Actress Amandla Stenberg was humbled after being recognized with the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award and gave a powerful speech about the struggles of being black and queer in a very "straight" industry.
The 20-year-old actress, who has identified as non-binary and uses gender-neutral they/them pronouns, was previously known for their portrayal as Rue from The Hunger Games.
After appearing in other films like Everything, Everything and The Hate U Give, Stendberg has become an outspoken feminist and advocate for LGBTQ rights.
At the HRC gala in New York City, Stenberg humbly accepted the award and said:
"I must be pretty darn blessed if I can stand up here and accept an award just for being me!"
They took an opportunity to acknowledge the work that the HRC does in furthering representation in their community.
"It can definitely be strange to be vulnerable in matters of personal identity when you're navigating it in a public manner, specifically within the very straight confines of Hollywood."
"I'm super thankful of the recognition of that challenge, but I also know there are so many others who do not have the support that I do and are not receiving any awards for being out and proud. I dedicate this award to those people."
You can watch their empowering HRC Visibility Awards acceptance speech in the YouTube clip below.
Amandla Stenberg Honored with HRC Visibility Award www.youtube.com
Stenberg used the words "explosive," "nerve-wracking," and "beautiful" to describe the past eight months after publicly coming out of the closet and expressed gratitude for being embraced by the supportive queer community.
"The continual process of unlearning internalized homophobia can be really difficult, but one of the biggest blessings to me lies in the magic that comes from having to understand love outside the confines of learned heterosexual roles."
The actor mentioned the lack of role models while growing up and emphasized the importance of them among women of color who are struggling with their sexual identity.
"Had I had more representations of black gay women growing up, I probably would have come to conclusions around my sexuality earlier, because I would have had more conceptions of what is possible, and OK."
"Reflecting on this makes me recognize the weight of this award and just what visibility means. I have a lot of work to do exhibiting what it means to be visibly queer and proud for those who have been steeped in self-denial for too long."
"I want to aid in the celebration of us, outside the context of pain, outside the way media very often intentionally postulates us. Although shame and tragedy may be a facet of our experiences, I do not feel like this is a totality of who we are or how I experience being gay."
"I want the world to understand that we are the very definition of joy and light. That we are the very sacred unraveling of very damaging fabrications, and we reveal the power of truth through love."
The annual gala raises money to fight for LGBTQ rights and is attended by more than 1,000 HRC supporters, entertainers, political officials, and business leaders.
The HRC foundation provides resources for coming out, the transgender community, and supports LGBTQ people facing issues in the workplace.
Past recipients of the Visibility Awards include: Evan Rachel Wood, John Barrowman, Colton Haynes, and Kesha.
When it comes to defining who you are, Stenberg told Seventeen Magazine, last fall:
"Gender and sexuality are so fluid—it's okay to change your mind a million times and figure out what works for you."
"I'd been out as bisexual, and people have known I'm queer for a long time. I saw some comments that made me chuckle, like, 'Girl, we been knew!' But I wanted to make it very clear that I have romantic love for women."
We have nothing but love and respect for this brave warrior. Congratulations, Amandla!