Arts·Queeries

A brief history of LGBTQ representation at the Oscars

From Brokeback Mountain's snub to a whole lot of closeted winners, Peter Knegt breaks it down.

From Brokeback Mountain's snub to a whole lot of closeted winners, Peter Knegt breaks it down

From Brokeback Mountain's snub to a whole lot of closeted winners, let Peter Knegt break it down. 4:52

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. It won the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada.

The Oscars have long been associated with having a sizeable gay viewership — but they haven't always been so good at loving the gays back. Which is why — even if just for Sam Smith's future reference — this special video edition of Queeries tries and break it all down for you, because if there are two things I'm an expert on, it's the Oscars and the gays. 

Basically, there are a few good things to note (there have actually been dozens of LGBTQ winners) and...many bad things as well (none of those winners have been actors, at least not out actors). And obviously this is a brief history, so it's by no means a comprehensive overview. But hopefully it offers up a little 411 on how generally dismal queer representation at Oscars has historically been as we head into a ceremony where only two of the 200+ nominees (Elton John for his Rocketman song and Canada's own Dean DeBlois for directing How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World) are openly LGBTQ.

What do these six LGBTQ film roles have in common? They all won the straight actors who played them Oscars. (Clockwise from top left: Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, Sean Penn in Milk, Mahershala Ali in Green Book, Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, and Charlize Theron in Monster.) (Courtesy)

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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