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CAA, GLAAD Host Summit on Advancing LGBTQ Representation

At the first-ever Creators Summit presented by GLAAD and the Creative Artists Agency, producers, writers, content creators and industry execs gathered to discuss the future of diversity, inclusivity and intersectionality in entertainment at the agency’s headquarters in Los Angeles. (The daylong event kicked off the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards, which will be held in LA on Thursday.) Panelists spoke about ways to increase authentic representations of the LGBTQ community in the media while flipping the script on stereotypical portrayals.

“GLAAD has been at the forefront of equality and equity for quite some time,” said Steven Canals, who along with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk is one of the creators and executive producers of FX’s upcoming drama series “Pose,” which includes a groundbreaking number of transgender people both in front of and behind the camera. “I think that partnering with CAA is important because it shows that there is a commitment — at least from one of the big agencies — to really show up and make sure that creatives in all areas of film and television feel supported.”

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Saturday’s summit:

The Importance Of Being Unapologetic

“The writers and creatives in the room stressed the importance of showing up and being unapologetic in your work. Representation matters,” Canals told Variety. “And that may seem like a simple notion but it’s so important. For me, growing up as a queer Afro-Latino from the Bronx, I never saw myself in film and television. Pose was created as a way to fill a gap. And I think that is what we are seeing right now: This proliferation of work that is coming from diverse content creators is specifically coming from a space of wanting representation–of wanting to see themselves–and I’m glad that that came up today.”

Let’s Stick Together

“Solidarity,” emphasized writer and producer Rhys Ernst of “Transparent.” “This is a remarkable time to be working in the industry or being a storyteller in general. There is enormous potential for all the stories that can and need to be told right now. I mean, I can’t imagine this [summit] happening 5 years ago, so I think there’s a lot of excitement to be amongst people who are paving the way and inspiring me personally and other people.”

Authenticity Is Key

“So often I’m focused on just making sure the work I put out there is good enough that I don’t always get a chance to engage with members from my own LGBTQ community who are interested in hearing how I got the work out there,” said Josh Feldman, creator and star of Sundance Now series “This Close.” “I really enjoyed talking about the effort that went into the work. I walked away feeling good that I’d talked to an entire room about telling your own story, and doing it in an authentic way, which is possible. Nobody had told me that earlier, so I was excited to be able to tell others that.”

Don’t Give Up

“I liked it when Steven was saying at the very end: ‘You can’t stop no matter what,’ and I totally related to that,” Ernst told Variety. “Coming up as someone who is ‘marginalized as a trans filmmaker,’ I never expected that we would all have a seat at the table. I never expected that it would be easy. I feel like people who have traditionally been seen as outsiders in the industry–or the world at large–are used to fighting and that’s not going to stop, now or in the future. But we have galvanized a lot of energy behind issues about inclusion and diversity of stories being told, and so we have a lot of strength right now. It’s really encouraging to be around others who are dealing with these kinds of struggles. There’s so much commonality in the obstacles that we are facing but also in the breakthroughs that are happening, too.”

This Is Our Time

“That I am part of the conversation and got to be heard and included and have a voice meant so much to me personally and professionally,” said Tanya Saracho, creator and showrunner of Starz’ “Vida,” “as that was not how I entered this world as a diversity hire. The fact that I’m on a panel speaking as some sort of expert says something about my career, yes. But it says something more about where we are right now and the moment in which we’re living.”

And We’ve Come A Long Way

“We’re not that far away from a time when people didn’t even want gay stories on television, Canals told Variety. “I think that Ryan Murphy, as a gay-identified person, broke into the industry in the late ’90s on the heels of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom being canceled because she came out, right? This is, like, pre-‘Will & Grace.’ It was difficult. So he realizes that we are in a space and a time right now where as intersectional beings–not just queer or trans but also black and brown people–deserve to see their stories told. When we met, we were on the same page about not just the importance of this narrative but how to tell it the right way: Making sure that we had authentic casting and consultants from the community be part of aiding and ushering this story to homes. So he is fully committed. He understands the importance of representation because he grew up in a time where as a young boy, he didn’t see himself represented on TV, either.”

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