Queer Women Take Over The 2016 Emmys

Maybe what Rush Limbaugh meant when he said queer women are taking over rural farms is that queer women are taking over television, because that’s a prophecy that actually came true last night at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards. It was already revolutionary that Her Story got a nod for Outstanding Short Form, and that 21 people of color were nominated in acting categories, and that seven entire women were nominated for directing. But things got even more exciting when Kate McKinnon snagged her first trophy, and Sarah Paulson got hers too (with Marcia Clark sitting right beside her). Jill Soloway, who came out earlier this year, also scored a huge victory.

Let it not be said that TV has arrived — or that it didn’t smash our hearts to bits this year — but watching the world celebrate these women was a spark of hope. Other queer and feminist things happened too; this is a list of some of them.

Kate McKinnon Thanks Ellen and Hillary

What a year for Kate McKinnon!


Sarah Paulson Engraves Marcia Clark’s Name on Her Heart

There are a million think pieces to be written about what it means for feminism that Marcia Clark stood beside Sarah Paulson and watched both of their names be engraved on her fresh Emmy Award. Or what it means that in her acceptance speech Paulson apologized to Clark on behalf of the entire country: “The responsibility of playing a real person is an enormous one. You want to get it right not for you but for them. I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial in my judgment, and I’m glad that I’m able to stand here in front of everyone today and say, I’m sorry.” But this isn’t that think piece. It’s a celebration of Paulson’s very first(!) Emmy and also of the moment on the red carpet when she told Holland Taylor she loves her, and Holland Taylor responded in kind. She also said it in her speech, just to make sure Holland heard.

Jill Soloway Vows to Topple the Patriarchy

Jill Soloway didn’t just win; she won for directing, the most exclusive boys club category in all awards shows.

Her speech was self-aware and remarkable. “Directing is a privilege, and it creates privilege. When you take women and people of color, queer people and trans people, and you put them at the center of the story, when they become subjects instead of objects, you change the world… we need to stop violence against transgender women and topple the patriarchy.”

Diversity Is More Than a Buzzword

There was a lot of talk about diversity last night, from white men. Jimmy Kimmel, Kit Harrington, and Andy Samberg all clowned on Hollywood’s overwhelming whiteness, and while that same old joke gets tiresome (stop laughing and start hiring not white men!), there’s evidence that the buzzword is causing incremental change. A record number of people of color were nominated for acting this year. Regina King pulled down a second consecutive, supremely deserved win for Best Supporting Actress. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won for Best Comedy Writing for Master of None (a show that includes a Black queer woman played by a Black queer woman). Key & Peele won Best Variety Sketch Series. And Rami Malek from Mr. Robot won Best Actor in a Drama. It’s only the beginning.

Give Trans Women a Shot

Jeffrey Tambor won again for Transparent. Last year he thanked the trans community for their patience and grace. This year he used his speech to speak directly to the folks who make TV: “Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story…I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female.” His speech, of course, comes on the heels of Matt Bomer’s new film, in which he plays a trans sex worker, and Michelle Rodriquez’s new film, in which she plays a trans woman who has forced gender reassignment surgery (or something? I honestly cannot wrap my head around what the deal is with that movie). The camera panned to Laverne Cox who cheered Tambor’s statement from the audience; in fact, she’d already shared the same sentiment with the audience earlier in the night. And Jen Richards weighed in on Twitter.

At Last, An Emmy For Maslany

No one really thought Tatiana Maslany was going to win an Emmy. Not that she didn’t deserve an Emmy (or a wheelbarrow full of Emmys), but there was a lot working against her. She plays six hundred characters flawlessly, of course, but she does so on a sci-fi show that is filmed in Canada and airs on a niche channel. Mostly, though, the six hundred characters she plays are all women and one trans man who interact with other women (who are also all played by her, don’t you forget it) and awards shows have repeatedly proven that even the best stories don’t stand a chance of being honored if they disregard and dismiss dudes. But Tatiana did win! The internet will call it a victory for nerds, which is true, but more than that, it is a victory for women-dominated storytelling. Tatiana knows; she ended her speech with: “I feel so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the center. Thank you so much to the Academy. Thank you.”

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. Waking up to see Tatiana finally getting a nod, and then all of the other fantastic smashing the ‘norm’ loveliness of the Emmys put a smile on my face

      • I don’t think so, I think she’s with that Tom Cullen guy in her pic. (I know she can still be queer and date him but I’ve searched and haven’t found any evidence of her being queer, unfortunately).

    • One of her characters on Orphan Black is a lesbian and one is trans, but I think Tatiana herself has never claimed to be LBTorQ.I still think we can claim her win as a win for us.

  2. Amazing article as always, Heather. Just one small correction, not all Tatiana characters are women, she plays Tony, a Trans man. There is probably a better way to word the point you are making.


    Roller derby playoffs were last night, so I didn’t actually watch any of the Emmy’s, but checking Facebook afterwards and finding out that Tatiana Maslany, Kate McKinnon, and Sarah Paulson all won was a great way to end my weekend.

    Also – I want to be as happy for someone as Taraji was for Regina King. Good god that clip was beautiful.

  4. YES. Was waiting on this article to RT. Also, did anyone catch the woman saying thank you to her wife? She was on stage when OJ won… something. She got cut off by the music/lights.

  5. Important technical question: Does something still pass the Bechdel Test if the two women talking to each other are actually both the same person?

    • I consider it does, but Orphan black would still pass the bechdel test even if we didn’t count Tatiana talking to Tatiana about Tatiana. What it doesn’t pass more often than not is the reverse Bechdel test, since men on that show hardly ever talk to each other and when they do is often about the women.

      • Oh yeah, Orphan Black passes, I’m just thinking hypothetically, like when a new show about feminist clones appears to fill the void next year in the Orphan Black-less future I don’t want to think about. Or in the spin-off that’s only Tatiana Maslany.

        • The clones are different people, even if they are played by the same actor, so I say clone characters pass the Bechdel Test. It’s sort of the point of the show, that the individuals are fully persons, and not just parts in a production line. But even without that, there’s still Mrs. S, and Delphine, and even Susan and Evie– who talk with each other and the clones.

          Is the “reverse Bechdel” test a real thing we want stuff to pass?

          I can’t tell if I’m taking this all too seriously while you all are joking around. But I personally don’t care if dudes pass it; there’s enough of a backlog of them doing stuff and talking about it, that I don’t mind at all if they become side-kicks and after-thoughts for a good long while.

    • I still think it does, because although they are genetic clones the characters are still different people – the fact that they’re played by the same actress doesn’t matter as much as the narrative element of having women making decisions together

  6. Watching Susanne Bier and Jill Soloway win Emmys for directing over all the men in their category was amazing.

    • That outfit is so strong it’s like a herd of zebra so fierce and fetch leonines can’t face the glory of them head on.
      Game? Not today leonines.
      Not today.
      They must look away and find less fetch prey.

  7. Sarah Paulson doing the shout out to Holland Taylor has me so quietly floored because like??? A famous emmy award winning actress so casually tells her girlfriend watching at home that she loves her and it’s just a regular thing??? and it’s just like any person giving a shout out to their opposite sex S.O. with the host woman giving the same sort-of faked, red carpet reporter enthusiasm as any of the hundreds of the versions of these award shows that have come before it.

    Man I wish I could go back 10 years and show my teenage self how far the world has come.

  8. Ngl, I loved Kate McKinnon until I saw all that Fitzwilliam “ha ha trans people are frickin’ hilarious omg” shite, and now she just makes me really sad

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