At Wednesday night’s Paley Honors, which paid tribute to LGBTQ achievements in television, attendees never lost sight of those who first paved the way – both on screen and off. CNN’s Don Lemon opened the ceremony by thanking legendary transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, who helped lead the charge at Stonewall fifty years ago. After recounting the story of the riots, he gestured around the Ziegfeld Ballroom. “Because she was there, we’re here tonight in this room, and at this point in history.”
On the eve of that landmark anniversary, stars ranging from Laverne Cox to Billy Crystal reflected on the progress that’s been made in the decades since — and how far things still have to go.
Lady - J - Writer - Transparent - Pose
Our Lady J, a writer on “Transparent” and “Pose,” first learned about Stonewall as a teenager in New York. She immediately wanted to know more, so she turned to someone with firsthand knowledge of LGBTQ life in the city in 1969: Mother Flawless Sabrina, a pioneering drag pageant organizer and activist. The two met for coffee in Sabrina’s apartment, and the conversation that followed has stayed with J for decades. “That was thirty years after Stonewall, and it seemed like we had come so far, yet it was still so close,” she told Variety. “It made me realize how much change can happen in such a short period of time.”
Not all of the gala’s attendees had such ready access to their history — and for many, that crucial first glimpse of the LGBTQ community came through television. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who now stars in “Modern Family,” said that he “would love for kids to see a future for themselves in characters like Cam and Mitch.” As he tearfully explained (prompting a hug from Debra Messing), “I had that in ‘Will & Grace.’ That show for...
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