represented so [your family] can understand more about you," she said. "When you don't have that for your tía or your abuela, it robs you of the opportunity to get more understanding from your own family."

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