Dan Levy, co-creator and showrunner of the hit show Schitt's Creek, took the stage to accept the Davidson Valentini Award at the GLAAD Gala in San Francisco on Saturday night. In a moving eigh-minute speech, he addressed the murders of Black trans women, the support he's gotten as a proud gay man, and the need to spread that love to others.
Levy opened by saying he wanted to send a message of solidarity to those who attended the Trans March on Washington, D.C. earlier that day.
"There is an epidemic of murders of Black trans women," he told the audience. "This is a crisis that needs to be seen and heard and acknowledged by the highest levels of power and influence in this country and around the world."
After thanking his cast and GLAAD for giving him the award, Levy started to reflect on his own youth. He said that being in the closet made it so he missed out "on all the good stuff" and that he had to smile "through the heartbreak" because he was too afraid to tell anyone his secret.
"I think back to the bullying, the name calling, the shoving, the side eyes, a guy in math class calling me a 'faggot,'" Levy said. "I legitmately thought I would have to live with my secret -- my being gay -- for the rest of my life, because I didn't have the security of seeing a lot of people like myself being celebrated in popular culture."
"I asked myself how did I get here to this place, standing in front of all you people tonight, an out and proud gay Emmy loser," he joked.
The actor went onto explain that his journey began with finding good friends in high school, saying that he had "a group of strong, funny, very dazzling young women who were the keepers of my secret and the protectors of my soul."
"And lastly, I was loved," he said. "I was lucky enough to have a family that supported me fiercely and unconditionally when I needed it the most, when I came out at 18."
Levy started to tear up as he acknowledged his sister, Sarah, who was sitting in the audience. She plays Twyla onSchitt's Creek, which was recently nominated for four Emmy awards (including Outstanding Lead Actor, Actress, and Comedy).
While the guidance Levy recieved throughout his childhood and adulthood can save a life, studies show that many of LGBTQ+ youth don't have that: Thirty-nine percent of queer and trans young people "seriously considered" ending their lives in the past year, while a third of trans youth actually attempted to do so during that time period.
Levy says it's statistics like these that inspired him to make a TV show that can "offer some support, encouragement, and love to those that might not have it in their homes, in their schools, or in their day- to-day lives."
In creating Schitt's Creek, Levy added that he wanted to make a place that is "a place where everybody fits in, where love is celebrated and people's differences are a reason to start a conversation not end one." He wants the fictional town to be a community where his character David, "a pansexual man with really intense pants and sweaters, can fall in love with his now fiance Patrick, a gay man, without fear of consequence."
"It's a place where acceptance incubates joy and creates a clarity that allows people to see themselves and each other more deeply," Levy said. He knows it's "just a show" but claimed he "was told to lead by example and this felt like a good place to start."
Thank you, Dan Levy, for showing what acceptance looks like for LGBTQ+ people across the world.