18 March 2017, JW Marriott, Los Angeles, California, USA
Thank you, guys. A little back story. Shannon Woodward, one of my best friends … A lot of my best friends are here tonight because I love them and I’m obsessed with them, and I’m loyal. They’ve taught me pretty much everything I know. Shannon, actually, I used to sleep on her couch. I was couch-surfing on her couch and I used to eat her frozen chicken tenders from Trader Joe’s. They were so good.
Here is the thing about that woman, we’ve kind of like raised each other. I’ll get into it in a second, but basically one time, I said, “I’m not a feminist because I don’t grow hair underneath my arms,” and stuff like that because I really didn’t understand what that meant. She lovingly pulled me aside as the strong woman she is and great friend, and those are great friends, and she goes, “Hey, this is what the word 'feminist' means.”
I was like, “What? This whole time? I’m a feminist.”
I love her so very much and I love all my friends that teach me everything that I’ve learned today so thank you so much for this incredible, humbling award. I got to say there is no other community that has done more to shape who I am today, and there is no other community that I believe in more than you.
This community here tonight has achieved more progress toward a more perfect union in a short amount of time as any group in our history. I stand with you and I know that we stand together against discrimination whether it be in the LGBTQ community, or our Latino brothers and sisters, or the millions of Muslims in this country.
I’m just a singer-songwriter, honestly. I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-size pop songs. For instance, I kissed a girl and I liked it. Truth be told: (a) I did more than that and … (b) how was I going to reconcile that with a gospel singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps?
What I did know is that I was curious and even then I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress. Honestly, I haven’t always gotten it right, but in 2008, when that song came out, I knew that I started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane for one second. My first words were mama and dada, God and Satan. Right and wrong were taught to me on felt boards and of course through the glamorous Jan Crouch crying diamond teardrops every night on that Vaseline-TBN television screen. Make some noise if you know who I’m talking about.
When I was growing up, homosexuality was synonymous with the word abomination and hell, a place of gnashing of teeth, continuous burning of skin and probably Mike Pence’s ultimate guest list for a barbecue.
No way, no way! I wanted the pearly gates and the unlimited fro-yo toppings. Most of my unconscious adolescence, I prayed the gay away at my Jesus camps, but then in the middle of it all, in a twist of events, I found my gift and my gift introduced me to people outside my bubble and my bubble started to burst.
These people were nothing like who I had been taught to fear. They were the most free, strong, kind and inclusive people I have ever met. They stimulated my mind and they filled my heart with joy and they freaking danced all the while doing it. These people are actually magic and they are magic because they are living their truth. Oh my goddess, what a revelation ... and not the last chapter of the bible. Suffice to say, it’s been a long road for me and I’m sure a long road for many of you out there.
I know it doesn’t always feel safe to live out who you are, but here’s the thing though, I would have not chosen a different road. Priceless lessons have been learned. The path of discovery has made me, has tested me and forever changed me. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your tribe. Many of the people I admire and trust, and work with belong to the LGBTQ community. Without them, I’d be half of the person I am today. My life is rich in every capacity because of them.
They are trusted allies that provide a safe space to fall, to not know it all and to make mistakes. These are the people I hold dear. See, I hope I stand here as real evidence for all that no matter where you came from, it’s about where you are going and that real change, real evolution and real perception shift can happen if we open our minds and soften our hearts. People can change. Believe me, it would have been easier just to stay the whipped cream tit, spring, poppy, light, fluffy, fun, anthems by the way of animal totem singing girl who was basically somewhat neutralist in a stance and just thought more hugs could save the world.
No way. No longer can I sit in silence. I have to stand for what I know is true and that is equality and justice for all, period.
That’s why the HRC is so important and I am so grateful for them being on the front lines every day from civil union legislation, to repealing 'don’t ask, don’t tell', to getting rid of DOMA at the Supreme Court which paved the way for marriage equality across the country and continuing to fight for trans equality amongst all things.
I don’t have to tell you that we have a lot more to do. We have to create a safe space for us to ask questions of ourselves and others and to keep the conversation going because the loudest voice in the room or on your TV set isn’t always right, but that little voice inside of you, pushing you to discover who you are is a trusted friend.
None of us have the answers, or all of them at least, but it’s time to lead with empathy and grace and compassion now more than ever to find the unity we need now.
I’ll never cease to be a champion, an ally, a spotlight and a loving voice for all LGBTQ identifying people. Whatever your sexuality, your gender, your preferred pronouns, blossom to be, we all know it ain’t so black and white and I will continue to champion the people that have been a champion for me.
Many friends and loved ones from the LGBTQ family have raised me into the woman I am today and I want to dedicate this award to one of my greatest champions of my life, my manager, Bradford Elton Cobb III.
I think it’s almost, like, 15 years because he believed in me before it all. Secretly paying my rent for years and bringing me leftovers from hamburger [inaudible 00:09:36]. He really did! I know we really connected on a soul level though because we came from the same upbringing where it was difficult to be our authentic selves. We had similar struggles breaking out of our suppressive shelves but we kept inspiring each other, challenging each other and retiring our past frame of mind.
We broke the cycle and now we’re living our best most authentic lives. I love you, B. Cobb. There will be obstacles, but we all know everything good takes work, but we can’t let our past get in the way of our brilliant future.
These days, I get an incomparable high from finally knowing myself and it feels more real than any story I was ever told on a felt board. It feels sparkly as fuck. Truth be told, I think a lot of that has to do with the magic that has rubbed off on me from all of you.
Thank you so much.