Whether it’s the Golden Globes or the Oscars, Award Shows Fail Us


After 79 years, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez became the first trans actress to win a Golden Globe last month for her role in Pose. Michaela Jaé’s role as Blanca in Pose is one of the few representations of a trans AfroLatina written and directed by another trans person of color, Janet Mock, and the only such show recognized by an institution like the Golden Globes. 

The Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and many award shows have largely celebrated only one formula of narratives of trans people one that exists primarily in tragedy and written, controled, played, and rewarded by the cis white Hollywood elite. These one-dimensional stories lack an intersectional lens. Instead of critically exploring gender roles and power, these roles are at best an empathetic caricature and at their worst deeply offensive and riddled with problematic stereotypes. In Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto played Rayon, a trans woman with AIDS dealing with addiction, and won not only accolades but an Oscar. Hilary Swank also won an Oscar for her role as Brandon Teena a transgender man in Boys Don’t Cry a film based on the real-life story of a man who was murdered by two friends in small-town Nebraska in 1993. Roles like this remind us of the majority of films and television featuring trans character all played by cis actors and used as tools to gain critical acclaim. 

Although the Academy Award nominations are announced during Black History Month, this year only two Black actresses, Aunjanue Ellis and Ariana DeBose, are nominated for an award. In fact today, Halle Berry remains the only Black woman to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards twenty years ago. In bell hooks’ 1995 essay Teaching Resistance: The Racial Politics of Mass Media, she calls out the role of mass media in the perpetuation and maintenance of white supremacy. Hooks was a revolutionary feminist, activist, professor, and cultural critic who championed that feminism is for everybody. She knew that was the only way to end sexism and oppression. So, Hollywood take note.

One award does not replace the decades of harm Hollywood has done to the trans community, it is merely a drop in the bucket. And while Michaela Jaé received her historic Golden Globe, it felt a little bittersweet as it was mostly celebrated in a private ceremony and on Twitter. Michaela Jae is an icon and an actress whose role in a deeply moving narrative series has a powerful place in history. An artist can not stand alone, it is our job, as mundane and inconsequential as it may seem, as consumers, Netflix bingers, and movie-goers to push for more. Whether it’s tuning in everyday life, using our wallets to reflect our values, let’s use our purchasing power to tell Hollywood creating culture is not to be taken lightly.  

We can request more than just simple representation. While there have never been more stories of queer people in “mainstream” media there is still more work to do in writers’ rooms, behind the camera, and onset. Our culture must stop policing the way trans people exist. Whether it’s erasing the ways trans people have contributed to our culture or using legislation to control their autonomy. Whether it’s the South Dakota House recent bills limiting transgender students’ access to sports and bathrooms or Arkansas’ ban of gender-affirming treatments for trans youth, the attacks are real and persistent. We know visibility and protection are two very different things with very different consequences. We need visibility and we need to protect and celebrate trans lives, trans art, trans bodies, trans love. 

We can do both. Let’s continue to demand legislation that allows all of us to live out our full potential and let’s support culture change and stories that bask in the joy inherent in this community. Here are a few of our favorites.

  1. Mama Gloria
    An intimate portrait of Chicago’s Black transgender icon Gloria Allen, who transitioned before Stonewall and went on to open a charm school for transgender youth in her 60s.
  2. Pose
    POSE, in case you missed it, is a TV series centered around New York City’s Black, Latinx LGBTQ, and gender-nonconforming ball scene from the early 80s to the 90s.
  3. Black Love Matters
    An incisive, intersectional essay anthology that celebrates and examines romance and romantic media through the lens of Black readers, writers, and cultural commentators, edited by Book Riot columnist and librarian Jessica Pryde.
  4. Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast
    A Decolonized Podcast for lovers on the margins, join resident sexuality educator Ericka Hart and Deep East Oakland’s very own Ebony Donnley, as they dismantle white supremacy and explore black queer love ethics, pop culture, house plants, and a sea of books.
  5. The Queen of Basketball: When the N.B.A. Officially Drafted a Woman
    Lusia Harris — a pioneering athlete who became a basketball phenomenon in the 1970s, made history as the first woman to score a basket in the Olympics and was one of the first two women inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — died on Jan. 18 in Mississippi. She was 66.

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