The Most Memorable LGBT-Focused Oscar Acceptance Speeches

By: Kevin OKeeffe

Barring a freak change in voting patterns, Jared Leto will become an Academy Award-winning actor come Sunday evening. To some, the impending news may be stunning: My So-Called Life’s Jordan Catalano is going to win an Oscar!? For others, a more pressing concern is Leto's acceptance speech.

Leto came under fire on multiple occasions and for different reasons this Oscar season, including those questioning why he was cast as Dallas Buyers Club's Rayon instead of a trans actress, but on the whole, criticism was loudest about his award acceptance speeches. His Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor brought the biggest flare up. Leto has since corrected course, and we're eagerly anticipating a big win for him on Sunday.

Why not take a moment to look back on how others in Hollywood have proven that an Oscar speech can be a major milestone in LGBT history. Considering the award is for playing a trans character, some would argue it needs to be such a moment. Since we’re in the Oscar mood anyway, let’s take a look at them, from Swank to Hanks and a whole lot of Milk.

Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry, Best Actress (1999)

Swank wasn’t the first to play an LGBT character, nor the first to reference being inspired by an LGBT person in an acceptance speech. She was, however, the first to speak so openly about transgender rights in her tribute to Brandon Teena, the murdered transgender man who she played in Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry. This speech is more often remembered for Swank forgetting to thank then-husband Chad Lowe — she made it up to him when she won a second Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. But Swank deserves a place in the great acceptance speech canon for being bold, not only as an actress, but as an award winner.