What Lena Waithe’s 2017 Emmy win means for Black queer culture

Remember when the generational matriarch of your family–usually Big Mama, Grandmama, or GG–had to fret to describe you to her friends?  It usually was a blend between you being “special” or “artistic”, a “tomboy” or “a little sweet”.  If you’ve got deep souther roots, like so many of us do in our culture, we’ve been described as everything from the slightly to overtly offensive.

When you’ve had to explain and explain again to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, about how you’re not bring a boy- girlfriend home, and he’s not your “roommate”, and she’s not a “special friend”, space and capacity for your queer life seems to be an uphill battle.

So we turn to movies and television to find a sense of normalcy.  Our friend circles and social engagements highlight the lives we’re trying to leave behind.  You, like me, or someone you know has probably left their hometown to start anew in a city that will be more accepting, more affirming, and overall easier to live this gay life.  We seek escape.

But this year, Lena Waithe raked in the win for by Writing in a Comedy Series for her work on the Thanksgiving Episode of the hit Netflix series, Master of None.  The show follows Dev Shah, played by producer Aziz Ansari, as he navigates life as a single Indian (as in, from India) creative in New York City.  Aided by the counsel of his close friends, including the gender-bending best friend Denise, played by Waithe, the show is the perfect blend of cross cultural understanding and comedic value.

But Lena Waithe’s win is more than just seeing a queer face as the first African-American female to take home this honor.  Streaming TV has picked up 32 nominations, more than any year prior.  Companies like SlayTV, BawnTV, and Signal23 have become more household names giving queer people more opportunities to show real depictions of our culture through our own lens.

Shows like Love@First Night, About Him, and Ellenwood from Black queer filmmakers and writers, telling Black queer stories are being pushed further into the spotlight creating space for more of us to excel.

With the barrier to enter mainstream entertainment lowered with the advent of web-series, and the depictions of our culture being honored, it’s not too long before shows by us are walking across that Emmy stage.

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