Kate McKinnon Just Gave the Most Moving Speech About Her Sexuality at the 2020 Golden Globes
Awards shows aren’t always known for being sites of social progress—this year alone, for example, no women were nominated in the Best Director category of the Golden Globes—but this year’s speech by Kate McKinnon at the 2020 Globes was a rare and welcome standout moment for LGBTQ+ performers, and highlighted progress in Hollywood since Ellen DeGeneres first came out in 1997.
McKinnon presented DeGeneres with the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television, which honors “outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen,” according to a press release from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. McKinnon talked movingly, and hilariously, about watching Ellen come out on TV just as she was asking herself questions about her own sexuality.
“In 1997, when Ellen’s sitcom was at the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking, Am I…gay? And I was,” McKinnon said dryly, adding, “And I still am. But that’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself. It’s sort of like doing 23 and Me and discovering that you have alien DNA. And the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV.”
The speech was infused with McKinnon’s signature wit—she thanked DeGeneres for passing down gifts such as “two pairs of Stan Smith sneakers”—but it was readily apparent just how profoundly DeGeneres had inspired and mentored McKinnon. “If I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, ‘I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBTQ people be on TV.’ And more than that, I would have gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe even didn’t have a right to be here. So thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot at a good life,” McKinnon said.
DeGeneres is a well-known half of a powerful celebrity couple—she’s been married to actress Portia de Rossi since 2008—but McKinnon’s speech also captured a different facet of queer identity that isn’t as frequently discussed as romantic love: friendship. Many queer people experience rejection by their families of origin, with lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth who come from highly rejecting families being 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. That makes queer friendship and community, or “chosen family,” a matter of life or death for some. And the entertainment industry might appear progressive, but a 2018 GLAAD study reported that Hollywood was “failing LGBT characters,” which makes the bond between queer comedians like McKinnon and DeGeneres all the more important.
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