Surrounded by a violet glow and Corinthian columns, Tony Award–winning actor and host for the evening Alan Cumming closed the first-ever Village Voice Pride Awards with a promise: “I will see you in Mike Pence’s nightmares!”
The Pride Awards was a celebration of local and global figures in the LGBTQ community. The event, held at the former Bowery Savings Bank, Capitale, was dedicated to eight honorees, and featured a musical set by Tegan and Sara.
The first award of the night, the Catalyst Award, was presented to Tyler Ford. A writer and media personality, Ford advocates for queer and trans youth to express themselves with confidence. The Vanguard Award was presented to Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech, a community of queer women and their allies in technology. Commenting on the fact that Pittsford was unable to accept, Cumming said, “Isn’t it great that we live in a world where someone can’t come to accept a big fat LGBT award because they’re getting legally married?”
Given the ways the Trump administration has targeted LGBTQ policies and promoted bigotry (the president declined to even recognize June as Pride Month), Donald Trump was fodder for many speakers. Less than five minutes into the ceremony, Cumming declared, “If you identify as a Trump supporter, stay in the closet.” But it was the reigning queen of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen, who elicited the most laughs: “I would never support a beheading [of Trump]. That would be way too quick and painless.”
In a more somber moment, Carl Siciliano accepted the Impact Award on behalf of the Ali Forney Center, whose aim is to protect homeless LGBTQ youth. The crowd erupted in cheers when an emotional Siciliano realized that the award’s presenter, Angelica, had lived at the center decades ago. His speech was a plea for help to protect homeless queer youth, especially because they led the Stonewall riots. He said, “We had to turn queer kids away and into the streets because we couldn’t fit them, during the great Pride month. I feel like a disgrace to what Pride is.”
The Influence Award was presented to DeRay Mckesson. Noting that Mckesson was unable to attend, Cumming said, “DeRay could not be with us personally, probably because he’s doing something amazing. I will give it to him the next time I see him; I’m the award.” The Vision Award was presented to Masha Gessen. A journalist and author, Gessen described how she feels at home whenever she is surrounded by the community and, of course, Edie Windsor, another of the evening’s winners.
While accepting the Maverick Award, Patricia Field began by defining the word maverick but ended with a strange stream of consciousness about family and identity. Field said, “I do not agree with this idea that people are born gay. There is no gay gene that has ever been detected. We are gay through our conditioning.” (Many oh no’s were audible throughout the room.) She ended on a note about accepting people no matter their orientation.
The Heritage of Pride Award was presented to the great Edie Windsor. Wearing a pink hat and black pantsuit, Windsor discussed the importance of staying politically active. “There is talk in our current administration to get rid of same-sex marriage,” she told the audience. “But, there is no same-sex marriage in this country. There is only marriage.” She was met with a standing ovation and loud cheers.
The cast of Netflix’s Sense 8 presented the Courage Award to Gavin Grimm, a high school graduate fighting for the rights of trans people to exist in public spaces. In a powerful speech, he said, “The deeper issue is eliminating trans people from public life. To force us into hiding in the hopes that if enough people don’t acknowledge our reality, we will no longer exist. But we’re not going anywhere. Our opponents cannot stop justice, they can only delay it.”
The musical guests of the evening, Tegan and Sara, played two hits, “Boyfriend” and “Closer,” during the hour-long ceremony. “Nobody is allowed to leave until every last drop of champagne is finished,” Cumming warned the crowd, who were happy to oblige.