While accepting the award for Icon of the Year at the Out100 party in Los Angeles on Thursday night, Carlile opened up about feeling like she never expected to live to old age because of her queer identity.
The singer-songwriter started her speech — which took place during the ceremony for influential LGBTQ+ stars who help make the world more inclusive and representative — by reminiscing about when she was a young, closeted lesbian.
“This is utterly surreal to me,” she said. “It's amazing standing here and thinking about being a teenager, coming out of the closet around 14 years old and cutting out pictures of lesbians in suits and hanging them on my wall.”
Out100: Brandi Carlile Accepts Icon of the Year Award
Carlile said she was recently reminded of the importance of seeing yourself and your identity represented in media — even if it’s just photos cut out of magazines.
“We use the term representation matters so often that it's become a buzzword,” the “Bring My Flowers Now” singer said. “It's our battle cry. We cry it all the time, at every corner of pop culture in the west, to try and justify the fact that so much of what we believe we are, so much of what we know we are comes from pop culture.”
Carlile said that she was recently having a conversation with soccer star Abby Wombach and author Glennon Doyle when she realized she had a deep-seated belief that she would die young. When the friends started to interrogate that thought together, she realized it’s because older queer people are scarcely represented.
“We don't have a lesbian Golden Girls,” the 42-year-old said. “You know what I mean? And I thought about the annals of LGBTQIA+ history, and the fact that so few of us are represented in domesticity, in family, and the aged state, and I thought about the fact that the way we identify ourselves is so interwoven into Western pop culture, that if we don't see an old version of us, we don't think we will love a long life. And that's why nights like tonight make so much of an impact on our family and our community.”