What will Sunday's 68th Primetime Emmy Awards be remembered for? “Game of Thrones” won best drama series, while “Veep” took home the top comedy award.“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” also earned five awards (plus four of last weekend's Creative Arts Emmys), while Julia Louis-Dreyfus made history with her fifth consecutive Emmy win in the lead comedy actress category. But what are people talking about most? Stirring speeches, such as Jill Soloway's call to "topple the patriarchy," Kate McKinnon setting Twitter on fire, Sandwich-gate and Tatiana Maslany getting a win for the clone-club.
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When Jeffrey Tambor took the Emmys stage Sunday night, accepting the award for best actor in a comedy series for his role as a transgender woman in "Transparent," he made a statement: that cisgender men playing transgender women must stop. He doubled down on that thought backstage.
"I just hope there are more opportunities for transgender talent," he said. "I would very much like to be the last cisgender male playing a transgender female. I think we are there now."
But change comes slowly, even in Hollywood. To wit: Matt Bomer will be playing a transgender sex worker in the upcoming film “Anything." (It's executive produced by Mark Ruffalo.)
Transgender people have experienced unprecedented visibility in the last two years, aided in part by the success of folks like actress Laverne Cox and author Janet Mock. All too often however, the trans characters in mainstream media are not played by transgender people. Cox, on "Orange Is the New Black" is one of the few exceptions, and in her presentation of the directing in a variety special award, she echoed Tambor's statement.
With his speech, Tambor joins a growing list of advocates for transgender people playing transgender characters on film and television.
"It would be one thing if trans people had told their stories for hundreds of years," said writer/director/producer Jill Soloway, "but they haven’t. It’s really a problem. It's time to hand out the keys to the kingdom and open the gates."
Tambor's speech was well-received on social media and among the trans community, many of whom have been advocating the same idea for years. Of note was Jen Richards, of the Emmy-nominated Web series "Her Story," who openly critiqued the casting of Bomer earlier this year. Richards was recently cast on CMT's "Nashville." She'll play the network's first transgender character and be the first out transgender actor on the network.
"I really cried," she tweeted, after watching the speech. "We are making a difference. Our voices do have power."
And why is having trans people play trans characters important? Because representation matters.
For the record (Sept. 19, 12:23 a.m.): An earlier version of this post wrongly attributed to Jill Soloway's quote to Jeffrey Tambor.