The Triumph of Queer Black People at the Emmys

The Triumph of Queer Black People at the Emmys

The future is black and queer — if this year's winners at the Creative Arts Emmys are any indication. 

The television awards ceremony honored the accomplishments of at least three African-American LGBTQ people: RuPaul, Strong Island's Yance Ford, and The Handmaid's Tale's Samira Wiley

This is the third Emmy win for the gay host of RuPaul's Drag Race, a VHI reality competition for drag queens. “Everybody say ‘love!'” the Outstanding Host winner shouted at the Saturday ceremony, according to Deadline. “Now drive that down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

When asked by Deadline about the show's relevance in divisive times, Charles replied, "The divisiveness is new to you, to the white folks. But for outsiders, for us, the gay, black — we have survived and thrived in this kind of atmosphere all of our lives."

"It’s really about looking at life as a big choice and you can see the glass as half full or half empty — one choice is correct and the other choice will be painful," he added.

Ford, the director of Strong Island, made history the same evening, as the first transgender man and first black trans person to win an Emmy Award. 

this just happened. Full thanks to follow when I get up off the floor! XY yance pic.twitter.com/zxkulR8J4E

— Yance Ford (@yford) September 10, 2018

Ford shattered a ceiling at the Academy Awards earlier this year, when he became the first out transgender director of an Oscar-nominated film for Strong Island. 

In the Netflix documentary, Ford turns the lens on his own family, which is still reeling from the death of its eldest child, William Jr., a 24-year-old black teacher who was killed by a 19-year-old white mechanic in 1991. A grand jury refused to indict the killer, delivering an additional blow. Through this story, Ford tells a broader tale about systemic racism in America, from the Jim Crow South to the modern-day suburbs of New York City. 

Wiley won for Best Drama Guest Actress — the youngest to ever win in this category — for her role as Moira in The Handmaid's Tale. In the dystopian Hulu series, Moira is a queer woman who escaped the misogynist tyranny of Gilead, a not-too-distant vision of the United States — if the rights of women and other vulnerable people continue to be rolled back.

This was second nomination and first win for the Orange Is the New Black alum. Onstage, Wiley thanked "my higher power because without her I wouldn’t be here" as well as "my wife, Lauren Mirelli, who every day shows me what real passion is for your work and every hour gives me a reason to bring it," reports Deadline.

Moreover, Karamo Brown — the culture expert on Queer Eye, who is black and gay — took home gold with the rest of the Fab Five of the Netflix show, which won Best Structured Reality Program. “This show is so important — thank you for what this Fab Five are doing to help the LGBT movement," executive producer David Collins said at the ceremony, reports Deadline.

Also of intersectional note, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special Live. This triumph not only earned EGOT (Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, Tony) winner status for Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and John Legend — who starred as a black Jesus Christ — but it also honored the legacy of Craig Zadan, its gay producer who died recently. "Craig would have loved this," his longtime producing partner Neil Meron said onstage.

The televised portion of the Emmy Awards will take place next Monday, but the inclusive message from the voters of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is already clear. By honoring queer people, people of color, women, and those who sit at the intersection, the awards ceremony is broadcasting that intolerance — presidential or otherwise — of the historically marginalized will not be tolerated

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