Kate McKinnon Honors Ellen DeGeneres at the Golden Globes

Ellen and Kate via @theellenshow Instagram

Awards show season is in full swing. For some of us, it’s enough to thirst over your celebrity crush as she struts down the red carpet. But now and then, something meaningful happens. This past Sunday at the Golden Globes, Kate McKinnon awarded Ellen DeGeneres with the Carol Burnett Award. While she hit us with some laughs, her heartfelt tribute to Ellen caused a few tears.

McKinnon started off her speech by listing things Ellen gave her. Of the things she mentioned, several were articles of clothing essential to serving some Lesbian Looks. And who can deny Ellen’s sense of style? But as she continued, she said Ellen gave her “a sense of self.” While many lesbians watching understood immediately, McKinnon felt she needed to explain.

“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. 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. She risked her entire life and her entire career to tell the truth. And she suffered greatly for it.”

She really did. Shortly after coming out, Ellen’s TV show was cancelled most likely because ABC’s parent company, Disney was uncomfortable with her homosexuality. She lost her sponsors and her livelihood. But she kept going. McKinnon went on to say it was Ellen taking this risk to publicly come out that gave her hope. But more importantly, she finally saw someone like her being open, honest, and proud of who she is. “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.”

We’ve all had that moment where we saw a lesbian on TV and thought, “I’m okay. There’s nothing wrong with me. I will be okay.” For McKinnon, it was the day Ellen came out. Ellen DeGeneres cemented her place in lesbian history because she changed the world for us. She told us we no longer have to hide in the shadows or lie about who we are.

That night, the Golden Globes honored Ellen for her excellence in comedy. But Kate McKinnon honored her for creating a whole new world for lesbians, a world where we might live as freely and as honestly as her… a world AfterEllen.