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The Advocate Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Awards Luncheon

The Advocate Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Awards Luncheon

Advocate Luncheon

Honorees Rev. Troy Perry, Robin Tyler, Connor Franta, Kat Blaque, and Paul Colichman spoke to the past, present, and future of the LGBT activism.

The Advocate celebrated its 50th anniversary at the place where it all began: the Black Cat Tavern in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Five decades ago, patrons of the LGBT establishment rose up to protest police raids. They did so over two years before the riots at the Stonewall Inn. The event gave birth to The Advocate, which began as a monthly newsletter for PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) and has grown throughout the years to become the longest-running national LGBT magazine.

Today, the event's honorees, introduced by editor in chief Lucas Grindley and editorial director Diane Anderson-Minshall, paid tribute to The Advocate's role in the LGBT rights movement at the Black Cat, which still operates, now as a gastropub. The magazine was instrumental in the launch of several prominent LGBT groups, including the Metropolitan Community Church. The church's founder, Rev. Troy Perry, noted when he accepted the Hero Award that he took out his first ad for the church in The Advocate. Echoing introductory remarks made from Grindley as well as out L.A. City Council member Mitch O'Farrell, Perry advocated for greater gun control. In light of the Pulse massacre, this issue has become a vital one for members of vulnerable populations.

Robin Tyler -- a pioneer who shook up network television as an out comedian and was one of the first plaintiffs to sue for marriage equality -- noted that that beyond gun control, hate itself should be dismantled. "The guns are the instrument. The hate is the bullet," said Tyler, who emphasized that the fight for equality must come from a place of love. She also stressed how the closet, which she likened to a "vertical coffin," destroys the health of LGBT people as well as their creativity. "You cannot be an artist without being free," she said, remarking that many have found that voice of community and support through The Advocate. Tyler, Perry, and their spouses, Phillip Ray De Blieck and Diane Olson, appeared on a cover commemorating The Advocate's 50th anniversary.

Social media star Connor Franta, a recipient of Innovator Award, said he found the strength to come out as gay through YouTube, which he compared to The Advocate as a platform that encourages visibility of LGBT people. Likewise, Kat Blaque, who also received the Innovator Award, said social media helped her find her voice to be an out trans woman. "Having the audacity to be seen and heard is still quite radical to a lot of people," she said. She thanked The Advocate for including her on one of its 50th anniversary covers alongside Franta and Gigi Gorgeous as influencers who have engendered a new movement of acceptance through social media.

In a surprise move, Grindley honored Paul Colichman -- the CEO of Here Media, The Advocate's parent company -- with an award as well. For years, Colichman has fought to keep The Advocate alive, even in times when the magazine struggled to stay afloat.

"To the next 50 years!" he declared with the staff of The Advocate by his side.

Watch the event, which was celebrated with sponsors Lexus, Amtrak, and InterTrend Communications, below.

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