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At the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Scandal star and activist Kerry Washington was honored with the Vanguard Award for her work as an advocate for and to the LGBT community. The Vanguard Award is given to members of the media “who, through their work, have increased the visibility and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” Kerry Washington absolutely fits that bill.

In 2009, Washington starred alongside Evan Ross and Victor Rasuk in Life Is Hot in Cracktown as Marybeth, a Transgender sex worker. Her performance was breathtaking. In my opinion, it was some of her best work to date. Kerry transformed into Marybeth with the help of an “authenticity coach” named Valerie Spencer, a Trans social services activist and artist. In 2004 Valerie appeared in a V-Day production of The Vagina Monologues, featuring a cast of all Trans women. Valerie helped guide Kerry to a place of total transparency and authenticity in Life Is Hot

In 2004, Washington starred in Spike Lee’s She Hate Me as a lesbian woman who convinces her ex-fiance (Anthony Mackie), in an effort to earn money after he loses his corporate job, to impregnate her (and a company of other lesbians).

Kerry Washington is not afraid to go there, in both her work as an actor and as an activist, and that is why she absolutely deserves the Vanguard Award.

In her speech at the GLAAD Awards Kerry said, “I don’t decide to play the characters I play as a political choice. Yet the characters I play often do become political statements. Because having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, as a trans person, or as any member of any disenfranchised community, is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations.”

She went on to note that, “We need more LGBT representation in the media. We need more LGBT characters and more LGBT storytelling. We need more diverse LGBT representation. And by that, I mean lots of different kinds of LGBT people living all different kinds of lives. And this is big—we need more employment of LGBT people in front of and behind the camera.”

She finished by galvanizing the audience at the Beverly Hilton, and the audience at large, with “We have to continue to be bold, and break new ground until that is just how it is — until we are no longer firsts, and exceptions, and rare and unique.” 

Kerry Washington studied at the Michael Howard Studios in New York City, and made her Broadway debut in the 2009 production of Race by David Mamet, opposite David Alan Grier (The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, A Soldier’s Play, In Living Color), James Spader (The Blacklist, Boston Legal), and Richard Thomas (Democracy, Hamlet, Richard III).

Kerry has also appeared in productions of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and has read numerous times at the Voices of a People’s History of the United States event.

Check out Kerry’s full Vanguard Award acceptance speech at the GLAAD Awards, below.

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