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Celebs Share Personal Stories of TV's Influence on LGBT Equality

Celebs Share Personal Stories of TV's Influence on LGBT Equality


Portia de Rossi, Jason Collins, Chris Kluwe, and more share personal stories of TV's impact on LGBT equality at the Paley Center for Media's annual Los Angeles gala.

The Paley Center for Media hosted its annual Los Angeles gala Wednesday and celebrated the critical role television has played in the issue of LGBT equality over the past six decades. The event also marked the launch of an expanded LGBT media collection, chronicling the history of LGBT images in the medium.

"This year we wanted to do something a little different with the gala and really go back to our mission of highlighting media's impact and relevance within our society," said Paley Center CEO and president Maureen J. Reidy. "Over the past 60 years, television has really been at the forefront to change preconceived notions and foster acceptance, understanding and has helped educate people about the challenges that LGBT people face."

Several LGBT celebrities and allies attended the event to help celebrate television's influence on LGBT equality, the trailblazing work of the creative talents across the media landscape that have made a significant impact on our culture and society.

The Advocate was there and asked those in attendance to speak about the different ways LGBT images on TV affected their lives.

From Ellen DeGeneres's mother, Betty DeGeneres, and Portia de Rossi, to sports stars like out NBA player Jason Collins and LGBT ally Chris Kluwe, to Alyssa Edwards of RuPaul's Drag Race and Michael J. Willett of MTV's Faking it, many of those who walked the red carpet eagerly chimed in.

Here's what they had to say: 01_paley-center_0_0Betty DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

Portia de Rossi
On her first LGBT role model:
"The only woman that I knew who was an out lesbian and a celebrity was [tennis legend] Martina Navratilova. She was literally the only woman that I could look up to say, 'She's gay and she's open about it.' There were very few role models when I was growing up. My teen years would've been a lot easier if I was a teenager now instead of the early eighties. I'm so impressed to see how far we've come."

On being a part of the legacy of LGBT trailblazers in media:
"It's pretty fantastic. There are moments that stand out in your mind -- such as Ellen coming out, which is probably the most impactful ones -- but until you have a night like this you don't really see the full scope of how far we've come and it feels good to be a part of it."

Betty DeGeneres
On celebrating six decades of LGBT visibility in entertainment:

"To have a night like this to celebrate and make note of all of the progress that's been made is a wonderful thing. I'm glad to see how different it is for [LGBT] kids today. "

09_paley-center_0_0Jill Soloway (left) and Amy Landecker

Jill Soloway (Creator of Transparent)
On the success of Transparent
It's been an incredible experience to go from just trying to get the word out about the show, to having people tell us they're not only watching it and consuming it, but that they know what we're saying and want to hear what we're talking about. It was a little overwhelming at first, but it's so cool. The world is definitely changing for trans people."

Amy Landecker (Sarah Pfefferman on Transparent)
On the importance of LGBT people on reality shows:

"Pedro Zamora, from MTV's Real World, was one of my first experiences where I had to deal with the loss and the sorrow of a person I was invested in emotionally. Seeing him on TV, talking about the illness he was suffering, was a really important moment for me in terms of understanding what was going on at the time, because people weren't really talking about it that much. He was really a pioneer."

13_paley-center_0_0Katherine Moennig

Katherine Moennig (The L Word)
On the first character she connected with on TV:

"Jo Polniaczek on The Facts of Life always stood out to me as a kid. I always thought there was something going on between her and Blair Warner, but maybe that was just in my head."

14_paley-center_0_0Maia Mitchell

Maia Mitchell (Callie Jacobs in The Fosters)
On witnessing the impact LGBT characters can have on LGBT youth:

"We've heard from so many teenagers, because the show does reach out to a younger audience, who are coming into themselves and out to their parents, friends, and the people around them and telling us that they've found the courage to do so because of the show and that they've taken some peace from the LGBT characters they watch on The Fosters. I'm always touched when I hear stories like that and am reminded why it's so important for the arts to accurately represent what's happening in families and in society. I'm really proud of our show for doing that."

15_paley-center_0_0From left: Gregg Sulkin, Carter Covington, Katie Stevens, and Michael J. Willett

Gregg Sulkin (Liam in Faking It)
On how landing a role on Faking It helped him overcome his own homophobia:

"The show I'm on now really changed my view of LGBT people. I used to be such a little shnip and say stupid stuff, like 'that's so gay,' and I was so ignorant. But 60 to 70 percent of the people who work on our show are gay men and women and through them I've really learned to accept people. Now I understand how offensive those things were that I used to say and now I understand that people are just people and I'm having the best time I've ever had in my life. I've learned when you don't accept other people it's just poison to yourself and finding inner peace in your own life comes from just accepting others for who they are."

Michael J. Willett (Shane Harvey in Faking It)
On his biggest LGBT inspiration:
"I feel like Matt Bomer has done such a great job with changing the perspective of the leading man and proving that doesn't have to be a straight or heteronormative guy. He's one of the people I feel are really helping the mainstream realize there are many different kinds of gay people and we're not just a stereotype."

19_paley-center_0_0Paley Center for Media's president and CEO, Maureen J. Reidy, with Jason Collins

Jason Collins (NBA player, Brooklyn Nets)
On how watching gay characters on TV helped him come out of the closet:

"I used to watch Queer as Folk and there were a lot of characters on that show that I identified with in different ways, so when I was in my 20s that was the show I most identified with. But the show that really helped me come out of the closet was Modern Family. Seeing Cam and Mitchell's relationship -- a positive example of a loving gay couple -- had a huge impact on my life."

21_paley-center_0_0Carson Kressley

Carson Kreesley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)
On the impact of Queer Eye on America:

"We were just five gay guys being our absolute selves, but I think that was the real beauty of the show. Because we were in people's living rooms every Tuesday, and for a lot of Americans we were the first gay people they had seen or knew of, and that kind of friendship -- whether it's real or on TV -- helps to eliminate prejudice and hate, and I'm so proud of us for that."

23_paley-center_0_0Peter Paige

Peter Paige (Queer as Folk, cocreator, The Fosters)
On the first LGBT person he saw on TV:

"I remember calling up my best friend and yelling, 'Oh, my God, Ricki Lake has gay people on her show! Turn it on!' It was some hopped-up club kid, going, 'I'm gay, OK. And that's OK.' And we were so astounded and grateful for even that little bit of visibility."

25_paley-center_0_0Alyssa Edwards

Alyssa Edwards (RuPaul's Drag Race)
On the first LGBT person on TV she connected with:

"I was a very flamboyant kid, and I remember being a little boy and watching Jack on Will & Grace and thinking, I'm a part of that, even though I didn't know how to come out and say it at the time."

Chriskluwe_0Chris Kluwe (NFL player, LGBT ally)
On the show he feels if having the greatest positive impact on LGBT equality:

"It has to be Modern Family. Just the fact that we see these different relationships between these different families and they all have their own idiosyncrasies and the gay family isn't off to the side, they're a family just like all the other families. People seeing that is so important because it just goes to show that gay people are like everyone else and we're all human beings at the end of the day:"

Bradley-bredeweg_0Bradley Bredeweg
On the first LGBT person in entertainment who impacted his life:

"I remember watching Madonna's Truth or Dare on HBO and that scene where the two male dancers kiss -- I just remember thinking, Oh, my God, my whole world has changed. It was that moment, when I was sitting there watching there's these two really attractive men making out on television that I knew I had a future in front of me."

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