GLSEN, the leading education organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ+ youth celebrated another year of their wildly successful event, Rise Up LA. Actress Annette Bening joined singer Orville Peck as the second honoree in the star-studded lineup of activists and allies creating impactful change within the LGBTQ+ community.
Taking place on Saturday, October 28, the event was emceed by drag performer Mo Heart who set the tone for the night with a call to continue the fight to ensure schools are safe spaces for queer kids. Along with Mo Heart, actor and co-chair of Rise Up LA and chairman of the board of GLSEN, Wilson Cruz gave a heart warming speech.
The guests were treated to a live performance from multi-talented singer songwriter Noah Cyrus along with a hauntingly beautiful performance from Iniko. For over three decades, GLSEN has been working to end discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and to prompt LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation in K-12 schools. Rise Up LA not only celebrates GLSEN’s mission but serves as a powerful testament to the progress made and the journey ahead.
GLSEN presented Bening with the Advocate Award for her steadfast allyship in the LGBTQ+ community and her commitment to educating others on queer issues. Bening’s advocacy for LGBTQ+ issues is deeply rooted in her personal experiences and the power of empathy. As the parent of a transgender son, she has become an outspoken advocate for the rights, acceptance, and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. Bening says, “ I have felt the responsibility to speak out and speak up as transphobia has invaded our government at the local, state, and federal levels. It is hurtful, and it is shameful. It is being used as a tool of the far right to rally their base and turn out the vote,” she said. “I am so proud of my son. I have learned so much from him. And you do not want to make this momma mad.”
In addition to honoring Annette Bening, GLSEN had a very special performance by the GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum singer and songwriter Noah Cyrus. She gushed over her best friend Orville Peck as he won his Champion Award for living his life in the open. Emerging in 2016 at the age of 16, Cyrus has captivated audiences with platinum singles, including “Make Me (Cry)” and “Again.” Her 2022 full-length debut album, The Hardest Part, showcases her unique blend of pop spirit, folk eloquence, and country soul. Cyrus’s participation at Rise Up LA underlines GLSEN’s commitment to supporting and amplifying voices that champion inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights.
Comediennes Fortune Feimster and Sherri Cola and actor Leo Sheng were also there to introduce the night’s honorees.
One of the best parts of the evening was Owen Grossman, leader of his high school’s gender and sexuality alliance spoke about how “Don’t Say Gay” bills being passed in many Republican-controlled states affect all students.
“School isn’t just a place where we learn about math and science. It’s the place where we learn about each other and our world. When queerness is erased from our schools in all capacities, when it is made out to be a threat, students learn that queerness is taboo, something other, something punishable. That view directly contributes to mental health issues in queer students, and prejudice in non-queer students,” he says. “GLSEN has always been important, but this year, it’s taken on added importance.”
Along with Grossman other students spoke about their experiences with GLSEN which fueled the attendees to give. The event raised over $108,000 in the room from members of the community and their allies.
“With LGBTQ+ rights being threatened everyday by legislators and right-wing extremists, GLSEN shines a spotlight on those who’ve been outspoken advocates in the community and championed for queer youth everyday. Annette Bening’s unwavering commitment to fostering a more inclusive world for not only her own child, but for every queer student, is a reflection of GLSEN and everything we stand for,” says GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “Noah Cyrus’s powerful musical journey resonates with the resilience and self-discovery that GLSEN aims to support and celebrate within the LGBTQ+ community,” she adds.
GLSEN is the nation’s largest organization championing LGBTQ+ issues in K-12 education and for over 33 years, GLSEN has fought to create safe and supportive LGBTQ+-inclusive schools for all students. With LGBTQ+ youth under attack across the country, GLSEN works to combat harassment and discrimination by training visible and supportive educators and enacting policy reform, fighting book bans through our Rainbow Library Program that provides LGBTQ+ affirming literature to over 3 million students in 30 states, supporting LGBTQ+ athletes in the face of anti-trans legislation through our Changing the Game program, and by supporting student-led programs like GSAs nationwide. GLSEN believes every student has the right to a safe and affirming education regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression because no young person should have to choose between their wellbeing and an education.