Anderson Cooper Pays Tribute To LGBT Heroes Of The Past

At Saturday night’s GLAAD Media Awards, Anderson Cooper accepted the Vito Russo Award, named for the author of The Celluloid Closet, which challenged the inaccurate portrayals of LGBT people in the media. In what is essentially his first public address on LGBT issues since coming out, Cooper paid tribute to Russo and the many other activists who paved the way so that he could do the work he now does:

COOPER: As a gay person, it’s important for me to remember that all of us come from a community whose stories have for too long been forgotten and ignored, a community whose lives have for too long been ridiculed or misrepresented, a community that in spite of all of that has found ways to love and to laugh and to care about one another, a community that has found ways to stand tall and stand up and make ourselves visible.

I know that I’m only able to be on this stage because of generations of gay people who have come before and some of their names are known, but so many more have lived and died in silence, their successes and their sacrifices never recognized in the journals of the day or the history of our times, their lives never even acknowledged, their love hidden in the shadows, hands furtively held in the darkness.

I’ve had many blessings in my life and being gay is certainly one of the greatest blessings. It has allowed me to love and be loved; it’s helped open my head and open my heart in ways that I never could have predicted. The ability to love one another — the ability to love another person is one of God’s greatest gifts and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with people in my life, with my family, my friends, and my partner Benjamin.

Watch it: