When Sarah Paulson won a lead actress Emmy, her first, on Sunday, for her role as Marcia Clark in The People v OJ Simpson, her girlfriend, actor Holland Taylor,tweeted: “Still in New York. Still swooning. @MsSarahPaulson.”
She wasn’t the only one swooning. Lesbians everywhere were, or screaming – full-on, girly shrieking at the TV in delight. And pride.
First there had been Kate McKinnon gliding up to the stage in a spectacular red gown and bawling her eyes out for joy as she was awarded her first Emmy, for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, Saturday Night Live.
The SNL and Ghostbusters star has come a long way since The Big Gay Sketch Show on Logo TV almost a decade ago.
Right on her high heels came suited-and-sneakered Jill Soloway, a tornado of a feminist writer whose multiple award-winning creation Transparent has been acclaimed as the most progressive, raw and entertaining family drama about the transgender experience ever produced.
Winning her second Emmy, in her speech she called for the toppling of the patriarchy – but also thanked Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, whose streaming service Amazon Prime commissioned the show.
Adding to the mood of heightened and awareness and support for LGBT issues, later that night Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, who won outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his portrayal of a transgender woman, declared in his Emmy acceptance speech on that henceforth all trans roles should be taken by transgender people.
Then a little later in a groundbreaking evening in Los Angeles – during which host Jimmy Kimmel issued constant tongue-in-cheek but pointed observations about increased diversity at the Emmys compared with the Oscars – came Paulson.
She had brought the house down earlier by appearing on the red carpet with Clark, the legendary prosecutor in the OJ Simpson murder trial whom Paulson played in her award-winning role.
“It was awesome – and so seemingly effortless,” Sarah Gubbins, a playwright and co-creator with Soloway of the new Amazon series I Love Dick, said of the night’s highly visible lesbian element.
“I did the Emmys party circuit and everyone was just reveling in it. You have to take the time to celebrate when you can feel the culture shifting. We’re here, we’re queer and there is nothing to fear,” Gubbins told the Guardian.
She said that the technological breakthrough in new television platforms created by the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon had allowed “the gatekeepers” to try more risk-taking shows, give access to more women and queer people and see the success.
“Television is blazing a path for queer female voices right now, and similar visibility in theater and film is catching up fast – it’s about critical mass. It’s remarkable,” said Gubbins.
In her acceptance speech, McKinnon thanked comedian and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres.
She also thanked Hillary Clinton, who returned the compliment with a congratulatory tweet including a gif of McKinnon impersonating her.
“I’m not usually a person who shouts at the television, but when I saw these women winning Emmy after Emmy I just burst into applause and screamed ‘Yesss’ every time,” said Trish Bendix, editor-in-chief of the self-described lesbian and bisexual pop culture website AfterEllen.com.
It was named in tribute to the watershed moment when Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom character Ellen and the performer herself came out as a lesbian in 1997.
DeGeneres became an instant gay hero, but her show was dropped and she was in the professional wilderness until she voiced the part of Dory in the 2003 movie Finding Nemo, then got her own chat show that became a hit.
AfterEllen.com also picked out other less well-known lesbians and lesbian characters also enjoying Emmy success this year.
There was a mini-uproar from parts of the live audience and on social mediaSunday night when the band played over The People v OJ Simpson producer Nina Jacobson just as she was giving an emotional thank-you to her wife.
However Bendix considered it mainly rotten timing, and similar snubs happened to several others on the night.
“It was rude, though,” she said.
Lisa Kron, who won two Tony awards in 2015 for writing the lyrics and book for Fun Home, the groundbreaking hit musical about lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, said that lesbian visibility in arts and entertainment had hit a “tipping point”.
“We were not just invented, none of this success is happening in a vacuum. There is a wave of visibility, it’s being helped by the proliferation of social media and the ability for us to talk across distances to each other,” she said.
She thought the legalization of gay marriage has also helped. Kron is married to playwright Madeleine George.
Oscar-nominated lesbian designer Patricia Field was winning accolades for her costumes for the straight characters of Sex And The City and The Devil Wears Prada years ago, but the stage was anything but crowded.
“The talent and the content has always been there, in numbers. Now it’s rising to the top as it always should have done, and coming of age,” said Frances Wallace, executive director of Frameline, the media arts non-profit that produces the annual San Francisco international LGBTQ film festival.
And, she pointed out, with transgender politics and related edgy story lines now in the vanguard, many lesbians and bisexual women in the industry feel there is even less to lose by coming out these days – and thanking their wives and girlfriends on global TV to boot.
“It’s a huge celebration,” she said.
By Joanna Walters via The Guardian