The 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards were handed out last night. There were many standout aspects of the show, including the number of winners from subscription-based services as opposed to network television shows and the exciting crop of winners. Mr. Robot's Rami Malek made history by being the first non-white actor to win Best Actor in nearly 20 years. Alan Yang, who won his Emmy for co-writing an awesome episode of Master Of None called "Parents", used his acceptance speech to insist on better roles for Asian-American actors. In addition, Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany finally won her (well-earned and overdue) Emmy for her multiple roles in the incredibly popular sci-fi show.
Another exciting aspect of this year's Emmys was the number of LGBTQ+ winners and the discussion of queer representation sparked as a result. The depiction of queer characters and inclusion of individuals who identify as queer both in front of and behind the camera has gotten better over the years. Still, problematic depictions, negative attitudes, and a tendency to hire cisgendered actors for trans roles persist, making these winners that much more inspiring for queer fans everywhere.
Saturday Night Live's first openly lesbian cast member, Kate McKinnon, won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, much to the tears and cheers of fans, and McKinnon, herself. The Emmy is McKinnon's first, and she gave a shout-out to Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres, roles she has played perfectly on SNL.
Sarah Paulson won for her role as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and brought the real-life Marcia Clark as her plus one! Paulson is involved with Holland Taylor, who had to remain in New York rehearsing for her upcoming role in the Broadway revival of The Front Page. Despite being on opposite ends of the country, the two were the couple of the night. Taylor sent some of the sweetest tweets about Paulson, at one point calling her a "pure beauty" and captioned a picture of Paulson on the red carpet by saying "having a heart attack". After Paulson won, she included Taylor in her speech, simply but passionately saying "Holland Taylor, I love you". #RelationshipGoals indeed!
Queer women behind the scenes reigned supreme as well, with Nina Jacobson picking up a win as a producer of The People v. O.J. Simpson. Unfortunately, her mic was cut off just as she was starting to thank her wife (presumably due to time and not out of malicious intent).
Jill Soloway, creator and writer of Transparent, picked up an Emmy for Best Director of a Comedy Series. She used her speech to plead for a stop to violence against transgender women and encouraged her fans to "topple the patriarchy!"
Interestingly, the first two Emmys handed out for male actors went to men who play women. The first went to Louie Anderson for his role as Christine Baskets in Baskets. The second was given to Jeffrey Tambor for his role as Moira Pfefferman in Transparent. Tambor, who won the award last year, encouraged Hollywood to "give transgender talent a chance. Give them their story". He ended his speech by saying that he would be "happy" to be "the last cisgender male to play a transgender female". Laverne Cox, who became the first openly trans actor to win an Emmy in 2014 for Orange Is The New Black, echoed those sentiments when she came to present best director: "Give trans talent a shot ... I would not be here tonight if I was not given that chance".
While these were big moments for the winners themselves, they also represent big moments for young queer fans watching at home. They represent that there is a spot in entertainment for them, whether it be behind the scenes or in front, whether it be in comedy or drama. Diversity matters not just because it's the "politically correct" thing to do but because it serves to inspire the next generation. This year's Emmys didn't solve the diversity problem but was a very positive step in the right direction giving many fans hope and inspiration for the future.