It wasn’t long ago that shows like “Ellen” and “Will & Grace” made history for the LGBT community at the Emmys, but gay, lesbian, and transgender visibility made further strides in 2014.
“Orange is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox made headlines as the first openly transgender acting nominee at the Emmys; she’s nominated for Best Comedy Guest Actress alongside co-stars Uzo Aduba and Natasha Lyonne.
“Orange” as a whole presents a progressive view of sexuality, and its six nominated actors play roles including straight (Red, played by Kate Mulgrew), bisexual (Piper, played by Taylor Schilling), and gay (Aduba as Crazy Eyes and Lyonne as Nicky Nichols), in addition to Cox’s groundbreaking role as transgender inmate Sophia Burset. Also, Jodie Foster, who came out as gay more or less officially at the Golden Globes in January 2013, is nominated for directing an episode of the series.
One of Foster’s rivals in that race is Emmy-favorite Paris Barclay, a gay director competing for the third time for “Glee“; he previously won a pair of Drama Directing prizes for “NYPD Blue.”
Elsewhere, HBO’s telefilm “The Normal Heart” racked up 16 nominations. Not only does the film explore the lives of gay men during the turbulent early years of the AIDS epidemic, it also features several out individuals nominated for their work in front of and behind the camera: actors Matt Bomer, Joe Mantello, and Jim Parsons, writer Larry Kramer, and director Ryan Murphy.
Parsons also earned his sixth Comedy Actor nomination for “The Big Bang Theory“; he has three previous wins.
Beau Bridges earned a Drama Guest Actor bid as a closeted hospital administrator in “Masters of Sex,” while Andre Braugher is up for Comedy Supporting Actor as an openly gay police captain in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Braugher competes against out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who picked up his fifth consecutive nod as Mitchell Pritchett in “Modern Family.” This past season, Mitchell married his longtime partner Cameron (two-time Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet) in a wedding organized by Pepper Saltzman, played by another out nominee, Comedy Guest Actor contender Nathan Lane.
Even “House of Cards” got in on the action. We learned in season one that corrupt politico Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) had a gay relationship with a schoolmate, and season two revisited that side of his character with a secret service agent who went above and beyond the call of duty.
Lynch isn’t the only gay performer nominated for a hosting gig: Ellen DeGeneres (“The Oscars”) and Neil Patrick Harris (“67th Annual Tony Awards”) are up for Best Special Class Program. It’ll be an interesting contest, since they’re competing against the “Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony”; Russia was widely criticized during the games for their recent crackdown against the LGBT community. Olympic opening ceremonies are usually strong contenders at the Emmys, but its association with a controversial host nation might hurt it.
What did you think of this year’s nominations? Was it an especially strong showing for LGBT stories, storytellers, and talent? Or do we still have a long way to go? Below, predict whether “The Normal Heart” will win Best TV Movie, and click here to forecast the rest of this year’s top races in our predictions center.