Sarah Paulson thought about not thanking her girlfriend at the Emmys. She's glad she did.

Sarah Paulson was a standout at the 2016 Emmys.

Her roles in "American Horror Story" and "The People v. O.J. Simpson" had fans and critics alike rooting for the actress long before she even hit the red carpet.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.


She ended up snagging Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her role in the Simpson crime anthology.

As she stood on stage, Paulson publicly apologized to the real life person she portrayed on screen, Marcia Clark — the head prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

"The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark, not the two-dimensional cardboard cutout I saw on the news, but the complicated, whip-smart, giant-hearted mother of two, who woke up every day, put both feet on the floor and dedicated herself to righting an unconscionable wrong," Paulson said in her speech. "The more I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment."

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

The apology made waves across the internet for days.

But it was a different, less reported line in Paulson's speech that the actress said she was unsure about: Should she thank her girlfriend?

"Holland Taylor," she said, concluding her speech by addressing her partner. "I love you."

It was just one sentence, but it made a difference.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Paulson opened up about the double standard in straight relationships and queer ones when it comes to public affection and visibility in Hollywood, and why she wouldn't let it deter her from living honestly (emphasis added):

"In terms of my speech, 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? And so I thought, you know what? I’m just gonna do it. I wasn’t worried over it. It was a flashing thought — ‘should I do it?’ And I thought to myself, ‘The fact that I am having this thought is wrong in the first place.’ The idea that I would have to take a moment before I say this to consider what impact it might have that could be negative is an asinine thing to engage with mentally, and I refuse to do it. So I just said what I wanted to say."

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

Paulson's win was celebrated as one of several big moments for LGBTQ women at the Emmys this year.

Openly queer Jill Soloway, the creator of "Transparent," won Best Directing for a Comedy Series — "Topple the patriarchy!" she yelled gleefully from the stage during her speech — while "Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon, the series' first openly lesbian cast member, snagged Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Laverne Cox, who became the first transgender artist to be nominated in an acting category last year, also presented the award for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special.

"Thank you, Ellen DeGeneres, thank you, Hillary Clinton," McKinnon said as a nod to two big names she's impersonated (flawlessly) on her rise to stardom, as the audience laughed.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Don't let the 2016 Emmys fool you, though. TV still has a ways to go before LGBTQ actors and characters are depicted fairly on screen.

Although progress has been made, there's still not enough quality representation in primetime programming — especially for transgender characters, women, and people of color, as the 2015 GLAAD "Where We Are On TV" report found.

What's more, when LGBTQ characters are included, they too often fall into dangerous tropes that perpetuate negative stereotypes. Hollywood also has a tendency to kill off LGBTQ characters or avoid giving them happy endings: "bury your gays," as it's been coined throughout the years.

Too often, queer characters are written more like props — not as complex, real people.  

The only recurring LGBTQ character on TV who's HIV-positive is portrayed by Conrad Ricamora (left) in "How to Get Away with Murder," the 2015 GLAAD report found. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Point Foundation.

Media representation matters because if and how we see ourselves in the world around us (including on our TV screens) helps shape our own self perceptions in big ways.

Paulson understands no one Emmy win or captivating speech can shift an industry overnight.

"It’s a complicated thing to talk about," Paulson said when asked about how her speech plays into the bigger theme of trailblazing LGBTQ women. "The issues this raises are big and important. I don’t want to give superficial answers."

But — thanks in part to actresses like Paulson, McKinnon, and Cox — more girls and young women can see themselves in their favorite TV series and the Emmy speeches that make history. And that's big.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

Keep Reading Show less
via Cathy Pedrayes / Instagram

Sometimes the most innocuous question can give a predator all the information they need to stalk, harass, or assault a woman. That's why Instagram's "safety queen" Cathy Pedrayes has made a series of videos showing women the best times to lie to a stranger.

We've all been raised to tell the truth, but when it comes to being safe there's no reason we should feel compelled to give out personal information to a random stranger. Pedrayes' videos do a great job at not only showing women when to lie and but how to feel comfortable doing so.

Pedrayes originally started making videos about philosophy and being a "mom friend," but soon fell into making clips centered around safety because of her unique background.

Keep Reading Show less