Under-Representation of LGBTQ in the Academy Awards

Under-Representation of LGBTQ in the Academy Awards


Academy Awards

So much has been said about Black entertainers being left out of the Academy Awards, that the voices of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) community have been drowned out. They, too, are angered by the exclusion of quality performances, directors, producers, and more who identify as LGBTQ being grossly neglected by the Academy Awards voting board.

During the history of the Academy Awards many actors/actresses have won awards for their portrayal of LGBTQ folks. While many of them did an excellent job and rightly deserved acknowledgment, many in the community are curious to learn if it would have been different were the performers actually openly gay.

The implication that there have never been anyone from the LGBTQ community nominated for an Academy Award would be inaccurate. In fact, the first ever transgender person was nominated for Best Original Song. Manta Ray, by J. Ralph and Anhoni, was featured in the documentary Racing Extinction.

When the announcements were made for the 88th Academy Awards, Anhoni was honored to be among the nominees. She chose to refrain from attending the awards ceremony and explained, after being congratulated for the Academy Awards nomination and preparing to sing during the awards, she was told this would not happen. She explained her embarrassment and anger when she repeatedly read in newspapers, “Eclipsing earlier notices of congratulations, now the papers were naming me as one of two artists to have been cut by the Academy due to ‘time constraints.’ In the next sentence, it was announced that Dave Grohl, not nominated in any category, had been added to the list of performers.”

While Anhoni’s Academy Awards nomination is great news, it is a bit disheartening as well. Her anger and embarrassment propelled her decision to refrain from attendance. She explains what she thinks, “I imagined how it would feel for me to sit amongst all those Hollywood stars, some of the brave ones approaching me with sad faces and condolences. There I was, feeling a sting of shame that reminded me of America’s earliest affirmations of my inadequacy as a transperson.”

Fortunately for the LGBTQ community, there exists an agency that serves as a voice for them. The media monitoring organization GLAAD was founded to assure “fair, accurate, and inclusive media coverage.” [GLAAD was an acronym that originally meant Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, however, in 2013 the organization decided to be totally inclusive. Therefore, the acronym no longer exists. GLAAD now represents the LGBT community in its entirety.]

The president and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter about the under-representation and the appearance of exclusion in the Academy Awards for the LGBTQ community, women, and people of color. She explained that being nominated for honors like those from the Academy Awards can change the trajectory of careers.

Ellis wrote, “Television and film have the extraordinary ability to change hearts and minds, accelerate acceptance and, ultimately, shift culture.” However, when there is a lack of recognition for those in the entertainment industry and the Academy Awards, it stifles creativity and widens the gap of under-represented groups.

“GLAAD’s research has documented,” she continues, the industry is “still overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, a false representation of our culturally, racially and ethnically diverse community.”

In the past 44 years, according to Advocate magazine, there have been 37 performers who have received Academy Awards nominations for their portrayal of LGBT characters, of those 11 won. The first nominated was Peter Finch, for his role in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). The first to win was William Hurt, for his role in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985).

This year, the Academy Awards recognized the ability of Benedict Cumberbatch and nominated him for Best Actor in the World War II movie, The Imitation Game. Unfortunately very few of the performers were openly gay.

Perhaps, as GLAAD’s Ellis wrote, if the under-represented groups, such as women, Black, and LGBTQ, demand recognition the Academy Awards will become totally inclusive. Perhaps next year, when the nominations are published there will be a significant change in the population make-up on the exclusive list of nominees.

By Cathy Milne


Pitchfork: Anohni: Why I Am Not Attending the Academy Awards
Advocate: 10 Oscar-Nominated LGBT Roles We Love
Hollywood Reporter: GLAAD Chief on #OscarsSoWhite: “Images Matter”

Image Courtesy of Juan Bendana’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License