Courage Awards 2023: A Night of Queer Joy & Resilience

The annual event was held for the second year at the Tribeca Rooftop in Manhattan. AVP honored Qween Jean, Cameron Esposito, Our Lady J and the LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces of New York City.

Courage Awards is AVP’s signature gala event honoring trailblazers in community who are using their power and platform to make change in our world. This year’s honorees have worked tirelessly to uplift the voices of our most marginalized siblings, such as our communities of color, TGNCNB folks, and survivors of sexual violence.  

Qween Jean, an instrumental voice for Black Queer and Trans Liberation spoke to the audience about having courage and affecting change during her acceptance speech saying, “to me courage means to see our rage, that you feel it and that it activates something within you that really harnesses and catapults us to a place that we not only see change but that we’re living it, embodying it.” 

Cameron Esposito, whose acclaimed show “Rape Jokes” centered their experiences as a queer survivor spoke about not shying away from acknowledging being a survivor and the importance of naming it in Community saying to the Courage crowd, “When I thought about actually not coming, [I realized] to say that I am survivor of sexual violence, to say that I’m a survivor of the violence against my soul that came when I was rejected by faith, friends, and family, and to say that I’m a survivor of the violence that I see everyday when someone looks at my haircut or my pants and I don’t know if they’re going to call me a slur or punch me in the face, to say that to you meant a lot to me because I know that’s why you do that work that you do.” 

Our Lady J, the first trans person to play at Carnegie Hall and one of the first trans folks in a writer’s room, spoke out about rebuffing societal conditioning of minimizing LGBTQ pain during the event saying, “Far too often, LGBTQ survivors of violence are taught to make our pain not worth things to be tended to at all. We diminish our existence and tolerate more than we should because we are conditioned to believe that we are lucky to have even a moment of peace. And while any moment of peace is a blessing, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue a life of peace.” 

This year, AVP also honored the unique experiences of our LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces, and their resilience in the face of growing threats. Eric Sosa, AVP Board member and co-owner of NYC bars Good Judy and C’mon Everybody accepted the award on behalf of New York City’s LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces.  

Introduced by AVP’s Director of Community Organzing & Public Advocacy, Audacia Ray, Mr. Sosa spoke on behalf of New York City Safe Spaces, emphasizing the responsibility of all business owners to protect and care for LGBTQ+ patrons saying, “For many of us, our introduction to queerness and community was via a queer safe space and is such a central part of our self-discovery. Creating a safe space is a full-time commitment. As business owners, we are responsible for ensuring that everyone who walks through our doors is cared for, respected, and protected.” 

The Courage Awards represents the joy and strength of our communities, while highlighting the impact of AVP’s work. There is still time to support AVP’s programs and services helping LGBTQ+ and HIV-affected survivors heal.  

“Courage is our way to remember the great work we have done, but also recharge for the work ahead,” says Tillery. “And we need everyone to be recharged and ready to unite for a safer, freer future for all of us.” 

AVP is only able to do its work with support from community, visit our Donate page to support the work against anti-LGBTQ+ violence.