By Yolanda Lenge, Contributor | February 11, 2021 GLAAD.org
The nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Award were announced on January 28th, including several incredible projects produced and directed by women of color, many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community. Although 2020 was a challenging year, these women used the unexpected hardships to inspire, uplift, and unite the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups.
In June 2020, the documentary Disclosure, executive produced by Academy award-winning actress Laverne Cox, debuted on Netflix. The documentary examines 100 years of transgender representation in television and film while showing how these images have impacted how Americans understand issues facing transgender people and the ways media has taught trans people to feel about themselves. Nominated for Outstanding Documentary at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, Disclosure also shares Laverne’s personal experience as a Black trans woman and the importance of representation of trans lives. “I think for a very long time the ways in which trans people have been represented on screen have suggested that we are not real, have suggested that we are mentally ill, that we don’t exist, and yet, here I am. Yet here we are, and we’ve always been here.”
Laverne Cox continues to create opportunities to amplify LGBTQ people of color. In an interview with Variety, Cox urged: “It’s crucial that the representations that exist in the media at least at this historical moment reflect the realities and the humanity and the complexities of our real, lived experience”. In the category for Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode, Cox is also featured in a nominated segment from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah titled “Laverne Cox – Exploring Trans Representation with ‘Disclosure,'” in which she discusses the impact of the documentary and what it means for the future of trans representation in Hollywood.
Lena Waithe is now known for her creative direction behind the camera, calling attention to the intersectionality of Black lives and LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood. Waithe has created several diverse and inclusive projects,including Twenties, a nominee for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards. The semi-autobiographical series follows Hattie (played by Jonica T. Gibbs), a queer Black woman pursuing her dreams of becoming a prominent screenwriter while she navigating through her twenties. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lena shared: “It took a long time to get this show on the air, but it was absolutely worth the wait,” She continued: “I needed THIS phenomenal cast and crew to make it happen. I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with this amazing group of people and our incredible viewers.”
Waithe is passionate about raising awareness and understanding about the relationship between racial justice and LGBTQ rights by starting conversations within marginalized communities. In an interview with USA Today, Waithe shared her aspirations: “What I want to do is just support the Black LGBTQIA community however I can and maybe support causes in those communities that mean something to me…I want to be able to help them build a space where they can continue to tell stories, which I think is as much a part of revolution as walking down the streets and protesting. Unity may be a long way off, but supporting each other is easy. That we can do today.”
The undeniably talented Michaela Coel not only wrote but co-directed and starred in the 2020 HBO limited series, I May Destroy You. Inspired by true events in Coel’s life, the series details the traumatic experience of Arabella (played by Coel) after she is sexually assaulted and goes on a journey for justice and self-discovery. Discussions surrounding race and racism are prominently centered throughout the series, which has been praised for a cast rich with representation of Black lives. Nominated for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, I May Destroy You also sheds light on underrepresented stories about queer people of color. In the series, Arabella’s best friend, Kwame (played by Paapa Essiedu), who is gay, also experiences sexual assault. The show highlights his own process of dealing with the trauma of the assault, as well as the unique challenges he faces as a sexual assault survivor in the LGBTQ community. The series is also trans inclusive: Kai, a trans man (played by Tyler Luke Cunningham) who appears in the later episodes, is introduced as the love interest of Terry (played by Weruche Opia), Arabella’s best friend.
Coel is passionate about creating space for LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups to tell their stories. In an interview with The Guardian, Coel shared: “People (of color) don’t know these jobs exist. These are not options. Being a writer is not a thing. But I would plant that seed in the head of every child, especially working-class children, women of color, men of color, and the queer community.” Coel’s ability to transform her hardships into groundbreaking content on-screen calls attention to the importance and impact of visibility of women of color in the industry.
Wu encourages queer people of color to utilize their unique differences to create a space for acceptance, representation, and freedom. In an interview with them, Wu shared: “I can only tell you from my own personal experience that I write from a very deeply emotional place. For most people — especially if you’re a queer or Asian writer — to me, that already suggests you’re really trying to get your voice out there. When you’re writing, you’re really building a new world, it’s like a new physical world, a new emotional world, and what you want to do is give yourself the freedom to really own that world.”
In the midst of a long overdue social movement against racial and ethnic discrimination, several other nominees at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards include powerful and impactful stories about LGBTQ people of color. Among the nominees include: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Prom, The Craft: Legacy, 9-1-1: Lone Star, Love, Victor, Superstore, Star Trek: Discovery, Vida, Sex Education, P-Valley, Monsoon, Lingua Franca, I Carry You With Me, Kajillionaire, The Wilds, Supergirl, Big Mouth, Dead to Me, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Wynonna Earp, Dispatches from Elsewhere, Hollywood, Little Fires Everywhere, Legendary, Queer Eye, RuPaul’s Drag Race, We’re Here, and many others. For a full list of nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, click here. A tip sheet with a breakdown of nominations by media and trends among the nominees is also available here.