Transgender Characters Were Totally Absent From Hollywood Films In 2020, GLAAD Finds

The 2021 Studio Responsibility Index also revealed a lack of LGBTQ characters living with a disability but a rise in representation for queer people of color.

In spite of some impressive strides on television, transgender representation was strikingly absent from the big screen, according to a new survey.

GLAAD on Thursday unveiled its 2021 Studio Responsibility Index, which examined 44 movies released by eight major studios last year. The total number of films unveiled by major studios including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. in 2020 was drastically reduced from 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept theaters shuttered in major cities for much of the year.

Of the surveyed films, 10 (or 22.7%) contained LGBTQ characters, an increase of 4.1% from 2019. The report singled out a handful of films ― including “Like a Boss,” “The Broken Hearts Gallery” and “Birds of Prey” ― for their inclusive casting and portrayals. However, there were zero transgender or nonbinary characters presented in that movie tally for the fourth year in a row.

In the report, GLAAD officials called this discrepancy “one of the more glaring ways mainstream studios continue to lag behind other forms of entertainment media.” The news was particularly jarring given that it came just days after “Pose” star Mj Rodriguez made history as the first transgender person to receive an Emmy nomination for a leading role.

In her written introduction, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said the 2021 Studio Responsibility Index was a stark reminder of the “significant work to be done in mainstream film releases to ensure that tomorrow’s releases include us all ― no matter the means of distribution nor platform.”

The report also found that LGBTQ characters living with HIV or a disability were absent from all films released in 2020. Still, there were some positive findings, too. Of the 20 LGBTQ characters counted, eight of them (or 40%) were people of color, an increase of 6% from 2019.

In a statement, Ellis said she was hopeful studios and filmmakers would see 2021 as “a critical time of transformation for Hollywood” after a year defined by a pandemic and political unrest.

“This transformation represents a great opportunity to swiftly accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ stories, break new ground, and invest in queer and trans talent and stories that audiences are eager to watch,” she said. “Hollywood and the business of storytelling must be more nimble, more creative, more open than ever before.”

GLAAD unveiled its inaugural Studio Responsibility Index in 2013 to “drive acceptance and meaningful LGBTQ inclusion,” Ellis has said.

Though the group’s research has continually found that television, rather than film, has led the charge for queer representation on-screen, this year’s “Where We Are on TV” report also found a drop in LGBTQ characters across scripted shows. Researchers, however, pointed to the production delays caused by COVID-19 as a possible cause for that decrease.

Check out the full 2021 Studio Responsibility Index here.

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