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The Always-Diverse Emmys: It‘s a Win-Win for Television’s LGBT Stars and Allies

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By Donalevan Maines

Shows that are queer-ish are among the wonderfully diverse slate of nominees at the 68th Emmy Awards, which Jimmy Kimmel returns to host live from Los Angeles this month.

LGBT stars also share the kudofest’s spotlight, including the gayest faceoff ever in the battle for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. RuPaul Charles is finally nominated in the category, for RuPaul’s Drag Race; his competition includes Jane Lynch, who has won the past two years for Hollywood Game Night, and Tim Gunn (with Heidi Klum) for Project Runway, along with Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), pageant screw-up Steve Harvey (Little Big Shots), and American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, who has to be put in the LGBTQ category after that questioning look by Britney Spears when somebody suggested that Seacrest sleeps with women (check it out at youtube.com/watch?v=opKaKLuKGhY).

Even RuPaul’s gowns are nominated for an Emmy, in a category called Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program.

Can you barely breathe?

Jeffrey Tambor, as transgender Maura Pfefferman in Transparent, hopes to repeat as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, while comedian Louie Anderson’s cross-dressing turn as Christine Baskets in Baskets is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Anderson previously won Daytime Emmy Awards for voicing another female character based on his mother in the animated children’s series Life with Louie. Among his competition at the grown-up Emmys, he competes opposite Andre Braugher as gay Capt. Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and out actor/singer Tituss Burgess as flamboyantly gay Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

As RuPaul says (in a new promo for All Stars 2, which premiered August 25 on Logo), “Let the best wimmins win!”

Some other majorly queer-ish nominees include NBC’s American Crime (in which a gay high school student accused another boy of raping him) and ABC’s always-reliable Modern Family.

But nothing better illustrates the inclusiveness of the 2016 Emmys than the Best Commercial nod for The Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels. That commercial-gone-viral, with about 60 million views at press time, shows pairs of skeletons embracing behind a giant X-ray screen, then surprising viewers when those friends and lovers of all races, colors, sexualities, and creeds emerge from behind the screen. The three-minute video was filmed on Valentine’s Day 2015 in Santa Monica, California.

At lovehasnolabels.com, The Ad Council explains, “While the vast majority of Americans consider themselves unprejudiced, many of us unintentionally make snap judgments about people based on what we see—whether it’s race, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. The Love Has No Labels campaign challenges us to open our eyes to our bias and prejudice and work to stop it in ourselves, our friends, our families, and our colleagues.”

People of many different ethnicities are 2016 Emmy nominees, including Rami Malek, who is the twin son of Egyptian immigrants. His role as Elliot in the trippy cult sensation Mr. Robot pits him against is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay Kevin Spacey as bisexual U.S. President Francis Underwood in House of Cards, among others.

London-born Idris Elba, a black actor who was famously snubbed in this year’s Oscar nominations for his supporting work as Commandant in Beasts of No Nation, scored another Emmy nomination for Luther, but his category, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (which includes both Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding Jr. in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson), might belong to Bryan Cranston as former Houstonian Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way.

Out actress Sarah Paulson, a perennial Emmy nominee (always a bridesmaid, but never the bride), could nab her first “golden girl” for her portrayal of failed prosecutor Marcia Clark in the O.J. Simpson miniseries. Among her competition is six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald as bisexual Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.

Paulson is also nominated for her supporting turn as Hypodermic Sally/Billie Dean Howard in American Horror Story: Hotel.

Out legend Lily Tomlin is nominated again for Grace and Frankie.

Among other Emmy finalists of particular interest in the LGBT community are: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (produced by out filmmaking duo Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato); Orange Is the New Black; Sense8; Empire; Orphan Black; Kate McKinnon as various characters on Saturday Night Live; Game of Thrones; the short-form variety series Gay of Thrones at FunnyOrDie.com; the unstructured reality program Gaycation with Ellen Page on Viceland; and Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted on HBO.

What: The 68th Emmy Awards
When: September 18, 7 p.m. CST
Where: ABC (abc.go.com)
Details: emmys.com

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.


Former Houstonian Up for an Emmy

Fiona Dawson’s ‘Transgender, at War and in Love.’

Director Fiona Dawson.
Director Fiona Dawson.

Fiona Dawson says that generous LGBT Houstonians helped propel her to a nomination for Outstanding Short Documentary at this month’s 37th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York City.

The $20,911 that friends contributed to her Kickstarter campaign in 2011 allowed Dawson “to quit my job to make my dreams come true,” explains the “out and proud bisexual” who led Houston’s 2009 Pride parade as Female Grand Marshal.

Without the help of Houstonians sending Dawson to India to film stories on sex trafficking, prostitution, and HIV/AIDS, she says, “I can’t imagine how I’d now be an Emmy nominee.”

Dawson, who now lives in the Washington DC area, is nominated for directing and co-producing Transgender, at War and in Love, about a transgender airman from Dallas serving in Afghanistan and his transgender fiancée, a U.S. Army medic.

Love in War: Logan and Laila are the subjects of Dawson’s short documentary Transgender, at War and in Love.
Love in War: Logan and Laila are the subjects of Dawson’s short documentary Transgender, at War and in Love.

With her iPhone, Dawson even created a brief clip seen in the film, capturing the tender moment the airman returns from overseas and reunites with his girlfriend. “Eighty to 85 percent of the film was captured on people’s cellphones or a DSLR,” says Dawson, explaining that it wasn’t until months into production that the New York Times joined the project and provided a camera crew. “When you have an idea, you have to do whatever you can to capture the images—and trust that financing is going to come through in the end.”

The Emmy-nominated short film is a prelude to a feature-length documentary, TransMilitary, that completed filming last month.

Dawson has picked out a dress fashioned from organic materials to wear to the News and Documentary Emmys on September 21, where she will rub elbows with fellow nomi-nees such as Diane Sawyer (who is in the running for Bruce Jenner: The Interview on ABC’s 20/20) and out finalists Sam Champion, Anderson Cooper, and Thomas Roberts.

The day before, on September 20, Dawson will be in Houston to help kick off the Houston Human Rights Campaign 20th Anniversary Gala. Donalevan Maines

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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