The nomination of “Orange Is the New Black” cast member Laverne Cox on Thursday provided a benchmark to be celebrated during a panel about LGBT representation on television.
In her keynote, GLAAD Chief Executive and President Sarah Kate Ellis touted the transgender Cox and her outspokenness as indicative of the importance of having ambassadors to help propel change on-screen, which can then breed change off-screen.
The panel, hosted by Fox Audience Strategy and GLAAD, took place on the Fox lot in Century City and featured actors and producers from forthcoming Fox dramas “Empire,” “Red Band Society” and “Glee” as well as former NFL player Wade Davis.
Davis, who came out publicly in 2012 and has played for the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins, stressed that role models are key in the development and psychology of young kids who are grappling with their identity.
“Young kids can now see what they can become,” he said of folks like Cox or sport stars such as Jason Collins in helping to redefine assumptions and expectations."Kids can now turn on their TV and be like, wow, I can be that. You can never become what you don’t see.”
Following the panel, Ellis told the Los Angeles Times that the GLAAD team had been hitting the “refresh” button throughout the early morning hours of Thursday hoping to learn that Cox had been nominated.
“I think having an open and out trans woman be recognized for her work is a major win for us,” Ellis said. “Every time I see her, something new and major is happening for her and that does so much in shifting the culture. We need to take a moment to celebrate and let it inspire us to do more, not to settle. Who says she has to be the only one? We need to open the door further.”
Ellis touted television as being at the forefront in leading the evolution of LGBT representation in the media with shows such as “The Fosters,” about a biracial lesbian couple and their children, and Fox’s forthcoming “Empire,” set in the music world and featuring a gay rapper character, and “Orange Is the New Black,” which was named outstanding comedy series at the 25th annual GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year.
Now TV, she said, just needs to do a better job of showing the diversity within the LGBT community -- noting the over-representation of the white male perspective. But she acknowledged that it won’t come easy considering the general lack of diversity in television.
“TV could always be doing a better job,” she said. “It’s up to us to keep nagging it.”