GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) held its annual Respect Awards in the ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire on Friday night, where the Harvey Weinstein scandal prompted many out gay actors to speak openly about inappropriate behavior they had experienced with Hollywood power players.

For some actors, the red carpet was almost like a group therapy session. Did anyone offer to give a young Wilson Cruz a massage circa “My So-Called Life,” for instance?

“Yes! I mean, early on when I was a little twink there were people who made suggestions about how they could help me,” Cruz said. “And you know, clearly I didn’t take them up on that because I would be far more famous than I am now!”

Cruz, who used to sit on the board of GLSEN, didn’t name names when he claimed that there were “older gentlemen of a certain age who made offers.” He added, “I did not take them up on it, but it was uncomfortable. I was in my 20s, and I thought: ‘Is this what one does?’ And also: ‘Am I going to ruin my career by not doing it?’ In the end, I politely said no and kept on my way.”

The actor went on, “But, you know, it definitely happens. I think it’s been quietly accepted as the norm in a lot of ways. People are like: ‘Oh, it happens’ and you brush it off. [But] I didn’t feel safe. I was trying to maneuver my way through Hollywood as an openly gay actor and there weren’t many examples for me at the time. I was juggling a lot of worries.”

“There are many other people who have experienced way worse in terms of harassment, but I can identify and empathize with anybody who has gone through it,” shared Charlie Carver, who is best known for his roles in “The Leftovers” and “Teen Wolf.” “I’m not a stranger to it. This will hopefully open up a discussion about men and power dynamics in general — maybe it has to do with exerting masculinity.”

The experience left him shaken albeit not irreparably damaged, according to Carver, who detailed how he was able to heal. “Through the support of talking with other people who have been through the same thing,” Carver said. “I wouldn’t say I was traumatized. But it was definitely a lesson, something to move through.”

Charlie Carver at the 2017 GLSEN Awards.
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Carver emphasized the importance of the GLSEN ceremony. “In this political climate more than ever, we need to reward our allies and the people who are visible in the community so that young people feel like they are being seen and that they have peers and support,” he said.

The ceremony, which celebrates role models and allies alike who seek to empower LGBTQ students and end discrimination in schools nationwide, honored several celebrities along with DC Entertainment, which received the organization’s Visionary Award.

Nearby on the carpet, CAA’s usually low-profile Bryan Lourd, whose husband Bruce Bozzi was being honored with the organization’s Champion Award, affectionately hugged and planted a kiss on the cheek of power-publicist Stephen Huvane, who was walking Zendaya down the carpet. The singer and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” star was on hand to accept the Gamechanger Award. “I mean, it really says everything,” Zendaya told Variety. “Young people today, we are the game changers. We are the people who are quite literally taking what was the game — the world — and doing it our own way.”

The lovefest continued as Rosario Dawson playfully interrupted Inspiration Award winner Kerry Washington’s TV interviews. “You look so gorgeous!” said Dawson as she wrapped her arms around her longtime friend; Washington threw her head back and erupted into laughter.

Washington admitted that she wasn’t even sure why she was being honored by the LGBTQ community on this night. “Uh, I don’t know. I would have to ask the community,” she joked. “Throughout my career, I have really made a point to not shy away from characters who are disenfranchised from society in some way — either because of their sexual orientation or whatever reason,” she told Variety. “I just firmly believe that we all deserve a seat at the table.”

Kerry Washington accepting her honor at the 2017 GLSEN Awards.
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock