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Greeted with a standing ovation (and hundreds of cellphone cameras), Swift took to the stage to present the Orange Is the New Black actress with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award. “Tonight, I’m here to honor someone who through her words and through her actions proves that she is a force of nature. She tells the world that no one can judge us and no one can stop us,” Swift explained. “She is a woman of many talents. She is my friend.”
The award is given annually by the organization to an openly LGBT media professional who has made a significant contribution in the fight for equality and acceptance. Following Swift’s introduction, Rose took to the stage and delivered a confident, entertaining and well-received acceptance speech that detailed her tough childhood as a young lesbian girl in Australia, where she struggled to find a role model.
“It’s so interesting to receive an award for visibility because for such a large part of my life, I just wanted to be invisible. … I felt there was so much wrong with me and there was so much weird about me,” said Rose, sporting colorful hair, a requirement for her role opposite Vin Diesel in the XXX reboot. “I was out from the age of 12 and I felt discomfort in anything feminine. Still do. I practiced looking like a boy. Still do. I got appalled when I got breasts. Sometimes, still do. I spent a lot of time in a very vulnerable place with little to no support.”
But more than just a lack of support, Rose said she was “stalked, verbally abused and beaten until I was hospitalized.” The abuse led to several suicide attempts. However, she found solace in the library and in dreaming of future careers, everything from being a child psychologist to writing children’s books. “And I dreamt of being a famous singer or an actor who, through my work, could inspire others to be themselves or hang in there. I had no idea how I dreamt so big when I felt so small, but I know it got me through each day. I wanted to be the person I couldn’t find in my life.”
She did eventually find characters she could relate to, on an Australian “soapy,” and later on The L Word. The latter “probably saved my life,” she added.
“It made me feel like I existed,” Rose said. “Slowly but surely, year after year, I watched the world change. GLAAD was there pushing the studios to do better.”
To see Rose’s full speech and the rest of Saturday night’s GLAAD Media Awards, tune in to Logo on April 4 at 10 p.m. EST/PST following RuPaul’s Drag Race. (Or check out GLAAD’s website here.) Other honorees included Demi Lovato, who received the Vanguard Award presented by Nick Jonas. Additional attendees included Patricia Arquette, Queen Latifah, Lilly Wachowski, Caitlyn Jenner, Lea Michele, Zendaya and host Ross Matthews.
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