A celebrated transgender activist has won Scotland’s first Icon Award.
Big-hearted Jennie Robertson, who for many years has volunteered to offer support to trans people in what are often very challenging circumstances, was given the top award at the flamboyant ceremony in Glasgow.
Jennie was “absolutely delighted” with the recognition, but insisted that “the main thing” is to continue supporting people at difficult times in their lives.
Bruce Devlin, the host for the night, told the assembled guests that Jennie is often “contacted by trans men and women who are depressed and can’t see the light. She’s saved dozens of lives.”
It was fitting that the Icon Award itself should go to an activist and volunteer – typical of the many unsung members of Scotland’s LGBTI community who have – and continue to – make immeasurable contributions to the causes of equality and acceptance.
The inaugural Icon Awards – recognising achievement in various categories from business to community projects – were held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow on Friday. In attendance, and entertaining, were Austrian Eurovision star Conchita Wurst, comedian Rhona Cameron, singer Angela G Brown and burlesque performer Taylor Huxley.
The diverse group of winners included Transsexual Stories (media portrayal), Vicky Allen (Journalist of the Year), Steven McLeod (Businessperson of the Year), The Waterloo Bar (Venue of the Year) and The Parsonage at Dunmore Park (Wedding Venue of the Year). The Gay Police Association followed up their success at the recent LGBTI Awards, clinching the Community Spirit Award.
Tesco Bank was crowned Employer of the Year, with Abandon Ship Apparel – which produces gender-neutral clothing – claiming the Business of the Year Award. The SNP’s Angela Crawley MP was presented with the Politician of the Year Award.
Conchita Wurst received the Rising Star Award, while Karen Dunbar was named Role Model of the Year and Michelle Visage received the award for Straight Ally. These went down well with those in the hall, but the evening was far from focused on big name winners.
The Uniformed Icon of the Year award was won by WO2 Dougie Graham who, in addition to being a trailblazer for equality and diversity in the Army, has worked tirelessly for Gay Dads Scotland. He also provides support to people serving in the armed forces who are struggling with coming out.
Volunteer of the Year was Tommy Clarke, fundraiser for Red Ribbon Bear who also work – again on a voluntary basis – for Gay Men’s Health. His award represented welcome recognition for his significant efforts in raising money for his chosen HIV and health-related charities – efforts that include running marathons, a zoombathon, walking 500 miles and having various parts of himself waxed or shaved.
It wasn’t merely the winners who were recognised, but the many other shortlisted nominees whose achievements were rightly being celebrated. The Role Model category, for example, also included the Rev Scott Rennie (who has been a consistent champion for LGBTI rights and inclusion with the Church of Scotland) and Julie Clarke, a transgender activist from the Isle of Coll. Others nominated for the Vonunteer of the Year award included David Sinclair from Pride Glasgow and Christopher Lang – shortlisted for his sterling work at the Castlemilk Yough Complex. Indeed, many of the unsung heroes from across Scotland were acknowledged and applauded which is perhaps the principal reason why events like this are so valuable.
World record breaking cyclist Graeme Obree was confirmed as Sporting Icon of the Year, but there was recognition for Glasgow-based LGBTI football team Saltire Thistle who received a Special Commendation Award for their contribution to promoting equality through sport.
The Entertainment of the Year prize was announced following a live run-off between the three shortlisted candidates – recording artist Allan Jay, circus performer Volcanic Ash and boylesque performer and cabaret singer Tom Harlow. Allan gave a steamy rendition of “I go to Pieces“, Volcanic Ash demonstrated what can only be described as creative display of tricks with hoops and Tom wowed the audience with a breathtaking show of his striptease showboy act. In what must have been a tough call for the judges, the award went to Volcanic Ash.
The evening is perhaps best remembered not for the awards themselves but for an event that occured just prior to the ceremony kicking off. To everyone’s surprise, Andrew Brown and Scott Hepburn had decided to get married at the event – helped by humanist celebrants Susan and Gerrie Douglas-Scott.
It was a special moment for the couple, who entered into a civil partnership two years ago and have been together for fifteen years – so much so they wanted to share it with “likeminded people”. Scott said: “We were very nervous but it’s fantastic. There was an opportunity here to share our happiness with everyone else. Just being married is the happiest moment of my life and sharing it with a room of likeminded people here to support equality, diversity and acceptance just makes it even more special.”
Photography from the event can be found below.