As the entertainment industry continues to champion for inclusiveness, the current political climate is not a matter of life imitating art.
The 28th annual GLAAD Media Awards celebrated fair and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community on Saturday at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, amid a hotbed of political and cultural tension playing out off-screen in real life.
But advocates in the entertainment industry agree that though we’ve come so far, setbacks such as North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” and the Trump administration agenda, are signals to push even further.
“I think we’re looking at a lot of political assaults right now on the LGBTQ community,” shared Patricia Arquette, who was honored with the Vanguard Award and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ and women’s equality. “They also removed LGTBQ questions from the census and part of that reason is because they don’t want to see how big the LGBTQ community was, and they don’t want them to mobilize. Donald Trump started his presidency and campaign saying he was going to be a friend of the LGBTQ community and that is not happening. We have laws that are discriminatory that are on the books popping up everywhere.”
During her acceptance speech, the Oscar winner paid tribute to her late sister, trans actress Alexis Arquette, who died last year.
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“Trans visibility really matters; it is not easy to be a trans person in the United States of America now,” Arquette said to resounding applause. “My sister Alexis challenged the industry — she had a successful career and knew she was risking losing work and her livelihood to live her truth… to lose parts, to live as a transwoman; she risked everything. She risked it all because she knew she couldn’t live a life that was a lie.”
Continuing, “So whatever mark I make in activism will always pale in the light of Alexis’ bravery and the light of every trans kid growing up in America. She wanted to help move the world forward to a time in the future where every trans kid could live up to their full potential. When it wouldn’t be uncommon to have in their everyday life a doctor, a nurse or a cop or a real estate agent or a public official who is a transgender person. That they would get jobs, they would get hired, and they would get a shot. She wanted to help move the world forward to a time when trans people were not fetishized, but to a better tomorrow when they could be seen as complete whole people — as human beings.”
“But that is not what is happening,” she added. “In Texas right now, lawmakers are trying to pass SB6 (a bathroom privacy bill); it’s just one of many bills around the country that would serve no purpose but to harm people, especially students. This year we have already seen eight trans women of color viciously murdered. Two weeks ago members of Congress asked attorney general Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to launch a federal hate crimes investigation into the murders. The response was silence. Well, we, the members of the LGBTQ community don’t do silence.”
Arquette thanked Emmy winner Jeffrey Tambor for his portrayal of a trans person in Amazon’s “Transparent,” showing that “trans people are multifaceted and that they have feelings, pain and humor, just like every other human being,” she said.
Speaking to Variety, Tambor said progressive values are abound in Hollywood, but Washington seems to be frozen in time. “I see it on network TV, in our business and in our world,” Tambor said. “The noise and hatred seems to have died down, except in North Carolina, but I think the young people are now having their voice — the X, the Y the Z’ers, and they’re not tolerating that B.S. anymore. The part that bothers me is the age of the people and the false morality of it, and the fact that people quote the church. I think God would approve of the GLAAD Awards.”
Similarly, Garcelle Beauvais, who stars in the forthcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” thinks sweeping change is a matter of cleaning house. “I would say impeach is the only way to go,” she said of her message to President Trump.
“Is there more to go? Absolutely. I remember when Ellen [DeGeneres] came out and that was considered a bad thing, and she lost her show,” she added. “We’ve come a long way and we have movies that celebrate that — we have ‘Moonlight’ and we have TV shows like ‘Transparent’ and ‘Modern Family’ — it’s fantastic.”
More storytelling of LGTBQ-identifying individuals could be what helps facilitate change, said “Supergirl” actresses Chyler Leigh and Floriana Lima, who play girlfriends on the CW series.
“The story we are telling is authentic and inspiring because people can invest in it,” Leigh explained. “It’s an excellent time for this and hopefully there will be more opportunities — that’s the goal.”
Lima also cited Ellen DeGeneres coming out in 1997 during her former ABC sitcom as groundbreaking. “When Ellen had her show — that scene when she leaned in and said she’s gay — that was a mic drop,” she said.
“That thought has never left me — that image, that moment, it is iconic,” Leigh added.