The 2023 GLAAD Awards took New York City by storm on Saturday night, bringing a burst of glamour and inclusivity to the New York Hilton’s ballroom. As a celebration of LGBTQIA+ representation in the media, the evening found guests reflecting on the normalization of queer stories — including actor Jonathan Bennett, nominated with co-star George Krissa for their romantic comedy “The Holiday Sitter.”
“It’s important to tell LGBTQ+ stories in spaces that are not only queer, but in spaces that are everywhere,” Bennett exclusively told FN on the red carpet, speaking on increasing similar programs on channels like Hallmark. “When you’re telling these queer stories to these broad audiences, you’re able to change the hearts and minds of the people watching.”
Similar sentiments were felt by Eva Reign — winner of GLAAD’s 2023 Best Streaming/TV Film award for her film “Anything’s Possible” — who emphasized the importance of positive LGBTQIA+ representation onscreen.
“You have to see it to believe it,” Reign said. “If you only see negative things being said, if you only hear negative things, you start to really take that in. Everyone deserves to see themselves happy, falling in love and living a full, happy life. We need that now, more than ever.”
Indeed, unity against negativity was on the minds of many attendees. Following the passing of Tennessee’s anti-drag bill — which prohibits drag queens and affiliated acts from performing in public spaces in the state — this spring, guests discussed the importance of bonding together as a community when faced with oppression.
“It is a crazy time right now. But it isn’t unlike anything we’ve had to face in the past,” said “RuPaul’s Drag Race” judge Ross Matthews. “Now, we’re louder, stronger, prouder than ever. All we have to do is not take our foot of the gas. We just need to come together as a family and take care of one another.”
The night also marked the current progress of LGBTQIA+ visibility and hope for the future. One instance is the country music genre, which has found artists like Brooke Eden embracing their identities to inspire others.
“I was in the closet for five years, hoping that somebody else would come out so that it would be easier for me to come out,” Eden recalled. “I eventually realized, ‘What if I need to come out so it’s easier for someone else to come out?’ It’s all about people being able to see the person behind the queerness, and get to know that we’re here too and we’re good people.”
As for what’s next? Stars like fashion designer Marc Bouwer offered words of hope for youth in the community — as well as those who have yet to come out.
“Just be yourself, don’t give up. It’s gonna happen for you,” Bouwer shared. “Don’t give into peer pressure, don’t give into the hatred, to the bullies. Live for yourself and your art, and be you. Be kind, be generous and love everybody — and you’ll get that back in return.”