The Handmaid’s Tale star Samira Wiley accepted the Vito Russo Award at the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday night, delivering a stunningly powerful speech to LGBTQ young people everywhere.
A visibly emotional and passionate Wiley proudly told the audience that they were helping her celebrate the 10 year anniversary of coming out.
“10 years ago I was in my second year at Juilliard and my parents were coming into town to see me in a play," she said. "I was always so excited for them to come and see me, show them what I’d been working on. But that year was a little different. I wasn’t sure of what words I would use or how it would go, but I knew that it was time. I remember walking into their hotel room, my heart racing, and I heard the words ‘I like girls’ come out of my mouth.”
“I spent the next few minutes telling my parents who I was. When I was finished I looked up and said ‘Ok I’m done.’”
“My father looked at me and said ‘Cool.’”
Wiley waited while the audience clapped and cheered. “And then he stretched out his arms and hugged me with all of the love and the safety that he had always given me. Thank you Daddy.”
Wiley revealed that the next day her parents came to see her in the play and “the plans didn’t change.”
“But so often in the lives of young queer people, when they decide to make those terrifying and boldly courageous first fragile steps into living their lives as authentically as possible, the plans do change. And because of my parents, I knew I was loved and because of that, my plans, dreams, and goals all remained intact.”
“Now it is essential that we are dedicated to building a world where every young queer person knows that they are not alone. So let me say it plainly right now: You are loved. You have a community that is here for you, that is dedicated to protecting you and accepts you for exactly who you are right in this moment.”
Despite portraying two black, queer characters on TV – Poussey in Orange Is The New Black and Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale, Wiley said she is most proud when someone comes up to her in the street and says ‘I came out because of you.’
"That is the tangible, immediate power of LGBTQ visibility and all of the work that GLAAD does.”
“Visibility is essential. My wife Lauren and I consider our own visibility to be a great privilege. And we are honoured to give young people a loving, beautiful example of what their future might look like.”
“Pride month is right around the corner. And this year I challenge all of you to be visible. Demand to be seen. Let us overwhelm the world with LGBTQ images of love and pride because not only will we be here to see you, to love you, to validate you but I promise you that your pride will give someone else the courage to be themselves too."
"Together, let’s welcome some people to our community.”