1 April 2017, Los Angeles, California, USA
This award is so much larger than me. This moment is about visibility and about representation. What and who we see in the media defines our perception of the world around us. And so, to see ourselves in this picture of what is normal and what is acceptable and what is beautiful is absolutely vital. In saying that, so much of the work that has contributed to our progress as a community is far less glamorous than the work that I’m being honoured for tonight.
About a year or two ago, I watched a documentary called "How to survive a plague." I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. The doc is about the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the efforts of organisations like ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group. Within the characters in the doc, I saw myself, and I saw my friends, and I saw my colleagues, and I saw my boyfriend. These kids were young, smart, active fighters. I saw that wit, and that humour, and that resilience that I’ve grown to love so much about my community.
They were just like my friends and I. I know I'm being super humble. Like this smart and everything, just like me. But I saw myself in these characters, and the difference was that these people were attending a friend’s funeral on a weekly basis. This was in New York City, not ever 40 years ago. They were fighting for medical treatment, they were fighting for visibility and they were fighting for their lives. It was a life or death situation.
It was this kind of sacrifice and activism that paved the way for all of us to be here tonight. While I'm so thankful and fortunate to have this award, I would like to share it with the warriors who made it possible but maybe didn't get one for themselves. This award is for Peter Staley. One of the featured activist in "How to survive a plague." Peter was one of the driving forces behind ACT UP, the founder of the Treatment Action Group, and a personal hero of mine. This is for Marsha P Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera. The Godmothers of the Stonewall Riots, who also founded a transgender rights group, in the 1970s.
This is for ... You can keep going on the teleprompter. This is for Bayard Rustin. Bayard was an openly gay civil rights leader, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr, and was largely written out of history as a result of homophobia. This is for Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag. A symbol of pride. Who we sadly lost yesterday. This is for the Edie Windsors and the James Baldwins and the Frank Kamenys of the world. And the list goes on.
Though times and our needs may have changed, this ethos and spirit still persist in our community today.