My Gay Toronto - MGT Hot Topic

INSPIRE Awards RECAP - Inspire Awards do exactly that

by Drew Rowsome is proud to be a media sponsor of the Inspire Awards.

"The only ones who ever change the world are those of us who are crazy enough to believe we can change the world." Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk and the hardworking heart of the Harvey Milk Foundation (, has all the charisma and passion of his uncle. The third annual Inspire Awards proudly presented Milk with a special award thanking him for his inspirational work as a staunch proponent and advocate for gay rights. After a long hot and humid series of presentations Milk was still able to galvanize and move the crowd with a passionate speech about the foundation's work.

In conversation Milk is charming and humorous. "Just before his death, Harvey appeared on a morning TV show where he was informed that he was the fifth choice of interviewee. He said he knew 'but let's talk about the issues.' And that's what I feel like: when they can't get anybody else to help out, that's when the Harvey Milk Foundation goes in. And I'm glad to do it." Most of the foundation's current work is overseas, where the need is greatest, many rights have been repealed and out gay representation is rare. A gathering such as the Inspire Awards would be very unlikely. 

Milk proudly displays a copy of the children's book The Harvey Milk Story which is required reading in California schools before the official holiday Harvey Milk Day. "In Italy they were astonished and asked me, 'Even the bambolittos?'" says Milk. "And I answer, 'Yes, the bambolittos.' My uncle believed tolerance was too low a bar and he lived in a time where gay was illegal and considered a severe mental illness. We've made progress but we need to reach out to help the people who stand up like my uncle did. They are looking to Toronto for inspiration."

The Inspire Awards celebrate the local activists and artists who do inspire. It is easy to be jaded and take the work these people do for granted but even this severely jaded gay man teared up when the LGBTQ Youth of the Year Award was presented and feisty Nathan Truppe and 15-year-old Adam McMaster tied for the award and instantly shared it with the other nominees and a group hug ensued. The future is in good hands.

The entertainment was of wildly varying quality but all done with enthusiasm. The cavernous acoustics and lack of air conditioning of Hart House's Great Hall did no-one any favours except for Jeffery Straker who's stunning voice filled the venue with a powerful rendition of "Hallelujah." The crowd ranged from glittery to gritty which made the conversations fascination and the commitment to community was palpable. Hosts Shannon McDonough and Mike Chalut kept things moving and if a nickel had gone into a jar every time Chalut called the crowd "sexy" or "gorgeous" the Inspire Awards would be financed well into the next decade. 

Spicing the crowd with representatives from the leather community (passes to Leather Pride Weekend were part of the prize packages for those honoured) was a great idea, and both the bar and Michelle DuBarry (who took great glee in playfully spanking while remaining radiantly elegant) benefitted. And any chance to hear the divine Anna Willats deliver a barnbuster of a call to arms is welcome. 

Of course the real story of the evening was that, for probably the first time in history, nominee Ryan G Hinds missed a photo-op with the gathered nominees. If there was a gay Enquirer it would be the headline. "I was in the green room scarfing pizza," moaned Hinds. "Though it was really good pizza."



Awards were presented in the following categories:

Inspiring Community Organization of the Year: Trans Lobby Group
LGBTQ Positive Business of the Year: Glad Day Bookstore
LGBTQ Youth of the Year: Nathan Truppe and Adam McMaster
LGBTQ Person of the Year: Candice Kelly
LUX Award: David Buchan
Lifetime Achievement Award: Anna Willats and Salah Bachir
Special Presentation: Stuart Milk is proud to be a media sponsor of the Inspire Awards.