With no red carpet or live-stream, this year’s Golden Globes might have been a more muted affair than usual – but it still managed to deliver some historic moments.
Namely, MJ Rodriguez becoming the first openly transgender actress to win a Golden Globe.
Rodriguez called it a “sickening birthday present”, writing on Instagram: “This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible.
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“They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS. To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”
The 31-year-old won the award for her portrayal of Blanca Rodriguez in Pose, a TV show about the New York LGBTQ ball scene in the 1980s and Nineties.
Rodriguez beat off some stiff competition to win the award for best actress in a TV Drama – including Jennifer Aniston and Elisabeth Moss – and she paid tribute to them by writing: “To the nominees we are Queens. I’m so happy to share space with you! Each and every last one of you women are phenomenal.”
Rodriguez’s success at the Globes is particularly important considering the lack of trans representation on screen. GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report tracks the presence of the LGBTQ+ community on US TV. The most recent report – looking at the 2020-2021 television season – found a year-on-year decrease in the number of transgender characters.
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 10, 2022
Of the 360 recurring LGBTQ+ characters across scripted primetime shows, cable and streaming, only 29 are trans – and four of these are from Rodriguez’s show Pose.
This made up 14% of transgender representation on TV – and Pose wrapped up its final season in 2021, meaning unless new shows step up to the plate, we could see a drop in numbers in the next report.
Nick Adams, director of transgender representation at GLAAD, said there is “still room for improvement” in on-screen trans representation, particularly as “a few shows continue to cast cisgender actors to play trans roles and this must stop; being transgender is not a costume.
And of the 26 series featuring trans characters, 22 of them are dramas. We need to see more trans inclusion in comedies – shows that allow audiences to laugh with trans characters, not at them.”
Not only is Rodriguez representing trans women of colour on the small screen, but she’s doing so with remarkable success – and she now has the Golden Globe to prove it. This is hugely important, because it shows just what’s possible for marginalised communities, and will hopefully pave the way for better representation moving forward.
As Rodriguez wasn’t able to give an acceptance speech on stage at the Golden Globes, she took to Instagram Live to share a few words. She said: “This is not just for me – this is for y’all [the LGBTQ+ community of colour]. This is the door that opens for y’all.”
In a time when anti-trans violence is very much an issue – according to Stonewall’s 2017 report, two in five trans people had experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months – positive public figures like Rodriguez are hugely powerful and impactful.
Not only does Rodriguez help normalise trans people in public spaces, she shows it’s possible to not only survive, but thrive. Who knows how many people will be empowered by her win at the Golden Globes.