Presented by Janet Mock, Lena Waithe, HIV activist Morris Singletary, and Beyoncé’s long-time friend and stylist Ty Hunter, the pair accepted the award, which Beyoncé dedicated it to her late uncle, who passed away from complications related to HIV.
“I want to dedicate this award to my uncle Johnny, the most fabulous gay man I have ever known, who helped raise me and my sister,” she said, holding back tears. “He lived his truth and he was brave and unapologetic at a time when this country wasn’t as accepting.”
“Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived,” an emotional Bey added, with husband Jay rubbing her back. “I’m hopeful that his struggle served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely. LGBTQI rights are human rights.”
Jay-Z dedicated the award to his mother, Gloria Carter, who received the GLAAD Special Recognition Award last year.
“I want to honor my mother,” he said. “I get to follow in her footsteps of spreading love and acceptance and her beautiful speech at the end of the song ‘Smile’ and for her allowing me to tell her story.”
On the track, “Smile,” which appeared on Jay’z 4:44 album, released in 2017, the rapper revealed for the first time that his mother is a lesbian. Carter, who was also featured on the song, spoke about “living in the shadow[s]” before coming out.
Onstage Thursday night, Beyoncé added, “We’re here to promote love for every human being, and change starts with supporting the people closest to you. So let’s tell them they are loved, let’s remind them they are beautiful, let’s speak out and protect them, and parents — let’s love our kids in our truest form.”