The third annual Inspire Awards filled University of Toronto’s Hart House June 1, bringing together queer notables from near and far.
Global activist Stuart Milk, the nephew of American politician and gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, was honoured with a special presentation for his international work, which continues the legacy of his late uncle. “You never heard the word ‘tolerance’ from my uncle,” Milk stated in his acceptance speech. “That bar was too low for him.”
Tyler Gregory, a youth activist from Ohio, presented the LGBTQ Youth of the Year award alongside Shane Hebel, treasurer of the Inspire Awards and recipient of the 2012 Youth Award. Gregory, co-founder of the No Bull Challenge, an anti-bullying social action organization, screened a video the organization created, explaining how he and classmate Scott Hannah felt the need to take action after the suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer. “Knowing that there might be at least one student who could take something away from that made it worth it.”
The evening wasn’t without its surprises. When the Trans Lobby Group was presented with the award for Inspiring Community Organization of the Year, local activist Susan Gapka, speaking on behalf of the organization, announced that it will disband in the fall with a celebration of their achievements. Gapka assured the audience that Trans Lobby Group members will continue on with their advocacy work.
Another surprise came when Durham region youth activist and community organizer Nathan Truppe was presented with the LGBTQ Youth of the Year award in a tie with his peer, performer and 15-year-old activist Adam McMaster. “He’s pretty much my little brother from another mother,” Truppe said. “He’s lived with my family in the past. He’s actually my sister’s best friend; we just became family.”
McMaster added, “When he originally won I was astonished. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Then they were like, ‘Wait there’s a tie!'”
The Lux Award was also introduced, for posthumous recognition of a contributor to the queer community. The first recipient of the award was multimedia performance artist David Buchan, an associate of arts collective General Idea. Buchan died in 1994.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to philanthropist Salah Bachir and queer feminist activist Anna Willats. “I’m very fortunate that in my adult life I’ve been able to work in queer-positive spaces, to work on issues of violence against women, but often, like I say, also talking about violence against queer people,” Willats said.
Recently, Willats has done work with the Groundswell Community Justice Fund, which raises and distributes funds to grassroots groups. It’s just one of many community organizations and campaigns she’s involved with. “A lot of different things. I’m known fairly well in the community, so I get invited to participate in things, and I wish I could say yes to more, but I have a grandson who I try to see once every couple of weeks. Definitely busy!”
And the winners are . . .
Inspiring Community Organization of the Year: Trans Lobby Group
LGBTQ Positive Business of the Year:
Glad Day Bookshop
LGBTQ Youth of the Year: Adam McMaster and Nathan Truppe
LGBTQ Person of the Year: Candice Kelly (Leonard Kelly)
LUX Award: David Buchan
Lifetime Achievement Award: Anna Willats and Salah Bachir
Special Presentation: Stuart Milk