The 2011 Inspire Awards, presented on Dec 14, celebrated Boyd Kodak, Michelle DuBarry and the late Jack Layton for their work in advocating gay, lesbian, bi and trans rights in Toronto.
Each winner was presented a lifetime achievement award for being a positive role model in the queer community.
Mike and Sarah Layton accepted a Special Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of their late father.
“I’ll always remember Dad in his shorts, tank top and a painted face embarrassing my sister and I at Pride,” said Mike Layton. “What a tremendously proud night for our family. Thank you for your love and support and for honouring Jack here tonight.”
A memorial video showed highlights from Layton’s years working with Toronto’s gay community. In one clip his confident voice echoed through the room: “Nobody’s going to tell us it can’t be done.”
Responding, Mike Layton laughed and said, “He always stole all of my good lines.”
Mike Layton reminisced about a Pride parade at which his father came across a person wearing a T-shirt that said “Kiss me, Jack!”
“He hopped off his bike, puckered up and kissed him.”
Along with his community advocacy, Layton was remembered for spearheading Canada’s first municipally sponsored AIDS strategy.
The crowd booed loudly when Layton said, “We all know city hall is now fighting against that funding.”
For the past two years, the Inspire Awards have celebrated queer people who bring the community together in an attempt to make it stronger.
Kodak, a trans activist and musician, was awarded in part because he won a precedent-setting case in 1993 that changed Ontario’s Human Rights Code to include discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.
“It’s been a long journey — I’m very proud. It doesn’t just take one person; it takes many people working together to make changes.” Kodak said, noting there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Kodak commended the Inspire Awards for documenting queer history and highlighting those who have worked so hard to make positive changes. After accepting his award, he performed two new songs alongside Carrie Chesnutt.
DuBarry, a community drag legend, accepted her award graciously. “Sometimes I wonder, what if any one of us was not born?” she said. “Everyone has an impact in the life we share on this planet.”
DuBarry was a drag pioneer and has spent decades fundraising for, and working with, queer organizations. At 80, she is still going strong but prefers to refer to her age as “double-40.”
The night included performances by Etobicoke School of the Arts glee club, Splash. Last month Lady Gaga sent a personalized video applauding the school’s students for their efforts to stop bullying. She said, “Love each other; treat each other with kindness, because we’re all we’ve got.”