This year, for their annual Respect Awards Los Angeles, GLSEN is going virtual, and they’re not doing it alone. They’ve brought out an all-star lineup of celebrities to direct short videos highlighting the stories of LGBTQ+ students across the country.
This year’s "Respect Everywhere" show, as it’s now being known, also celebrates GLSEN’s 30th anniversary. The organizations’ executive director Eliza Byard said that they knew this year the ongoing pandemic would make the celebration different, and so “it was imperative to center a diverse group of LGBTQ+ student stories for this year’s Respect celebration.” She added that the group will “give you hope for the future and the energy to fight for the next thirty years.”
The organization tapped various LGBTQ+ celebrities and allies to help with the virtual show this year, having them direct short videos showing the lives and work of LGBTQ+ students across the USA. The celebrity directors include Octavia Spencer, Matt Bomer, Antoni Porowski, Rob Hardy, Joe Mantello, and Kalen Allen.
Spencer directs the story of Jessica Chiriboga, a mixed race lesbian, activist, and student-athelete who balances both her Christian faith and her sexual identity. Bomer is directing a short about Austin Laufersweiler, a Georgia student who’s spoken out as an activist to Congress and the White House. Porowski directs a story about Darid Prom, a freshman at Swarthmore and a queer Cambodian immigrant. Allen’s short focuses on E. Smith, a Harvard freshman who won GLSEN’s 2019 Student Advocate of the Year award. Hardy directs the story of JP Grant, a bisexual, nonbinary trans man who is an artist, a scholar, and an athlete. Mantello rounds out the shorts with the story of Gabriel Ian DiCenzo, an LA high school senior.
Spencer is excited to get to be a part of the celebration. “I was honored to meet Jessica Chiriboga and tell her story,” she said. “Jessica is an exceptional young woman who struggled to reconcile her Christian faith with her sexual orientation, but in the process, she became a leader and activist making a difference in so many people's lives.”
The short videos will premiere on GLSEN’s website on October 26.