After the recent reports that the Trump administration would erase recognition and definitions of transgender people, the number of transgender and gender nonconforming youth reaching out to The Trevor Project doubled, said Trevor CEO Amit Paley in his opening remarks at the TrevorLIVE gala.
"At The Trevor Project, we know firsthand that the harmful policies and the hateful rhetoric of people have a direct impact on LGBTQ youth," Paley said, addressing the crowd seated in the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom on Sunday night. The organization, whose services are aimed at suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, honored AT&T, Amandla Stenberg, Ryan Murphy and the cast of Pose during the fundraising event.
One of the show's stars, Ryan Jamaal Swain, spoke about being "angry" and "upset" at the administration's recent actions. "The wheels are turning, because this administration is in office, there's a necessity for authenticity and truth and being valued and integrity," he told The Hollywood Reporter before the show.
Dominique Jackson, who plays house mother Elektra Abundance on Pose, elaborated on the importance of transgender people telling their own stories. "The work that those people that Pose is actually patterned after, the lifestyle that we are retelling, was so important, it was an important part of our culture," she told THR. "And telling the story now lets people know that we are human beings also, we've always been human beings, we cannot be erased."
The gala, which was hosted by Eugene Lee Yang, included stories from youth impacted by The Trevor Project as well as speeches from the night's honorees. Stenberg, who starred this year in The Hate U Give, accepted the youth innovator award.
"Oftentimes the way that we express ourselves or who we are is postulated in the context of pain and shame and tragedy," she said in her speech. "And although that might be a facet of our experiences, it is by no means the totality of who we are or how I experience being gay."
The final honor of the night, the hero award, was accepted by Murphy, who kicked off his speech by mulling over whether it was "too political," but inspired by politician Harvey Milk, he continued anyway.
"Along with supporting the important lifeline that is Trevor, why don't we consider ever targeting the people that are causing the problem here," he said. "The homophobes, the trans naysayers and the small, restricted and dangerous minds who are causing so many young people to needlessly hate themselves and doubt themselves in our country, when what they should be receiving from us is love and support and understanding."
Murphy went on to say that he felt hopeful during the midterm elections, when many "anti-LGBTQ candidates who made hate speech and ideology part of their legacy fell away." He said that Pose has always been about activism and introduced the show's new initiative for 2020: creating and funding a "multimillion-dollar organization" that targets anti-LGBTQ candidates in 20 Senate and House races.
"We know where the work needs to be done, we say, 'Hello Mike Lee, the young Ivy-league-trained senator from Utah,' Murphy said. "Mr. Lee is a future leader of the GOP who just committed himself to the bad old days by introducing what has been called 'the vilest, anti-LGBTQ religious freedom bill of our time,' so we want to say we see you, Mike Lee."
The showrunner also named Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Steve King as candidates to target, financially supporting their opponents instead. Murphy explained that their "second prong of attack" involves promoting LGBTQ voter registration, and he ended his speech by saying, "I'm glad I was very political although I was kind of nervous."
The night was bookended with musical performances by Lauren Jauregui and Deborah Cox. Pose stars Mj Rodriguez and Billy Porter also serenaded the audience with a surprise performance of "Home" from The Wiz, accompanied on piano by writer Our Lady J. The pair sang a rendition of the song in the show's sixth episode, "Love Is the Message."
This year's event raised more than $1.5 million.