By Nicole Akoukou Thompson
Queer aesthetics heighten film and television, and LGBTQ women contribute significantly to that space, providing visibility, vulnerability, and originality on screen.
Cite “But I’m a Cheerleader,” “The Watermelon Woman,” and “Happiest Season” as evidence. Tapping into their well of experience, culture and queerness, LGBTQ actresses evoke authentic on-screen moments, shaping the way society views queer and trans women — and the way queer and trans women view themselves.
Stigma surrounding queer and trans women is slowly shedding, and yet, America is still a dangerous place for members of the LGBTQ community — particularly trans women of color. The presence of trans and queer stars or characters on the screen is a step towards normalizing transgender and gender non-conforming identities and ensuring those individuals feel represented and seen. It is Hollywood’s responsibility to continue to mirror the greater American landscape and the diverse individuals who make up the whole.
During Women’s History Month, let’s honor queer and trans women who breathe life into characters, demonstrate their ability on camera, and shatter glass ceilings while ensuring that trans and queers characters are centered positively on television.
Check out our list of some of the LGBTQ women we’ll see on screens, big and small, in the coming year.
Clemons’ breakout role occurred in the 2015 comedy-drama film Dope, where she portrayed Cassandra “Diggy” Andrews. She later appeared in “Transparent,” “Eye Candy,” “Easy,” and “Angela Tribeca.” Last year, she filmed a television pilot for “Red Bird Lane” and appeared in the television series “Ghost Tape.” Next, Clemons will appear in the 2021 director’s cut of the 2017 superhero film “Justice League,” along with “Susie Searches,” “The Flash,” “The Language of Flowers,” and “Fairfax.”
Cox rose to prominence with her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” which earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination. Last year, she appeared in “Bad Hair,” “Promising Young Woman,” and “Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen.” In the coming year, she’ll appear in the film “Jolt,” which will appear as a series regular on “Inventing Anna” and will make an appearance on the crime drama “The Blacklist” and the new series “Clean Slate,” which will co-star George Wallace.
DuVall cemented her place in our psyches with her performance in “But I’m a Cheerleader.” She went on to appear in “Girl, Interrupted,” “Argo,” and “All About Nina,” and recently co-wrote and directed the film “Happiest Season.” She’ll voice Elsa in the upcoming animated series, “Housebroken.”
Oscar-winning actress and director Jodie Foster earned accolades early on for performances in films such as “Taxi Driver,” “Freaky Friday,” and “Foxes.” She then went on to star in “The Accused,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Little Man Tate,” and so many other films. Foster tried her hand at being a director in recent years, directing episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” Foster starred in the 2021 legal drama film “The Mauritanian.” Her performance in the film earned her the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.
Jackson is most recognizable for her leading role of scathing victor Elektra Abundance in the FX series “Pose,” which is airing its third and final season this spring. Jackson has appeared in “Call Me, Christopher Street: The Series,” “My Truth, My Story, a Caribbean LGBTQ Oral History,” and “Storytelling Documentary Series.” Also, she’ll appear in the documentary “Visible: The LGBTQ Caribbean Diaspora.” Jackson portrays Ms. World in season three of the fantasy drama series “American Gods.”
Lysette became more widely known during her time on the TV series “Transparent” and she went on to appear in “Pose,” “Hustlers,” and “I am Cait.” In the coming year, she’ll star in two films, “Monica” and “Venus as a Boy.”
Known for her character work and celebrity impressions on “Saturday Night Live,” she’s also notably appeared in “Rough Night,” “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” and “Nature Cat.” McKinnon will portray Carole Baskin in the Exotic in an eight-episode television series based on the real-life character, Joe Exotic, on Netflix’s “Tiger King.”
Morales had a primary role in the first season of the series “White Collar” and had a recurring role in the sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” She also became a member of the main cast on the series “Trophy Wife,” “The Grinder,” and “Abby’s.” Morales has a slew of new film projects in the works: neo-noir thriller “The Little Things,” Morales’s directorial debut “Language Lessons,” comedy thriller “Happily,” and “I’m Totally Fine.” Also, she’s filming the TV movie “Today’s Special.”
An actress, seamstress and all-around maker, Nicole has proven she has the range on and off the screen. Appearing on “Fringe,” “Scandal,” and “The Good Doctor,” Nicole has a principal role on “Punky Brewster,” the sequel to the 1984–1988 series of the same name, which premiered on February 25, 2021. The series stars Soleil Moon Frye, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Cherie Johnson. She’ll portray Lauren, a lawyer who develops a serious relationship with Cherie.
