Emmys: 18 Memorable LGBTQ Winners and Nominees

4:21 PM 8/19/2019

by Kelsey Lentz

A look back at a number of the openly gay actors, comedians, hosts, writers and directors who've received some of TV's top honors.

70th Emmy Awards Microsoft Theater - Getty - H 2019
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The 2019 Emmy Awards is shaping up to be one of the most inclusive yet for the LGBTQ community with several queer actors and filmmakers nominated for awards and various shows that feature diverse LGBTQ representation also nominated in major categories.

Pose, the FX series centered on LGBTQ people of color in New York City’s ballroom scene, is up for six awards and has made Emmy history in a variety of ways. Producers Janet Mock, Our Lady J and Silas Howard are the first openly transgender people ever nominated for outstanding drama series. They are nominated with co-creators Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Star Billy Porter has also made history as the first openly gay black man to be nominated for best lead actor in a drama series.

Openly gay actress Fiona Shaw received nominations in two different categories — supporting actress in a drama series for Killing Eve and guest actress in a comedy series for Fleabag — making her a double-acting nominee. She will go up against Emmy-winning openly gay actress Jane Lynch in the comedy category.

Other nods to LGBTQ inclusion include gay actor Ben Whishaw securing a nomination for supporting actor in a limited series or TV movie for A Very English Scandal; transgender actress Laverne Cox being nominated again for guest actress in a drama series for Orange Is the New Black; and RuPaul’s Drag Race receiving nine noms with host RuPaul Charles himself competing against Ellen DeGeneres for best reality host.

Ahead of this year's Emmy Awards, take a look back at 18 memorable LGBTQ Emmy winners and nominees.

  • Lily Tomlin

    Although Tomlin has been working in TV since 1969, the comedian chose not to publicly come out for fear that her sexuality would overshadow her career, even turning down an opportunity to come out on the cover of Time magazine in 1975. Tomlin is now openly gay and starring on the Netflix show Grace and Frankie, which has earned her four nominations for lead actress in a comedy series. Over the course of her career, the actress has earned a total of 25 Emmy nominations and six wins. 

  • Ellen DeGeneres

    One of Hollywood’s first well-known openly gay figures, DeGeneres won her only Emmy in 1997 for her writing of “The Puppy Episode,” the two-part coming-out episode of Ellen. The notable win came right after her public coming out on the cover of Time magazine and her acceptance speech encouraged gay teens to be proud of who they are. Though DeGeneres has not won a Primetime Emmy Award since, she has been nominated 16 times, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show holds the record for most wins in the best talk show category at the Daytime Emmys. DeGeneres has a chance to win a Primetime Emmy again this year for hosting Ellen’s Games of Games. 

  • Wanda Sykes

    The actress, comedian and writer won her only Emmy thus far in her career in 1999 for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. Sykes has received many nominations in recent years, however, for her work on Black-ish, Wanda Sykes: I’ma Be Me and Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired. At the upcoming awards, Sykes will have another chance to win an Emmy for her Netflix stand-up special Wanda Sykes: Not Normal.

  • Ryan Murphy

    The openly gay Murphy has been racking up Emmy nominations and wins since 2004, most notably for his shows Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Pose. He has received a total of 31 nominations and six wins. At the upcoming 71st annual Emmy Awards, Pose will be battling for top awards. 

  • Cherry Jones

    Out actress Cherry Jones received an Emmy for supporting actress in a drama series back in 2009 for her role as President Allison Taylor on the show 24, making her one of the first openly lesbian actresses to win in a major category. More recently, Jones was nominated last year and this year for guest actress in a drama series for her role on The Handmaid’s Tale. Though Samira Wiley took home the statuette last year, Jones will be competing for it again this year. 

  • Jim Parsons

    The Big Bang Theory star has won four best actor in a comedy series Emmys for his role as Sheldon on the show. Although he was only publicly out for two of his wins, Parsons is tied with Michael J. Fox, Kelsey Grammer and Carroll O’Connor for most all-time Emmy wins in the comedy lead actor category. He also has received eight nominations and executive produces Netflix’s critically acclaimed Special, which is up for a number of shortform Emmys this year.

