Visibility, advocacy, and hope were the big themes Saturday at the 30th annual GLAAD awards, which saw the largest attendance that the ceremony has ever seen with more than 1,300 guests.
Madonna was honored with the Advocate for Change Award. She started by saying that 2019 is a “monumental year,” remembering the Stonewall riots which happened 50 years ago and sparked a revolutionary “outcry.”
“Why have I always had a want for change? It’s a hard question to answer,” she said. “It’s like trying to explain the importance of breathing, or the need to love.”
She talked about feeling like an outsider until she met her ballet teacher, Christoper Flynn, who died of AIDS in 1990. This mentor helped her get to New York, where she blossomed and found acceptance within the LGBTQ community. When the community’s artistry was clouded by the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, she saw it as an opportunity for advocacy.
“It made me feel sad, it made me feel sick, it made me want to kick everybody’s ass,” she said.
“To quote a song from my new record, life is a circle, death and loss brought a new life, brought me to life, brought me to love,” she said. “And so we are back to the beginning of my speech, the importance of love. Because as soon as you understand what it means to love, you understand what it takes to become a human being. And it is every human being’s duty to fight, to advocate, to do whatever we can and whatever it takes.”
This type of outreach and outpouring of love could be seen throughout the event as guests embraced and talked about how visibility and breaking glass ceilings has been an uphill battle, but from it has sparked hope.
The creators of the show “Pose” have broken such boundaries with the largest cast of trans actors on scripted television telling the story of ballroom culture in the 1980s. The show won the GLAAD award for outstanding drama series. When asked about the show’s impact, writer and producer Our Lady J said that it has been an opportunity to prove disbelievers wrong.
“It’s been incredible to watch Hollywood embrace us,” she said. “There’s been a lot of pressure, but it’s also a great responsibility. I feel like the trans community can prove to Hollywood that we can make art that people can tune into because for so many years people were saying that the talent wasn’t there, which we knew wasn’t true.”
In terms of how far our nation’s media has come and still how far we have to go, actresses Alexandra Billings (“Transparent”, “How to Get Away With Murder”) and Trace Lysette (“Transparent”) are hopeful and excited about the new material that the television world has in store for the LGBTQ community.
“I’m really excited for the projects that are coming next and I think it’s a new day. I hope it gets better, we obviously have a long way to go,” Lysette said. “We definitely have seen the changes over the past few years.”
As for Pete Buttgieg, the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president, Billings described him as “adorable.” She gushed over his demeanor, saying that he has new ideas, understands relationships, and fosters a “human sensibility.”
As the attendees dined and drank under blue light, they honored the work that still has to be done, but remained hopeful for the future.
“We have a lot more visibility in the LGBTQ community which has been a lot of our work at GLAAD, but we continue to need that visibility because now is a more important time than ever that we have these events,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis on the red carpet. “We’re out there, we’re loud and we’re proud, and we’re bringing allies in all marginalized communities.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story previously said Buttigieg was the first openly gay presidential candidate of a major party. However, Fred Karger had previously run as a Republican in 2012.