By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
I recently had the privilege to attend the GLAAD Media Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC. My attendance was thanks to the hard work of my friend and regular creative collaborator Tammy Twotone, as well as to all the people who contributed to the quick and dirty crowdfunding campaign she put together to buy my ticket and get me there.
Tammy has been to this annual gala a number of times as the guest of trans author and academic Jennifer Finney Boylan, who is the co-chair of GLAAD’s National Board of Directors. This year, Tammy decided that everyone, myself as well as all of the people who might meet me, would greatly benefit from my presence at the event. I hope she was correct, as I know I certainly enjoyed myself!
It was a lovely evening, full of celebrity hobnobbing, moving speeches, an entertaining gaffe or two, photos, more photos and selfies galore, along with a lot free vodka. I won’t lie to you dear readers: I took full advantage of the free-flowing rivers of fine vodka! Tammy and I arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria early, resplendent in our gowns. We were definitely the most glittery-posh women, riding the A Train from where we were staying for the weekend at our friend Erin’s apartment in Harlem. Although I have a great deal of practice looking amazing under less than ideal circumstances, Tammy’s hair was apparently deeply offended by the humidity and steadfastly refused to do what she wanted.
Circumstance, in collaboration with my own skill at saying yes to whatever random adventures come along, led us in due and unexpected course to the full VIP experience of getting our hair and makeup done by the incredibly talented and wonderful stylists in the backstage Green Room. I have to say, I could not have been more impressed by the fact that the artist who did my makeup managed to capture exactly what I meant by, “Well, I’m a pageant queen and a writer, but I’m trying to lean more towards ‘writer’ for my look.” [pullquote]The Green Room experience was absolutely a highlight of the evening. Not simply because they made me look even more amazing than I already do, but because of the lively conversation and honest perspectives that the folks doing my hair and makeup had to offer.[/pullquote]
The Green Room experience was absolutely a highlight of the evening. Not simply because they made me look even more amazing than I already do, but because of the lively conversation and honest perspectives that the folks doing my hair and makeup had to offer. That really was a theme for me, as it often is. I do enjoy meeting the famous and fabulous, but honestly, I treasure all the people I meet. Every person has a story to tell, and I want to hear them all.
Plus, I never really know what to say when I’m cold-approaching a bona fide celebrity. Not that that stops me, mind you, and it’s not that I’m afraid. I’ve met more celebrities over the course of my career than you can shake a diamond-encrusted stick at. It’s more than what I most appreciate are the moments where I am able to find some human, honest connection with a person.
Thankfully, I am incredibly good at finding those moments, and I found a lot of them that night, with people like Trace Lysette, a lovely trans actress most recently seen in the show “Transparent” who was seated at my table. We had a very nice chat about the incredible usefulness of entertainment industry skills when applied to activism. I also had a very revealing conversation with fellow trans comic Shadi Petosky, also seated at my table, about how many more visible trans people there were at the New York GLAAD Awards than there were at the Los Angeles GLAAD Awards she attended earlier in the year. It made me proud to observe that perhaps we are a little more “activated” as a community out here on the East Coast, although I am prepared to accept that may be my “native New Englander bias” speaking.
The trans representation was pretty impressive overall. Of course Laverne Cox and Jenny Boylan gave incredibly stirring speeches, but so did Ugandan transgender activist Pepe Julian Onziema, who accepted the award for “Outstanding Talk Show Episode” on behalf of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver for an episode in which he was featured. Time magazine received the award for “Outstanding Magazine Article” for their article “The Transgender Tipping Point.” Also, Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light from “Transparent” as presenters showed exactly how to do it best when put in the position of representing the trans community as cisgender allies. My applause for them was loud and authentic.
Those were just the members of our community who actually appeared or were feted onstage, but the audience was a veritable who’s who of translebrities. Author and super-advocate Janet Mock was there, models Andreja Pejić and Carmen Carrera looked spectacular, and I had a lot of fun with my friend Dawn Ennis, who famously transitioned on the job as a Producer at ABC News and is now the News Editor at The Advocate. She also gave Tammy and I a ride home to Harlem, so thanks Dawn! [pullquote]I literally turned around at one point and without even thinking, exclaimed, “You are beautiful!” to the man I saw standing there. After recovering my poise enough to introduce myself and chat a little, I discovered that the beautiful man was trans actor Scott Turner Schofield, who among other quite impressive accomplishments, just joined the cast of daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” as a series regular.[/pullquote]
One of my favourite moments of the evening, however, occurred as I was standing around a power strip by the back of the bar at the after party, charging my selfie-drained phone with a number of other glamorous partygoers. I literally turned around at one point and without even thinking, exclaimed, “You are beautiful!” to the man I saw standing there. After recovering my poise enough to introduce myself and chat a little, I discovered that the beautiful man was trans actor Scott Turner Schofield, who among other quite impressive accomplishments, just joined the cast of daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” as a series regular.
All told, it was quite the gay evening, which I mean in both the olde-timey, Roaring 90s sense, as well as the incredibly Queer sense. I certainly came away from the event having made some amazing connections, both personally and professionally. I also have a lot of thoughts, spurred by my reflections and observations from the event, on both the present and the future of the trans movement and our place in the overall LGBTQ community, but for fear of stretching my word count even further than I have already those will wait. For now, I just wanted to share some of my excitement and tell you all a little story about the adventure I had.
Because really nothing about what I do could be possible without your help and support of my readers, my fans and my community, thank you for allowing me the privilege of representing you now and then. It really is an exciting time to be trans! Okay, I think I’d better wrap this up now. That music is suddenly getting awfully loud…
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer, and pageant queen, and amazingly she was not even slightly hungover the morning after the events described here. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.