GLSEN presented the 2019 Respect Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street this past Monday night. We caught up with Champion Award honoree and ‘POSE’ co-creator Steven Canals and several other stars at the red carpet.
We spoke with “POSE” co-creator Steven Canals, with “POSE” stars Billy Porter, Dominique Jackson, Our Lady J, and star of The Bold Type Stephen Conrad Moore. Check out the transcript below! If you’re curious about our coverage of the awards, you can read about them herehere.
The Knockturnal: How does it feel to be here tonight at the 2019 Respect Awards?
Steven Canals (Co-creator, POSE): It’s incredible. I think GLSEN is such an important organization. They’re working so hard for inclusivity in schools across the country and I feel really strongly about respect and civility being part of curriculums. As someone who worked in higher education and as someone who had a mom that’s a kindergarten teacher, it’s all the more important to me.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell me a little more about your background in higher education and the work you did there?
Steven Canals: I was a college administrator for seven years, and at the end of my career before moving to LA to become a writer/producer of TV, I worked in an intercultural center as an associate director for gender and sexual orientation initiatives. Part of my role was to advocate for them and to educate the community on the issues that are prevalent in the LGBTQIA community. To be here today and be honored by this award is a really lovely honor and means so much.
The Knockturnal: What do you think is the most important thing for the next generation to know about these issues?
Steven Canals: I feel like they know so much more than I do. *laughs* They’re doing it better. These young people, they’re starting GSAs and they’re advocating for safe spaces within their schools. I went through my K-12 experience closeted, so the fact of the matter is that they’re already doing so much just by being their authentic selves, just by being out.
The Knockturnal: What do you think are the next challenges for this community?
Steven Canals: I think one of the most important issues, and we obviously highlight this on “POSE”, is everyone in the community rallying behind and advocating for the trans community. Trans women of color right now have a life expectancy of 35. While it’s great that we’ve fought for and won marriage equality, I think right now the trans community really needs us all as cis people who are also LGBTQIA to step up and be vocal advocates and allies.
The Knockturnal: How does it feel to be here at the 2019 Respect Awards?
Dominique Jackson (Actor, POSE): It feels amazing. I’m always fascinated when we get acknowledged because, in the beginning, I never thought the world would understand the show. But it just shows us that people are ready and willing, we just have to put the content out there so that people can know that it is there. For me personally, this is important because people need to see people like themselves. They need to be able to see stories that they relate to. It helps to empower people. It helps to give them encouragement, no matter where they may be.
The Knockturnal: What are you most excited about for tonight?
Billy Porter (Actor, POSE): These kids. These kids having this experience, these kids knowing that there are human beings and organizations that support them and support who they are just as they are. That message of love is one that we in positions of power, the adults in the room, must continue to spread.
Dominique Jackson: Watching everything. 10 years ago, 20 years ago, when I came to New York, I didn’t think anything like this existed. And now to see it, to know that youth and people have a place that they can go to for support and help and that GLSEN is acknowledging all that youth and all these people, it’s an amazing thing. We’re growing, and it may take a little while, but we’re getting there.
Stephen Conrad Moore (Actor, The Bold Type): There’s a particular performance that I’m really excited about, so I’ll just say that. I’m just really excited for this evening you know? It’s a great evening. It’s great that we have this evening to honor the youth, to celebrate them, the TLGBQ, and the work is really vital.
The Knockturnal: We’ve made progress on LGBTQ+ issues, but there’s still a long way to go. Where do you think are the most important places to go next?
Billy Porter: The first thing is transgender rights, and the understanding of what that means, and moving through the fear of that. I think that is the biggest and most important right now. As an older gay man – I’m going to be 50 this year – I realized even for myself, the T in LGBT was unconsciously nonexistent for me. Not because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t know. And when you know better, you do better. So I’m doing better, and everybody else has to do better too.
Our Lady J (Writer/Producer and Actor, POSE): I think the current administration has been very vocally discriminatory against trans people in the military. So I think we’re going to have a lot of reverberations from that. It’s not just going to be limited to the military. That sets a really negative precedent for other institutions to lean on. I think we’re going to have to firm in standing against the administration’s discrimination and fight back.
Stephen Conrad Moore: I think we definitely need to continue to be represented, not just in TV, but on network TV. It’s great to be represented on TV period but growing up I didn’t have cable. A part of it was money. So I would see the network shows. To really get into the homes, for the youth that wants to see themselves on TV, we need to be the main characters on network shows across the board. It doesn’t have to be a “thing,” or a special event kind of thing. It’s just a regular – this person is a part of the office, this person is a part of our school, this person is just there…just completely integrated. That’s how my life is, so why not have that on scripted television?
The Knockturnal: What do you think is the most impressive or exciting thing about the next generation?
Dominique Jackson: They have fluidity. They’re more understanding. I don’t think the new generation is confined or bound or boxed in by gender and race and religion. They just want to live. They want to be treated as human beings. They want to be treated with respect. They want to get the acknowledgment of saying “yes you are in your truth, and you are human, and you deserve love. You deserve employment. You deserve healthcare. You deserve everything.”
Stephen Conrad Moore: How bold they are, how empowered they are, how smart they are, and how much they have this internal knowledge of right. I feel this generation is doing the things I wish I could have done. And they have numbers behind them; they’re doing it collectively. I’m really happy for them and really excited for them. I think that they can help change the world. It sounds cliché but I think they can help change the government and the perspective. Art really does matter. The more you start to see something on TV, the more you become okay with certain things, the more laws start to change, the more people – they start shifting their minds.