Reasons for Pride: 16 Picks From Lambda Legal Honorees

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com June 25 2014 5:00 AM ET

Earlier this month Lambda Legal hosted its West Coast Liberty Awards, an event honoring those who have made significant contributions toward the advancement of the organization’s vision of equality. Hosted by Cheyenne Jackson, the occasion honored Rep. Henry Waxman, actor Dan Bucatinsky, activist Bamby Salcedo, who gave a moving acceptance speech on trans rights, and the creators and executive producer of ABC Family’s The Fosters.

In celebration of the occasion, The Advocate asked these honorees for their reasons for pride. We also asked many of the public figures in attendance, including Jason Collins, Madison Hildebrand, Sherri Saum, Candis Cayne, Sen. Ted Lieu, Jamie Gray Hyder, Jennifer Leitham, and Julia Frost, to reflect on achievements of their own and accomplishments by LGBT people in general that make them feel proud.

Images courtesy of Lamda Legal.

Reason 1: Gays Win at Teen Choice Awards!
Peter Paige (executive producer, The Fosters, pictured right)
The thing I am most proud about, as it relates to Pride and The Fosters, is the Teen Choice Award. When we won the Teen Choice Award, as silly as this may sound, I literally thought, We are all doing our job. Everything we are fighting for is happening. There’s the proof, right there. … The idea that the generation behind us would embrace this family without question … to them, it’s a family that they understand and they recognize.

Reason 2: Teens Promote LGBT Tolerance to Parents!
Bradley Bredeweg (executive producer, The Fosters, pictured left)
Just the other day, I received an email over Facebook from a woman who said, “I was a staunch Republican, Christian woman. I found your show because of my daughter. You have changed my mind about gays and lesbians because of the family that you put on the air.” And it took me a moment to step back and really take that in: the impact that this family is having on changing minds.


Reason 3: Loving Families!
Madison Hildebrand (Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing)
The biggest impact that was positive when I came out was watching my family struggle with that. … Everyone’s on a different time schedule [for acceptance], and each of my family members went through their own. And now, today, we’re closer than ever before. To watch them grow, because I had to change, and be public about [my sexual orientation], was an unexpected benefit.

Reason 4: The Kids Are All Right!
Cheyenne Jackson (Glee, pictured right)
We’re getting married in September. And what makes me proud is that my nieces and nephews, and his, are going to be a part of it. And they’re like, “Great!” It’s a nonissue for kids. And what makes me proud is the world is changing enough to where they just say, “Oh, what’s my dress look like?”

Reason 5: Love and Marriage!
Jason Landau (Cheyenne’s fiancé, pictured left)
What makes me proud is to be loud and proud, that I can fully be myself and marry the man of my dreams.

Reason 6: Gay Dads on TV!
Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal, The Comeback)
I am very proud to have been a gay man, father, and husband playing those things on a television show that had such a diverse and wide and far-reaching audience. I am very proud of what that relationship, that gay relationship, that gay marriage, did on a television show like Scandal. We were the only married couple with a baby on that show  … that people thought were representing a real and authentic relationship on television. And for that to be coming out of the mouths of people who would not ordinarily say that, about a gay couple. ... It felt great to be on a show where the only married couple who was doing that was a gay couple.

Reason 7: Honoring Fallen Heroes!
Bamby Salcedo (trans activist, Lambda Legal honoree, pictured second from left)
"I am very lucky to be alive today," says Salcedo, who gave a moving acceptance speech on trans rights later in the evening. "I just received notice that one of my sisters, Zoraida Rayes, was murdered. … She was found dead yesterday. It’s definitely a privilege to be here. And the only reason I am here is because of her, because I want to give voice to her life. As trans people, we are a small community. But those who are active in the community doing activism and advocacy are very few. And she was one of them. It’s a great loss. She was murdered for being who she is. She was my pride, and I want to celebrate her."

Reason 8: Gay-Straight Alliances!
Julia Frost (Lambda Legal plaintiff)
“My students at Sultana High School in Hesperia [Calif.] have given me a great reason for Pride,” says Frost, a lesbian teacher whose contract was not renewed after she became a cosponsor of the school’s gay-straight alliance. “They have stood up for themselves. They took their concerns to their school. And then they sought help from the ACLU to get the changes in their school and for their gay-straight alliance. And that, to me, is amazing. Those kids have more guts than I could have ever had at their age. So they give me reason for Pride, and they give me reason for hope.”

Reason 9: Banning Gay Conversion Therapy!
California state senator Ted Lieu
I am most proud of authoring the first law in the nation to ban gay conversion therapy for minors. It was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a few months ago. New Jersey recently replicated this law, and eight other states have now introduced it.


Reason 10: LGBT Pioneers in Music!
Jennifer Leitham, musician
In the last year, I think I’m finally starting to break down some walls in the music field. I’m being hired more and more to play regular, straight kind of festivals. And no one is questioning me anymore. No one is asking me really invasive questions. It just seems to be normalizing. I'm very proud of that.

Reason 11: A Turning Point in Trans Rights!
Candis Cayne (Elementary)
I am exceptionally proud of how the world has embraced the trans community. Having Laverne [Cox] on the cover of Time magazine is incredible. Having just the entire [LGBT] community backing our community is incredible. I’m super proud of America. I am super proud of the straight community and the gay community standing behind us trans women.

Reason 12: Gay Texans on TV!
Blair Late (Bravo’s Newlyweds: The First Year, pictured right)
I was a little boy from a small town called Odessa, Texas. Population 100,000. It’s a very backward town. But I was always myself. I was always who I was. And then 25 years later, I put my gay marriage on television for the world to see. And coming from a little town in Texas, that’s a pretty good thing to be prideful for.

Reason 13: Same-Sex Marriage Makes the Script!
Sherri Saum (The Fosters, pictured right)
I was really excited when they passed gay marriage in California. It was funny, because we were shooting an episode where my character was getting married to Teri Polo’s character, and we had it in the script that it was going to be a civil union. … And the decision came down right as we were filming, so we were able to change the script to where they actually married in the scene and have it be a legal marriage. It was a day of celebration. We were crying on set.

Reason No. 14: Lambda Legal!
Jamie Gray Hyder (True Blood)
One thing that makes me proud to be part of LGBT and Lambda [Legal], specifically, is that there are many groups that support change for minority groups and those being attacked and human rights being attacked, but Lambda is important because it helps to enact real change. It helps change laws and to get down where it’s really important.

Reason 15: Out Public Figures!
Jason Collins (pictured left)
It’s cool to see more and more professional athletes, and more and more people in society, living their authentic life. … Just recently, I was in D.C. for Pride weekend, and a young man came up to me and said, because of my story, his mom finally accepted him for who he was. … When public figures come out, the conversation just isn’t in the LGBT community. It extends to society in general. It can help heal families. And that’s what it’s all about — it’s about your families. It’s about your loved ones.


Reason 16: The Ryan White Act!
U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman
I’ve had a very successful career in Congress. I’ve been responsible for a lot of legislation. I am very, very proud of the work I’ve done to combat HIV and AIDS. I held the very first hearing on the issue, which led to legislation known as the Ryan White Act. And I know that lives have been saved because of that.