On Thursday, pop superstar Britney Spears received the Vanguard Award at the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards in L.A., She joins an elite group of celebrities honored for promoting the equality and acceptance of LGBT people, including Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Jackson, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Spears has long been an ally to the community—participating in Spirit Day, writing a letter opposing Texas’ bathroom bill, and appearing in GLAAD’s “Hands” music video honoring Pulse victims. She’s even sent a personal message to a gay couple who got married at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas before her performance.
— Mashable (@mashable) April 27, 2015
“To be able to express yourself as an individual through art is such a blessing,” Spears said in her acceptance speech at the Beverly Hilton. “We can lift each other up and show our gifts without hesitation.”
But the road to full LGBT equality remains long, and there’s lots more a powerful ally like Spears can do. Here are a few suggestions.
LGBT people, especially trans women of color, experience violence at an alarming rate: According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs 2017 had the highest number of bias-related homicides of LGBT people, an increase of 26% from 2016. This is a cause Britney can mobilize around, as many fans of the “Stronger” singer draw strength from her music.
Federal anti-discrimination protectionsGetty Images
With no federal laws protecting sexual minorities from employment discrimination, the workplace can be “toxic” for queer people: In 28 states, including Spears’ home state of Louisiana, you can be fired just for who you are or who you love. Maybe Britney can pay Governor John Bel Edwards a visit next time she visits Kentwood?
Inclusive health careGetty Images
Stigma and ignorance often result in LGBT people receiving poor (or no) health care, resulting in shorter life expectancies and higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
As someone who’s struggled in her own life, Britney could be a powerful voice on this issue.
Sex traffickingPaul Bradbury/Getty Images
Four years ago in Spears’ home state, a transgender woman was held captive and sexually abused for 24 months, just one example of how LGBT sex trafficking is often overlooked and underreported. Homeless
LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable, with nearly half reporting having been sexually exploited.
In many parts of the world, LGBT people are still forced to undergo archaic and invasive treatment rooted in the belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder. According to the Williams Institute, 57,000 teens in the U.S. alone will undergo conversion therapy before they turn 18. Approximately 20,000—or the number of attendees at a sold-out Britney concert—will be subjected to the ineffective and harmful treatment by licensed health-care professionals.
Though it’s been discredited by nearly every reputable medical association, conversion therapy is still legal in 39 states. In her acceptance speech, Britney revealed that, “Being a mother has shown me what it means to love unconditionally,” making her perfectly suited to inspire other parents to feel the same.
Congratulations on the honor, Britney. The LGBT community is glad to have you as an ally.
Watch the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards, April 18 at 8/7 on Logo.