Logo Trailblazers Make Powerful Statement on LGBT Rights in the Aftermath of Orlando Nightclub Massacre
Every year, Logo celebrates the pioneers of the LGBT community with the Trailblazer Honors. This year’s ceremony aired on June 25, barely a week after It was a night of LGBT pride, comedic interludes, and speeches by legendary honorees—but the real honorees were the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting.
The event was held in Manhattan’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where passionate, emphatic voices resonated against the high ceilings of the stately, gothic basilica. The speakers did not plea for equal rights, they demanded them, using the platform of the Trailblazer Honors to reinforce the urgent need for LGBT protections and respect.
In addition to venerating trailblazers of the LGBT community, the Trailblazer Honors eclipsed standards in the world of broadcast communications by simulcasting with VH1—making it the largest televised LGBT Pride event in history. Thanks to this widespread coverage, Logo’s message of equality, love, and solidarity impacted a vast, worldwide audience. The Trailblazer Honors embraced the spirit of Pride with its inclusivity.
Below are some of the night’s most evocative moments.
RuPaul held a moment of silence for Orlando victims—and defends his family against homophobes.
RuPaul stepped out in a mustard-colored, plaid suit. Before honoring the 49 people murdered at Pulse nightclub with a moment of silence, he delivered a rousing message to the LGBT community:
“We are once again reminded that the fight for civil rights is never-ending. But we won’t let the darkest recesses of human nature extinguish the hope and love we feel in our soul. My chosen family includes millions of brave men and women in this country and around the world. Don’t f**k with my family.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race star Bob the Drag Queen and Cabaret actor Joel Grey introduced honoree, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein.
“Hi Mom,” quipped Grey, “I’m out! I’m finally out!” The crowd erupted in laughter, as Grey is a prominent member of the LGBT community. But for many, his joke resonated on a personal level. Grey addressed the exhausting reality faced by his LGBT brothers and sisters as they attempt to reveal their true identity.
“When it comes to LGBT visibility,” said Grey, “Harvey Fierstein might just have the best part of it. He is a huge inspiration to those of us who have struggled for years. Because Harvey has never been in!”
“The stories Harvey has chosen to tell throughout his career as a writer and performer are often described as LGBT stories,” said Bob, “but they are so much more than that. They are human stories.”
Harvey Fierstein urged the crowd to stand up for life and make history.
“These last two weeks have been very hard for all of us, especially gay people,” said Fierstein.
“When we heard the news, we knew it wasn’t something to do with Islam, we knew it was hate. And hate turned inward, hate so strong, hate that destroyed so completely that his soul was completely gone. All he could do was cry out. Instead of knowing there was someone to cry out to and say, ‘help me be myself,’ he took a gun to prove he was a man, and destroyed hundreds of lives…all those lives destroyed because someone told him he could not be him.”
In a segment called, “We Are Orlando,” public figures shared their thoughts on the Orlando tragedy.
Vice President Joe Biden, Christina Aguilera, Rachel Platten, Sia, Shirley Manson, Glenn Close, Kelly Osbourne, Kathy Griffin, Rita Ora, Boy George, Dennis O’Hare and Melissa Etheridge spoke vehemently about the gun violence epidemic and homophobic violence.
“We are going to show our power at the voting booth,” declared Griffith.
“We won’t let hate win,” promised Close.
“The freedom to live freely means living free from bullying, free from harassment, and free from violence,” said Biden. “Our hearts are still heavy for Orlando. We’re all Americans, we all endure, and we overcome. And we will not be silent.”
It was a powerful show of devotion and love to the LGBTQ community.
Rachel Platten performed her hit Fight Song as tears were shed across the cathedral.
This message of empowerment was exactly what the crowd at the Trailblazer Honors needed to hear. “My power’s turned on,” sang Platten, “Starting right now I’ll be strong.”
Platten’s stirring performance was accompanied by a string quartet and a video montage of vigils for the Orlando victims and LGBT demonstrations, moving the audience to tears.
Actor and activist Wilson Cruz revealed his personal heartbreak from the Orlando shooting.
Cruz’s aunt, Brenda McCool, was proud and protective of her son, Isaiah, who had recently come out as gay. Tragically, Brenda and her son were at Pulse the night of the massacre. Brenda, a two-time cancer survivor, jumped in front of the gun to protect her son.
“I want people to remember Brenda McCool’s name,” said Cruz. “She’s a hero.”
McCool is not only a hero for saving her son’s life, but for being an exemplary ally and advocate for the LGBT community.
“Brenda would want us to get back out there and dance,” said Cruz.
Emma Stone introduced honoree, Billie Jean King, and reflected on her timely wisdom.
Tennis icon, Billie Jean King, is a trailblazer for more than just her sports prowess. In 1981, she became the first professional American athlete to come out as a lesbian.
Stone, who plays King in the upcoming biopic, The Battle of the Sexes, prepared for the role by playing tennis with the virtuoso, where she learned to “forget the bad one, focus on the next ball,” from the tennis legend when the actress kept “hitting clunkers.”
Stone believes that advice encapsulates King’s philosophy on life. King came to prominence in the 60s and 70s, and dealt with harsh sexism as a female athlete. As a lesbian, she faced even greater hurdles, being outed by an ex-girlfriend and losing commercial sponsors.
“Let go of the negative, stay open and positive—the next ball might just be a good one,” summarized Stone.
Advocate Matthew Breen demands action, not prayers, from right-wing politicians.
Members of the LGBT community have voiced their disgust at the outpouring of condolences from myopic conservatives after the Orlando attack. Matthew Breen, editor- in-chief of national LGBT news magazine, The Advocate, took the stage to directly address these hypocrites:
“You cannot relentlessly discriminate against us and dehumanize us, and then stand back and act shocked when someone takes your ideas into his black, rotted heart, and slaughters us in those places where we gather for community. We are not interested in your prayers unless they are followed up with action.”
He proceeded to call out LGBT adversaries by name, including North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. McCroy is widely known for signing the controversial “bathroom bill,” which Viacom publicly denounced. Despite pressure from Viacom and other major corporations to appeal the “hate bill,” McCroy was steadfast in defending the transphobic legislature—but offered his sympathies to the Orlando victims on Twitter shortly after the attack. In his speech, Breen made it clear McCroy’s message was unwarranted and offensive.
Orlando shooting was a tragedy & should never take place in our country. Those who died were innocent victims of an inexcusable act.
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) June 12, 2016
“In case you have not been paying attention for the last 50 years, this community is strong, resilient, very effective, and mightily pissed off,” said Breen in his epic dénouement. “We will not accept your insane form of fundamentalism, and we’re coming for your assault rifles, too.”
Watch his full speech below.