We just finished watching Logo’s “Trailblazers” — a pioneering event to honor the luminaries who’ve made historic strides for LGBT equality — and the night could not have been more inspiring, thought-provoking, or emotional.
Held at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, one of the first churches to host gay marriages in New York, “Trailblazers” honored celebrities, politicians, activists, and trendsetters who’ve championed the cause of gay rights, and, above all else equal rights.
“Trailblazers” couldn’t have come at a better time — the night aligned with the one-year anniversary of DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) being struck down by the Supreme Court, the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the rise of marriage equality in the U.S. (nearly half of the states have passed laws legalizing some form of same-sex marriage).
With guests like Demi Lovato, Pete Wentz, Jared Leto and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — and performances from A Great Big World and Sia — it was certainly a night that will go down in the history books.
Check out the nine most emotional — and thought-provoking — highlights from Logo TV’s “Trailblazers” special below:
1). Couples Giving Love To Edie Windsor
One year ago, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court — in no small part due to Edie Windsor and her late spouse Thea Spyer. After Spyer died, she left her estate to Windsor, but because of DOMA, Edie was unable to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. Rather than pay the $363,000 federal estate tax bill, Edie turned to attorney Roberta Kaplan and changed history, becoming a gay rights pioneer.
Windsor and Kaplan took the stage to accept their “Trailblazers” honor after an extremely tear-jerking montage of couples whose way Edie paved by fighting for her marriage rights. “I thank you for this great world that I live in,” Edie said as audiences around the world undoubtedly erupted into happy tears.
2). The Inspiring Young Trailblazers
A lot of fighters were honored at “Trailblazers,” but a group of young people associated with suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project really got our eyes watering. There was Jazz, a 13-year-old transgender girl who helped co-found The TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation (she also sells mermaid tails to raise money for transgender kids!), and Jordan, a 24-year-old gay woman who was inspired to create a directory of LGBT-friendly churches after being rejected from her own.
3). John “Long Jones” Abdallah Wambere’s Moment Of Silence
When accepting his “Trailblazers” honor for fighting for gay rights in his home country of Uganda — where homosexuality is illegal — Wambere told the audience, “Today in Uganda, this event would be illegal,” and then asked the audience, “Could we stand up and observe a moment for all those countries that still struggle for equality?” That — and Michael Stipe’s recollection of his first HIV test — made for moments that were palpable, poignant, and powerful.
4). A Great Big World Performs “Everyone Is Gay,” “Already Home,” and “Say Something”
A Great Big World’s Chad Vaccarino very recently came out as gay, and after the band performed their hit “Everyone Is Gay” at “Trailblazers,” band mate Ian Axel took the stage to perform “Say Something,” along with a gospel ensemble. Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.
5). Matthew Shepard Gets A Touching Tribute
When introducing Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation said, “When I learned that Jason had chosen ’98’ as his jersey number to pay tribute to my friend, I thought, ’Matt, look how far we’ve come.’ Shepard was murdered in 1998 in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming.
6). Jason Collins’ Uplifting Speech
“Thanks to each and every one of you for making one of the hardest decisions of my life the single most rewarding thing I have ever done, ” Collins told the crowd. The Brooklyn Nets center came out in 2013 and has inspired many others, including UMass guard Derrick Gordon, to come out as well. “Coming out is the gift you give yourself,” he added.
7). Demi Lovato Honors Her Grandpa
Lovato revealed — for the first time — that her grandfather came out in the ’60s. “I feel a lot of my spirit has come from him,” she said. And if you’ve seen her “Really Don’t Care” video, which was filmed at L.A. pride and features a rainbow of gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered celebrants, you’ll see that her grandfather influenced her to be loud and proud and keep spreading his message of tolerance.
Actress Laverne Cox took the stage to accept the “Trailblazers” award for the cast of the hit show — and took the opportunity to reflect on the 45th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, a series of protests that broke out on June 28 against police raids of a gay club called the Stonewall Inn in New York. She also took the opportunity to tell the crowd we still have much more to do when it comes to the rights of transgender people.
9). Sia Performs “Chandelier”
Sia’s camera-shyness has become a full-blown — and beautiful — phenomenon. Remember when Lena Dunham danced for her when she performed on “Late Night With Seth Meyers”? Well, singer/songwriter reprised that performance — with a twist — at “Trailblazers,” facing away from the camera while the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus sang in Sia wigs and choreographer Ryan Heffington performed an interpretive dance reminiscent of the “Chandelier” music video.