At Sunday's 72nd annual Golden Globe Awards, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made audiences laugh-out-loud, “Boyhood” positioned itself as the film to beat at this year’s Academy Awards, and George Clooney’s storied career was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
But the real winner of the Golden Globes was, surprisingly, none of the above.
When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association passed out accolades to both HBO’s “The Normal Heart” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” it turned the spotlight not only on the LGBT community at large but also the amazing diversity within it. Moving and honest portrayals of often-overlooked groups – the trans population and the those who died in the HIV/AIDS epidemic – were lauded before millions of viewers on one of Hollywood’s biggest nights.
One of these awards went to Matt Bomer, who was named Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie, for his portrayal of journalist Felix Turner in “The Normal Heart,” arguably the emotional heart and soul of Larry Kramer’s prophetic tale of the AIDS crisis in 1980’s New York City.
“That audiences can still be moved to tears by such a devastatingly beautiful performance as Matt Bomer’s Felix Turner is both a testament to Mr. Bomer’s talent and to the immutable power of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart,” said Jean Carlamusto, whose upcoming HBO documentary “In Love and Anger” chronicles the screenwriter’s life.
Kramer’s story tells the tale of the earliest moments of the epidemic, before the virus even had a name, a true story of how a whole generation of activists rose up to fight for life as their friends died on a daily basis.
“Larry Kramer, thank you for your anger and your passion, and writing a story that changed so many lives,” Bomer said as he accepted his award.
The actor’s words resonated with Kramer’s friends and colleagues, who gathered in front of their couches at a viewing party to cheer on the man whose transformed not only their lives but those of the entire LGBT community with his unwavering commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. Among them was Dr. Howard Grossman, president of private practice AlphaBetterCare, which serves LGBT patients in New York and New Jersey. Grossman served as medical adviser for numerous theatrical productions of “The Normal Heart,” including the Tony Award-winning revival.
"The fact that it took 27 years for ‘The Normal Heart’ to be recognized for the revolutionary show that it is is sad. But if all this recognition helps people realize that it's a crisis that's still going on, a crisis that isn't over, then I'm really happy,” Grossman said. “And I'm really happy my friend Larry Kramer is being recognized for the prescience of his vision."
"Finally, after years of avoidance, we are beginning to process our grief from the plague years. We are honoring our community's remarkable and beautiful response to AIDS, and taking some much-needed time to reflect on the enormity of our loss."'
Bomer poignantly ended his speech with these words: “To the generation that we lost, and the people we continue to lose to this disease, I just want to say, we love you. And we remember you.”
His acceptance speech was exceptional for he not only paid homage to “The Normal Heart,” said Peter Staley, co-founder of Treatment Action Group (TAG), but he also recognized by sending love to the more than 35 million people who died of the devastating disease.
“Finally, after years of avoidance, we are beginning to process our grief from the plague years. We are honoring our community's remarkable and beautiful response to AIDS, and taking some much-needed time to reflect on the enormity of our loss,” Staley said.
The other big winner of the night was Amazon’s groundbreaking comedy series“Transparent,” which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a trans woman who reveals her true gender identity to her suburban family.
"'Transparent' is a beautiful, complicated, and often hilarious look at trans identity, but at its core is a simple story about accepting the ones we love for who they are,” said Evan Pell, a Fordham law student who studies trans issues and was present at a party celebrating “The Normal Heart.”
Tambor dedicated his performance and his Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy, to the entire trans community, who remain the subject of widespread discrimination.
"Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for your patience,” he said. “And thank you for letting us be a part of the change."
Trans people are simply trying to live the truth of the gender that they know they are rather than the one they were assigned at birth, Grossman said of the struggle of his trans patients. Yet health insurance companies deny them coverage at alarming rated. For example, in the “relatively transgender-friendly city of San Francisco,” more than half of the trans population doesn’t have any form of insurance, writes the Transgender Law Center.
“The fact that a show is recognizing that and that these people live integrated into our wider communities is incredibly important. Trans people are not people who are living in the darkness,” he said. “They're people that are living in all the places that all the rest of us are in families, in suburbs, and in rural places. This show helps them be more visible."
"This award is dedicated to the memory of Leelah Alcorn and too many trans people who die too young."'
Showrunner Jill Soloway wrote the show based on her experience with her own parent’s transition. When she claimed the best TV Series, Musical or Comedy, award, she provided one of the show’s most moving moments.
“This award is dedicated to the memory of Leelah Alcorn and too many trans people who die too young,” Soloway said.
Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans teen from Ohio, who committed suicide after undergoing a religious-based “conversion therapy,” made headlines after the suicide note she posted on Tumblr went viral. “Fix society, please,” she begged.”
The teen’s tragic death prompted the mother of Tyler Clementi to speak out in an exclusive op-ed written for msnbc. “It appears our loss of Leelah, a beautiful and innocent youth, brings us back to the religious dogma of many communities of faith who refuse to see the harm they are causing by teaching hate. The time has come to say ‘enough,’” Jane Clementi wrote.
"The television movie more than any other captured the love story that I think is the core of Larry's story: the fact that gay people loved through an epidemic that they loved through the most horrible time of the last 50 years. That's the real story: that they're love is legitimate. And now it's recognized by the law."'
Also notable last night was the composition of the Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie category, in which two of the five nominated performances were from openly gay actors Matt Bomer and Alan Cumming, against such Hollywood heavyweights as Bill Murray and Jon Voight. And when he did take the stage, Bomer took the time to highlight the importance of his family in his life.
“In a very dignified way, Matt Bomer thanked his husband and three children for their love and support, unashamed of the real love of a gay family in the bizarrely homophobic Hollywood,” said Eric Sawyer, who co-founed the AIDS Coailition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) with Kramer. “It is time for Hollywood to come out of the closet with the dignity by which Matt Boomer has.”
“In a world where LGBT life continues to be oppressed and persecuted, Matt Bomer's brave and affecting affirmation of the great project of ‘The Normal Heart ‘was a singular moment of pride,” added Dr. Larry Mass, who co-founded GMHC, the nation’s first HIV/AIDS service organization, with Kramer, and whose life is the basis for the film’s character Mickey Marcus.
From the big Emmy win of “The Normal Heart” to Laverne Cox’s appearance on the cover of “TIME” magazine to the warm reception of Amazon’s “Transparent” at the Globes, it was a remarkable year for the LGBT community in Hollywood – a trend activists hope will both continue and help enact positive change in society.
“I've seen every production of ‘The Normal Heart’ since the first one. The television movie more than any other captured the love story that I think is the core of Larry's story: the fact that gay people loved through an epidemic that they loved through the most horrible time of the last 50 years,” Grossman said. “That's the real story: that they're love is legitimate. And now it's recognized by the law. And so Larry wins.”