However, the leaders of Trevor Project, which provides emergency support and counseling to LGBTQ youth in crisis via phone, text and social media, dwelled not on the bigotry and hate that often drives youth to seek out their services, but the resilience of the community. “We let LGBTQ youth know that they are not alone, and that we are there for them in their darkest moments, when nobody else is,” said CEO Amit Paley, who also noted that calls to the Trevor Project doubled in the 24 hours after the 2016 election.
Hero Award recipient Lena Waithe praised the work both of the Trevor Project as well as other suicide hotlines. “We all hope that if one of our loved ones is going through a dark time or facing something they think they can’t survive, we all want them to pick up the phone and reach out to someone—even if that someone is someone they’ve never met.” She continued, “Last week was a tough one. We lost two very bright souls. And the shock is even more severe because we all know that suicide is preventable.”
Among the attendees—which included Orange Is the New Black stars Samira Wiley and Natasha Lyonne, as well as the evening’s hosts, Olympians Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon—was Rita Ora, whose recently released song, “Girls” (performed with Charli XCX, Cardi B, and Bebe Rexha), spurred controversy.
Some listeners, including fellow singer-songwriter Hayley Kiyoko, took issue with the lyrics in the chorus: “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/ Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls.”
“A song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women,” Kiyoko, who’s openly gay, wrote on Instagram. Ora issued a statement in response shortly thereafter, in which she apologized to any who took offense. “I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQ+ people or anyone,” she wrote.
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In the same statement, she also acknowledged that she has had “romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life.” Ora, who performed the song at the closing of the event, told reporters that it took her two years from the inception of the song to complete it.
“It was a personal experience,” she told InStyle of her journey to publishing the song. “I had to find the confidence to really follow through and to [come to terms with] my own feelings.” She added that part of the time spent creating “Girls” was “about my family and making sure everyone was okay” with its content.
As for the backlash, Ora added that she “doesn’t listen to the noise too much” and was most excited to be a part of the celebration of the Trevor Project’s mission. “I’m honored to be asked to perform at such a powerful organization that’s done a lot for my personal friends,” she said. “I’ve seen it change a lot of lives.”
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