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LA Ctr Honors Heche, BJ King
Tuesday, March 9, 1999
by NewsPlanet Staff

SUMMARY: Anne's "X-File" was leaked and Billie Jean's truth was also out there when Los Angeles' Gay & Lesbian Center gave awards on its 15th annual Women's Night.

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said to be the world's largest gay and lesbian organization, on March 6 held its 15th annual Women's Night fund-raiser and awards event, said to be the largest lesbian event of its kind with more than 1,000 attending. The Center gave all-time tennis great Billie Jean King its Community Role Model Award and actress Anne Heche its Creative Integrity Award, as well as distributing awards to seven local activists and announcing the selection of its own next executive director, Gwenn Baldwin.

Gillian Anderson, "Dana Scully" of FOX's "The X-Files," gave a terrific speech in presenting Heche's award that revealed a new aspect of Ellen DeGeneres' partner. Not unlike the character she plays, Anderson began by uncovering secret information and said, "Now I know that Anne would prefer that I not bring attention to this, but I think it's too important not to celebrate. For the last eight months, twice a week, Anne has been working with kids at the Gay and Lesbian Center -- kids who have been abandoned by their families and friends because they're gay. Anne, quietly and without publicity, has been helping these kids to build a sense of self, of self-worth, of importance; so that regardless of their present situation, they have a foundation that they are perfect, worthy, capable human beings who can love unconditionally ... in short, transforming their lives."

Anderson continued, "This award that Anne is receiving this evening is about integrity. Integrity in life, in work and in service. And I believe that above and beyond her altruistic acts, Anne's integrity lies in her determination to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Unfortunately, as Anne has experienced over the past couple of years, this degree of honesty can be too much for some people to stomach. It makes them uncomfortable, afraid and judgmental. When Ellen came out, Anne had a choice and she made a choice. She chose to stand up and speak her own truth; to stand up proudly for who she is in this moment. And her decision to do so was no less courageous, no less consciousness-raising, and life-affirming and life-saving than Ellen's. She could have chosen to stand off in the wings and let Ellen face the fire alone. She could have kept silent, refused interviews, not risked everything, not come out. In fact, as I understand it, Ellen warned her in the beginning, 'Get as far away from me as you can. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into.' But she chose to speak out and scream from the highest podium in our media-driven society that she had fallen in love with a woman."

In accepting the award, Heche said, "When I fell in love with Ellen, it mattered to people; it just mattered. It mattered to the people who were working with me, it mattered with my family, it mattered with my friends. I lost my family, which I know a lot of you have lost, just because I fell in love with a woman. I lost my friends, who no longer knew what to do with me, just because I fell in love with a woman. All this needs to change. I just want to tell you, and I guess I want to promise you -- as I have been told for the last two years of my life to shut up -- I am not going to shut up. I will continue to say as much as I want to say and as loud as I want to say it for the rest of my life. I have only just begun to speak about the injustices and discrimination against a group of the most incredible people I have ever met in my life."

King called tennis her medium for activism, saying "it was really about equal opportunity and equal rights," and in presenting her award, swimmer Diana Nyad recounted how the first time King played tennis -- at age 11 -- she knew both that she would become the world's best player and that she would change the segregation that kept her African-American friends away from the court. King herself said, "To the Gay and Lesbian Center, I just cannot thank you enough for all you do for the community to give a safe space, particularly for gay and lesbian youth. My sexuality was probably the most difficult struggle I've had in my whole life, and the one thing it taught me was that until you find your own truth, you cannot be free."

King was "outed" in a rather scandalous manner by a former secretary while still married to her husband, and it's really only the last year that she's begun to take a visible role in gay and lesbian community events. She said, "Another thing I didn't do as a younger person was ask for help or support, even if I thought someone might be safe to talk to or trust. And that's what the Gay and Lesbian Center does ... you help young people -- and even us mature people -- everyday feel safer and supported." King, who now runs World Team Tennis, has also set up her own foundation, which includes lesbian and gay youth services among its beneficiaries.

Center executive director Lorri Jean retired last month after six years in the grueling position, which involves both acting as a national advocate and managing a complex agency with a staff of 270 and 3,000 volunteers. The Center's Board has selected Gwenn Baldwin to be her successor beginning next month. Baldwin has been working as a management consultant with the firm of Dotten & Associates in Portland, Oregon. The Center Board is pleased that Baldwin has a range of expertise in non-profit management, communications, public policy and fund-raising. Her experience includes serving three years as communications director for then-Governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts, serving as communications director in Oregon's 1994 campaign to defeat an anti-gay statewide ballot measure, and working extensively with services for homeless youth.

The local lesbian and bisexual activists honored with Lesbians Active in Community Empowerment (LACE) Awards were Ann Bozzi, Lecia Brooks, physician Marki Knox, Nancy Levin, Center staffer Suzanne Naputi, Vanessa Romain, and Carol Waymire. The event raised some $300,000 which will go toward women's services at the Center, including the Audre Lorde Lesbian Health Clinic; the Lesbian Law Project; counseling, youth and employment services; and educational, cultural and social programming.

Transcript appears courtesy of NewsPlanet .

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