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Lena Dunham Reminds Us It's Frustrating To Be An American Right Now

The Ally Coalition celebrity talent show vocalized moments of anger -- and of hope.

By Casey Acierno

On Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, Jack Antonoff and his sister Rachel brought seemingly all of their friends to New World Stages in New York for The Ally Coalition’s Talent Show. Celebs like Lena Dunham, Ingrid Michaelson, Andrew McMahon, Guster, and more turned up to support The Ally Coalition’s mission to spread LGBT equality, and help them raise money for organizations that support homeless LGBT youth (some hard, and horrible, numbers: 40% of the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth identify as LGBT.)

Besides delivering some killer performances in the ten minutes allotted to each performer, many of the artists chose to use their time in the spotlight to remind us of injustice in America, to inspire us to laugh, cry, and take a stand. Here are nine of those emotional moments.

  1. Jack Antonoff reminded us that we can all make a difference.
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    Jack, also a member of Look Different’s Good Look Panel, took some time to speak to me before the show. I talked to him about how it can be hard to have conversations with bias about your friends, and he told me that “nothing that mattered was ever easy. You have to be the kind of person that’s willing to take some heat if you want to help get real change.” He’s totally right — it can be tough to be the person who stands up, but it’s the most important thing you can do.

  2. Janeane Garofalo waved her feminist flag — and gave us amazing eyebrow tips.
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    Besides being way funny (zooming all over the map with jokes about gender-neutral bathrooms at Brooklyn’s Union Hall and gluten), Janeane reminded us that “you can not reclaim” certain words (like “bitch”), and that we can all do better than using words that historically demean women. She also told us the most mind-blowing beauty advice that she ever got — “eyebrows are sisters, not twins.” I KNOW, this is a game-changer for me too.

  3. Jacqueline Novak made us all really hungry.
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    If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from Jennifer Lawrence, it’s that gender norms saying that women need to be delicate little birds around food are totally outdated. During her set, Jacqueline Novak talked about how she’s fed up of women ordering food like nachos and being surprised and giggly when it’s a big portion, like we’re not meant to be psyched about a huge plate of nachos. Really, who isn’t?

  4. Andrew McMahon is the world’s cutest dad (and maybe person ever).
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    Andrew McMahon’s solo piano performance of “Cecilia and the Satellite,” about his baby daughter, was one of the most moving performances of the night. He followed it up with “Swim” from his Jack’s Mannequin days, which he dedicated to the young people supported by The Ally Coalition.

  5. Wyatt Cenac took down “homophobic a--holes.”
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    In a not-quite-G-rated tirade, Wyatt Cenac talked about bigoted subway preachers, saying that if they’re going to be in heaven, he doesn’t want to be with “self-righteous, homophobic assholes” like them, and pointed out that “you never see them saying ‘love your neighbor.””

  6. "Avenue Q" let us know that if we were gay, it’d be okay.
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    Since the show took place on "Avenue Q"'s set, it was only right that the sardonic puppets came out to perform one of the show’s biggest songs, “If You Were Gay.”

  7. Lena Dunham told us it’s okay to be angry.
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    Before Lena Dunham shared a hilarious and touching story about her first experiences (and first love) online, she pointed out that “it’s really frustrating to be an American right now.” To cheers, she said that she was angry about the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson the week before, angry about the epidemic of campus rape, and angry about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby -- and that people only started paying attention because a male comedian brought it up. But she also vocalized the optimism that many people were feeling in the room — that “a night like this makes you feel hopeful.”

  8. Ingrid Michaelson showed that’s not hard to be inclusive.
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    Before playing her hit song “Girls Chase Boys,” Ingrid Michelson told us about how she realized that the original lyrics to the song might have been a bit too heteronormative — so her friend Kristin from “Everyone is Gay” helped her make a super-small tweak that made a huge difference.

  9. Saeed Jones reminded us that there’s still work left to be done.

    As inspiring as the whole evening was, given the events in New York this week, the one performance I haven’t been able to get out of my head was the one by Saeed Jones, who read some of his poetry about the bias-driven murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. “Anthracite,” which he dedicated to Michael Brown’s family, ended with “in this town, everything born black also burns.”

To find out how you can join The Ally Coalition and support LGBT youth, visit their site. And for more on all forms of bias, visit LookDifferent.org.