2020’s Emmy nominations are a win for LGBTQ+ shows – but we shouldn’t stop here

There were plenty of positives this year, but the trans community - and 'Pose' cast - deserved better

Earlier this week, the nominations for this year’s Emmy Awards were revealed and the annual TV awards ceremony – often criticised for playing it a bit too safe – received a boost of positivity as many noted how here and queer the awards appeared to be, at least in comparison to previous years.

Just take a look at the stats: 13 LGBTQ+ actors received nominations, while Hollywood – Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show about film’s Golden Age and executive-produced by trans icon Janet Mock – racked up an impressive 12 nominations over all categories. Elsewhere, the likes of Killing Eve, Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race are helping to push the LGBTQ+ community further into the mainstream, and it was a heartfelt moment of validation to see essential programmes like these among the shortlisted shows.

One headline-grabbing talking point from this year’s noms, though, was Zendaya’s first-ever nomination. Up against the likes of Olivia Colman and Jennifer Aniston in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category, the young star has gained deserved plaudits for her raw portrayal of a queer Black teenager battling addiction in the brilliant Euphoria. “I’m honestly speechless,” she took to Instagram to write following the news. “My heart is just overflowing with love and gratitude… I am a small piece of a big beautiful puzzle and I’m so proud of all of you.”

Likewise, the Outstanding Drama Series nomination for Pose is great, and comes as no surprise given its exhilarating exploration of ballroom culture and captivating storylines. We also saw Billy Porter once again nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – coming a year after Porter made history in 2019 by becoming the first Black gay man to win an Emmy in the very same category.

Another big win for the LGBTQ+ community has been the haul of nominations for the Canadian hit show Schitt’s Creek, which has raked in a staggering 15 in total. Closing out on its fifth and final season, the series’ openly gay showrunner and star Dan Levy received several nods from the television academy in Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series to several others in the area of writing and directing.

Then there’s Killing Eve. While the latest season held questionable results and led to a disappointing finale, the show nonetheless has contributed greatly to normalising LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream shows. The dark comedy pulled off a solid eight nominations spanning across acting, production, and casting.

Upon a glance, the Emmys’ diversity report card generally looked in good shape. With TV making solid strides to break down barriers in recent years, and a greater number of LGBTQ+ characters than ever before, what could we possibly be unhappy about?

Well, a growth in representation doesn’t always translate to the true recognition we deserve. And while the 2020 Emmy nominations are a very welcome start, we shouldn’t get complacent and stop here. To say this year’s list of nominations is faultless would be to make like Hollywood and fake it.

Laverne Cox, 2018. Credit: Erik Pendzich/Alamy Live News

It’s hard to ignore that there’s still a sense of exclusivity to this A-List. Although there are positives to be taken from nominations for both Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) and Rain Valdez (Razor Tongue), there’s always room for more seats at the table, and the shortlists were glaring for their overall lack of representation for transgender performers.

While Porter’s nomination is a welcomed success, for the second year running the sublime trans ensemble cast of Pose – which includes the incredibly talented Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson – have been sorely overlooked. Meanwhile, Euphoria‘s trans star Hunter Schafer – who plays Jules in the HBO series in her first major role – failed to receive a nomination too.

Some may call it a snub, I call it ridiculous. The Emmys continue to offer nominations and nods towards cis men and woman, yet largely overlook the bold trans and nonbinary folk that drove the stories that move us. If Netflix’s Disclosure taught us anything, it’s that Hollywood cannot underestimate the power, composure and strength of the trans community.

Indya Moore in ‘Pose’. Credit: Macall Polay / FX / Everett Collection

In a time where TV shows are packed with diversity and visibility, there’s no longer an excuse to justify the lack of diverse trans recognition. Powerful bodies like the Emmys can no longer overlook talent that truly deserved to be honoured. In the end, Pose star Indya Moore closed out the controversy with a comment we could all take the time to consider.

“I’m over cis people saying stuff like ‘it’s because I work hard and I have had longevity’ when really it’s the visibility that a particular project brought them,” Moore wrote on Instagram. “When I hear stuff like that I think about Dominique, who has worked harder and longer than everybody in our cast. It’s just because fresh talent and fresh faces hit different when they [are] transsexuals.”

Moore continued: “I’m not really pressed [as] I and many of us didn’t expect to win… I just wish it didn’t determine shit like pay raises and contract renegotiations. We literally have to depend on their recognition in order for networks and studios to honour our value. And that’s pretty horrible because you know black trans talent often must settle for the lowest hanging fruit to eat.”


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