  • Neil Patrick Harris

    Harris has received five Emmy Awards and 12 nominations for his roles on shows like How I Met Your Mother, Glee and A Series of Unfortunate Events. He also won Emmys four years in a row for hosting the Tony Awards. 

  • Jane Lynch

    This out actress is no stranger to Emmy wins and nominations. Lynch has been nominated 12 times in categories such as guest actress in a comedy series, supporting actress in a comedy series and best reality host. She has scored a win for best supporting actress in a comedy series in 2010 for Glee and back-to-back wins for best reality host for Hollywood Game Night in 2014 and 2015. This year, Lynch is up for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for her role as Sophie Lennon on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

  • Laverne Cox

    Laverne Cox made history when she became the first transgender person ever nominated for an acting Emmy in 2014 for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black. Cox was then nominated for outstanding guest actress in a drama series in 2017 for OITNB and will be hoping to finally snag a win in the same category at the upcoming awards. 

  • Jill Soloway

    Soloway is a nonbinary writer, director and producer who has received many Emmy nominations and wins for her Amazon show Transparent, which depicts an elderly patriarch’s transgender journey. The show is based off of Soloway’s own parent coming out as transgender and earned her back-to-back best comedy directing Emmys.

  • Sarah Paulson

    Paulson has received various nominations for her roles in shows like American Horror Story and American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. It was her portrayal of real-life prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J Simpson, though, that earned her the gold at the 68th Emmy Awards. In her acceptance speech, she publicly thanked her girlfriend, Holland Taylor, later telling The Guardian she was hesitant to do so but said, “I wanted to say I love you to the person I love. Everyone else does it, so should I not do it because the person I love is a woman?” 

  • RuPaul Charles

    The famous drag queen's show RuPaul’s Drag Race has been nominated for 10 Emmys, and he has won the award for best reality host three times. RuPaul is hoping the 71st Emmy Awards will be his fourth win in that category. His 2018 win marked the first time in Emmy history that best reality-competition program and best reality host had gone to the same show. 

  • Kate McKinnon

    McKinnon, the first openly lesbian castmember on Saturday Night Live, won for best supporting actress in a comedy series two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017, with a nomination in 2018. She is in contention for the same award this year as well. 

  • Lena Waithe

    Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing when she took home the prize at the 69th Emmy Awards. Waithe won for co-writing the emotional “Thanksgiving” episode of Netflix's Master of None. The installment focuses on Waithe’s character coming out to her family and the impact this has on her relationship with her mother. Waithe based the episode off of her own experience coming out as a lesbian. 

  • Samira Wiley

    The Handmaid’s Tale actress not only plays a gay character on the hit show, but she is also an openly gay woman herself. Wiley's role as Moira earned her a nomination in 2017 for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series and an Emmy in 2018 for outstanding guest actress in a drama series, making her the youngest person to ever win in that category.

  • Yance Ford

    Ford became the first black transgender man to win the exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking Emmy in 2018 for his Netflix documentary Strong Island, an Oscar-nominated film that tells the story of his brother’s unfortunate 1992 death and the social injustice that followed when a white jury failed to convict his white killer.

  • Ricky Martin

    The Latin pop star publicly came out in 2010 after years of speculation over his sexuality. Since then, Martin has embraced being a gay man, with his performance as Gianni Versace’s lover, Antonio D’Amico, in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace being only the latest example. The acting role earned him his first-ever Emmy nomination.

  • Jonathan Van Ness

    The Queer Eye star has had many of his shows nominated in top Emmy categories, with some taking home wins. Queer Eye itself has been nominated 10 times and won in three different categories in 2018, including best casting for a reality program. The show will be competing for six awards this year. Van Ness’ other series, Gay of Thrones, on which he both stars and produces, has also been nominated for Emmys and is up for best shortform variety series this year.