Oprah Winfrey pays tribute at GLAAD Media Awards to gay brother who died from AIDS

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In an affectional reside during nan GLAAD Media Awards successful Los Angeles connected Thursday night, Oprah Winfrey paid a tearful tribute to her precocious brother, Jeffrey Lee, who died from AIDS successful 1989 erstwhile he was 29. 

“Growing up astatine nan clip we did, successful nan organization that we did, we didn’t person nan connection to understand aliases to speak astir sexuality and gender successful nan measurement that we do now,” said Winfrey, who was accepting nan defense group’s Vanguard Award for LGBTQ allyship. “At nan time, I really didn’t cognize really profoundly my relative internalized nan shame that he felt astir being gay. I wish he could person lived to witnesser these liberated times and to beryllium present pinch maine tonight.”

Winfrey, 1 of nan astir celebrated and successful women successful nan world, past reflected connected really she has utilized her level complete nan past 4 decades — including her wildly celebrated daytime talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which ran from 1986 to 2011 — to amplify LGBTQ voices and dispel misinformation astir HIV/AIDS, which disproportionately affects cheery and bisexual men and transgender women.

She recalled taking her syndicated talk show to Williamson, West Virginia, successful 1987 and holding a municipality hallway aft discovering that section officials location had shuttered a organization excavation because a man pinch AIDS had gone swimming there. 

“They unopen nan full excavation down and nan municipality turned against him because he’d gone swimming pinch his sister, and it caused specified an uproar that location was rampant misinformation and misguided fear,” she said. “We took our full show there, and we brought a aesculapian master … we brought nan facts and tried to erase immoderate of nan biases.”

Winfrey past recalled returning to Williamson much than 2 decades later, successful 2010, to revisit that organization and "help group face their beliefs astir homosexuality and saw some nan individual maturation and nan deficiency of individual maturation that had taken place.”

Almost a decade aft her first travel to Williamson, Winfrey said, she decided to look connected a historical section of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom, “Ellen,” successful 1997. 

“I sewage a telephone from Ellen asking maine to play nan domiciled of a therapist connected her show, arsenic she came retired and became nan first cheery lead characteristic connected a U.S. web tv show,” she recalled. 

What amazed her astatine nan time, she said, was nan influx of dislike message she received afterward. 

“This was earlier societal media, y’all” she added. “People were really penning down and paying for a stamp and mailing successful their dislike and outrage.”

Since launching nan Oprah Winfrey Network, aliases OWN, successful 2011, Winfrey has brought documentaries centered connected transgender group to her audience, including “Becoming Chaz” successful 2011 and “I Am Jazz” in 2015. In 2021, connected Apple TV’s “The Oprah Conversation,” she besides noted, “Elliot Page entrusted maine to stock nan joyousness of his transition, which helped unfastened up nan knowing of nan challenges, fears and unit facing our trans younker today.”

At nan extremity of her almost 10-minute speech, Winfrey said she would proceed to “support and nutrient projects centering LGBTQ storylines” and “hire queer and trans filmmakers to bring authentic characters to nan screen.”

“When we tin spot 1 another, genuinely spot 1 another, erstwhile we are unfastened to supporting nan truth of a chap human, it makes for a full, rich, vibrant life for america all,” she said. “That’s what I wish my relative Jeffrey could person knowledgeable — a world that could spot him for who he was and admit him for what he brought to this world.”

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Jay Valle

Jay Valle reports and produces integer contented for NBC Out.