By Tyler Ford
I've never imagined church to be a particularly fun or exciting place - especially for a queer, transgender non-religious Jew like myself - but on Friday, June 25, I had an incredible night at New York's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine for Logo's Trailblazer Honors.
Trailblazer Honors is an event that highlights those who have done great work for the LGBTQIA+ community, and commends folks who have paved the way to ensure the future freedom and safety of the members of this community.
Tune in to Logo' Trailblazer Honors on Saturday, June 27, at 8pm ET on Logo.
Upon arriving, I had no idea what to expect. I was in attendance to interview presenters and honorees as MTV's Look Different correspondent - a new experience for me - but I was also there to walk the red carpet myself!
I began the night with tons of photos both on and off the carpet, which was exciting because I love having my picture taken, and because I've never walked a red carpet on my own before. It was surreal to hear the photographers shout, "Tyler, over here! Look to your left! Tyler, look at me!"
After finishing photos, in was my turn to ask the questions.
One of my first interviews was with Trailblazing Parent honoree Sheila Lopez and her child, Manu, who transcends the gender binary. When I asked Lopez who her personal trailblazer was, she responded, "My children." It was lovely to start my interviews off on a truly heartwarming and inspiring note.
Soon after, I interviewed Sway, who made me feel completely at home due to his years of experience being in front of a camera for MTV. Accompanied by his daughter, Kayoni, they put me on the spot and asked me to rap (a throwback to my appearance on Total Ariana Live last summer), so I spit half of a Nicki Minaj verse for them. I meant it when I said interviews are unpredictable.
Never in a million years did I think I'd get the chance to meet, let alone to interview, Martin Luther King III. When discussing the stigmas the LGBTQIA+ community faces, he called for an end to bullying, asking, "Who are we to judge?"
He also drove the point home that we have come so far, but still have so much progress to make in terms of equal rights for everyone. Listening to him speak was an honor.
As the night went on, I felt increasingly natural in my interviews, and truly enjoyed getting the chance to discuss gender fluidity with Adam Lambert, queer representation in the media with the hilarious Carson Kressley, and the experiences of trans people of color with the incredibly kind Geena Rocero.
One of my most exciting interviews was, of course, with my friend Frankie Grande. 10 years ago, Frankie was the first out gay person I met, and therefore a personal trailblazer and role model for me as a young teenager. Our conversation was filled with hugs and glitter (which I am still shedding everywhere), and we discussed the ways in which we have impacted each other's lives by exchanging our personal stories and struggles over the years.
I truly had a blast on the red carpet, and getting a glimpse into the lives of many prominent figures in the media and in the LGBTQIA+ community was a fantastic experience, to say the least. I walked away from the carpet smiling, exclaiming, "I did it! That was so great!" before jumping around in celebration.
I was not prepared for how emotional and beautiful the Trailblazer Honors ceremony was going to be. The video footage alone - of prominent LGBTQIA+ people in the media honoring others and discussing pertinent community issues - was stunning. The Trailblazing Parent honorees, in addition to the International Trailblazer honoree, shared stories of love, grief, hardship, struggle, and fear that truly blew me away.
To be surrounded by community and to be honoring community was a great pleasure. In addition to the inspiring speeches, Bleachers and Adam Lambert both gave fantastic performances that had us all cheering, and there were even a couple standing ovations. The unexpected performance highlight of the night, however, was Tituss Burgess' ten second rendition of Celine Dion's "All By Myself" that had me screaming, "YES!!!" It's not a party until someone starts belting Celine.
Trailblazer Honors was an event as fun and exciting as it was humbling and beautiful. I ended the night with a full heart and a buzzing brain. I can't wait to see the great work that is going to come out of the LGBTQIA+ community in the next year, and in the years to come.
Logo Trailblazer Honors airs Saturday, June 27, at 8pm ET on Logo.