Best known for years spent portraying Miranda Hobbs on the hit HBO series “Sex and the City,” Nixon has been active politically and professionally. Viewers recently saw Nixon on the Netflix series “Ratched,” and she’ll reprise the role of Miranda in the “Sex and the City” sequel series, titled “And Just Like That…” She will also appear in the historical drama series “The Gilded Age” as a lead cast member, acting opposite Christine Baranski.
Rodriguez is best known for her role as Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in the smash-hit drama “Pose,” which will soon air its fourth and final season. She previously appeared in “Nurse Jackie,” “Carrie Diaries,” and “Luke Cage.”
This child star-turned-veteran actress has appeared in dozens of films and TV series, including “Fly Away Home,” “X-Men,” “True Blood,” and “Alias Grace.” Paquin currently plays the vulnerable and dangerous anti-hero Robyn, an American PR executive living in London, in “Flack.” She will appear in the 2021 film, “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story.”
A Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe winner and America’s gothic sweetheart, Paulson is known for her tenure on “American Horror Story” and “American Crime Story.” She’s also starred in “Mrs. America” and “Ratched.” Recently, Paulson confirmed that she will return to “American Horror Story” for its 10th season after being absent for the ninth go-around. She is also slated to appear on “American Crime Story.”
Funny lady Plaza first made a splash on-screen as April Ludgate on the series “Parks and Recreation.” She went on to appear in dozens of projects, including the must-watch series “Legion” and the Clea Duvall-directed and written film, “Happiest Season.” Plaza is set to appear in several upcoming movies, including comedy-drama “Best Sellers,” “King Knight,” animated adventure “The Ark and Aardvark,” and “Five Eyes.”
Shawkat is best known for her role as Mae “Maeby” Fünke on the series “Arrested Development,” but she’s been busy with consistent film and television appearances. She wrote and appeared in 2018’s film “Duck Butter, and she’s currently a lead on the series “Search Party” and thriller series “The Old Man.” Shawkat will also star as the lead in the film “Love Spreads.”
Two decades into her acting career, Stewart has appeared in nearly 50 films, including “The Twilight Saga” film series, “Charlie’s Angels,” and holiday rom-com “Happiest Season.” In the upcoming film, “Spencer,” set to release in late 2021, Stewart will take the lead as the beloved Diana, Princess of Wales.
Sykes is best known for her work as a writer on “The Chris Rock Show,” and her roles on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Black-ish.” In addition to voicing the character Gregoria on the TV series short “Vampirina,” the decorated comedian will appear in the film “Breaking News in Yuba County” alongside Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, and Samira Wiley. She will also be on the new series, “The Upshaws,” which will co-star Kim Fields and Mike Epps.
In her early career, Thompson appeared in “Veronica Mars” and “Hidden Palms” before her work quickly gained momentum. She has appeared in “Mississipi Damned,” “For Colored Girls,” “Dear White People,” “Creed,” and 2018’s “Sorry to Bother You.” In 2020, she acted in and executive produced “Sylvie’s Love,” a sweeping romantic comedy. Thompson stepped into the role of Charlotte Hale Dolores Abernathy on the HBO hit series “Westworld,” which HBO has renewed the series for a fourth season. She is slated to be in the film “Passing” and reprise the role of Valkyrie in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
Tomlin started her career as a series regular on the “The Garry Moore Show” and has had a riveting career in film and television, appearing in “9 to 5,” “Big Business,” “Murphy Brown,” and so much more. Recently, she’s delighted viewers with her depiction of Frankie Bergstein in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.” She’s also the voice of the iconic Professor Frizzle in “The Magic School Bus Rides Again.”
For years, Waithe stealthy worked behind the scenes in film and television, working on “Girlfriends,” “The Comeback,” “Dear White People,” and “How to Rock.” Waithe starred in the Netflix comedy-drama series “Master of None” and wrote the show’s Thanksgiving episode, which earned her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The creator of the Showtime drama series “The Chi,” “Boomerang,” and “Twenties” appeared in the 2020 comedy horror film “Bad Hair.” Next, she’ll executive produce a series called “Them: Covenant,” which will premiere on Amazon Prime Video. They will focus on a Black family moving to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood where malevolent forces threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.
Most fell in love with Wesley during her stint as Tara Thornton on the HBO television series “True Blood.” That love affair continued when she became Nova Bordelon on the OWN television series “Queen Sugar.” Next, she’ll appear in the sci-fi thriller “No Running.” Taryn Manning and Shane West will co-star.
Many are aware of Wiley through her role as Poussey Washington in “Orange is the New Black,” but she has had arches on “Will & Grace,” “Night on Earth,” and “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.” She’s a series regular on the dystopian tragedy series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and has few projects in the works, including comedy-drama “Breaking News in Yuba County,” sci-fi drama film “BIOS,” and an upcoming drama “Red, White and Water.”
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Gay City News.