The comedy show "Schitt's Creek," late-night host Lilly Singh, the drama series "Star Trek: Discovery" and music artist Sam Smith were among the winners at this year's GLAAD Media Awards ceremony.
The streaming giant Netflix came out on top with three wins: Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of "The Boys in the Band" won the award for Outstanding Film-Limited Release; "Disclosure," about Hollywood's depiction of transgender people, won the Outstanding Documentary award; and "She-Ra & The Princesses of Power" tied Hulu's "First Day" in the Outstanding Kids & Family Programming category.
The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD has held the annual event for more than three decades to honor fair, accurate and inclusive representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in media.
This year's virtual event, hosted by actor Niecy Nash, was streamed on YouTube on Thursday night. There were nearly 200 nominees across 28 categories, including Outstanding Music Artist, Outstanding Video Game and Outstanding Drama Series.
"Films and TV shows are like empathy machines," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said during the ceremony. "What people see and hear in the media impacts the decisions we make in schools, offices, living rooms, courtrooms and at the ballot box. It's not about shaming or canceling anyone. It's about using a moment to educate and create accountability."
In addition to celebrating the winners, the ceremony highlighted pressing issues affecting the LGBTQ community, such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, HIV awareness and the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color.
"Disclosure" executive producer Laverne Cox sent a message of hope to the trans community in her acceptance speech.
"We are looking for people to move beyond acceptance to radical acceptance, to radical self-love," said Cox, best known for starring in "Orange Is the New Black." "To the trans youth watching right now, we want you to know that you're anointed, that despite all of the attacks that might be happening against you, you are divine. You deserve to be. You are here for a reason. You must survive to fulfill that divine purpose."
Teen YouTube sensation JoJo Siwa, who made headlines this year after revealing that she is gay, sent a special message to LGBTQ youths before presenting the "Sesame Street" puppet Elmo with the award for Outstanding Children's Programming.
"It's kind of major that people my age can look at me and say, 'Hey, I know someone who is LGBTQ, and she's really, really happy,'" said Siwa, 17. "Especially LGBTQ kids who don't live in safe or accepting environments. ... I just feel super honored to have a platform to tell everyone, 'Be who you are, love who you love, and do it with pride.'"
In its annual "Where We Are on TV" report this year, GLAAD found that LGBTQ visibility has declined by 33 percent on cable, 13 percent on streaming services and a little over 1 percent on network television in the current TV season. The organization attributed the declines to production halts due to the pandemic.
"We're hoping that is just a blip and not the beginning of a trend," Ellis said at the time, suggesting that the decrease overall was largely due to fewer shows' being made. "The content is more important than ever, and it's having a bigger impact than ever. So, for us, we're thrilled that the drop wasn't as big as it could have been. But, if all things are equal, then even if the quantity of programs goes down, the representation shouldn't."
Even though overall LGBTQ representation was down, the racial diversity of queer characters was up: For the first time in the report's history, there were more LGBTQ people of color than white LGBTQ characters on screen, with people of color making up 53 percent of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on broadcast series, 52 percent on cable shows and 47 percent on streaming platform originals.
Thursday's GLAAD Media Awards included appearances by Dan Levy, Katy Perry and Wilson Cruz, along with performances by Grammy-nominated rapper Chika, YouTube star Rebecca Black and singer-songwriter Jessica Betts (who married Niecy Nash last year). The cast of "Glee" also virtually reunited for a special tribute to the late actor Naya Rivera, who played lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez on the hit Fox show.
The full list of GLAAD Media Award winners can be found on the organization's website, and the ceremony can be viewed on demand on Hulu through June.