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GLAAD to Honor Chaz Bono With Equality Award

The first transgender contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" will receive the watchdog group's Stephen F. Kolzak Award at its April 21 Los Angeles ceremony.

Chaz Bono Sundance Headshot - P 2011
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival
Chaz Bono

After helping ABC's Dancing With the Stars take home the prize for outstanding reality series last month, GLAAD will honor Chaz Bono with an award of his own.

On Tuesday, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced it would honor Bono -- the first transgender contestant on the ABC reality competition series -- with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award. The honor is presented annually to an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made a difference in promoting equality. Bono is the first transgender recipient of the award.

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"Chaz has opened the door for countless others, reshaping the way Americans think about transgender people today," GLAAD acting president Mike Thompson said in a statement announcing the news. "His bold leadership in sharing his story as a transgender man, as well as his tireless work to secure equality for every American, embodies the values of GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award."

Bono will receive the award at the watchdog organization's April 21 ceremony in Los Angeles, where Ellen DeGeneres will open the show with guests including Betty White, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Joshua Jackson and Molly Shannon, among others, scheduled to attend.

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Bono, a longtime LGBT advocate, revealed in 2009 that he is transgender with his story documented in the 2011 documentary Becoming Chaz, which was nominated for three Emmys as well as a GLAAD Media Award. OWN later picked up broadcast rights to the doc.

"I feel truly honored to be receiving GLAAD's Stephen F. Kolzak Award this year, not only because of the work that I've done with the organization, but also because I fully believe in GLAAD's mission," Bono told THR. "While I don't feel like a role model, I hope that by sharing my story, which is just one in a very diverse community, I can help open hearts and minds on what it's like to be a transgender person and the issues our community faces."

Previous Kolzak Award recipients have included NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt, who was honored last year, as well as Wanda Sykes, Rufus Wainwright, Melissa Etheridge, Alan Ball and DeGeneres, among others.

Smash executive producers Craig Zadan andNeil Meron received the Visto Russo Award, named after one of GLAAD's funders and presented to an openly LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting LGBT equality, at a New York ceremony last month. Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes will receive the Golden Gate Award, presented to media professionals who through their work have increased the visibility and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, at GLAAD's San Francisco awards ceremony this month.

The GLAAD Media Awards fund the organization's efforts to bring stories of LGBT people and issues to Americans. Each year, the events raise nearly $3.5 million for the group.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit