In the midst of the Angie Zapata murder trial in Greeley, Colo., which came to a conclusion last week with the sentencing of Allen Andrade, I was able to travel with Angie's sisters Monica and Stephanie - along with their close family friend Tina Blea - from Colorado to Los Angeles for the GLAAD Media Awards.
Univision's Aqui y Ahora had been nominated for two segments on Angie's story in the Spanish Language Newsmagazine Category. As Monica Trasandes, GLAAD's Director of Spanish Language Media, wrote last week, when the winner was announced, Monica Zapata joined Aqui y Ahora producer Belisa Morillo onstage to accept the award.
The trip gave me an important opportunity to connect to Angie's family. Having attended the Angie Zapata murder trial in Greeley all day Apr. 17, the Zapatas and I were forced to delay our flight due to a massive snowstorm in Denver, postponing our flight to Saturday morning.
While we were held over, I had the opportunity, for the first time, to have a very casual conversation with Monica, Stephanie and Tina. Previously we had talked many times, but they were almost always focused conversations about our work with the media around Angie's life and death.
What has become abundantly clear to me with every conversation I have with this remarkable family is how much they love Angie - and how much they stick together.
Over dinner they remarked that their trip to Los Angeles for the GLAAD Media Awards was particularly significant to them because of Angie. "You know, this was Angie's dream. She dreamed of going away, being famous, and having her picture everywhere. She would have loved to take this trip," they told me. They said that Angie dreamed big, and they feel that their first trip to LA was an opportunity to honor her dreams.
They also told me that Angie's favorite movie was A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story, which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Television Movie in 2007. In life, Angie saw a lot of similarities between herself and Gwen. She used to make her family watch the movie over and over with her.
It is devastating that now Gwen and Angie share more than the same life story - but that they were both victims of anti-transgender violence.
In court on the day before she arrived in L.A., Monica recounted that she used to tell Angie to be safe "every day." She worried about the cruelty that exists in the world against transgender people.
At the event, she stood up while accepting the award and said these words to the audience:
"My family, some who are with me here tonight, always loved and supported Angie. We understood that she was born in a boy's body but she was a woman. So many transgender people do not receive that love, acceptance and support.
I would like to thank the reporter and producers of the Aqui y Ahora segment for treating Angie and her story with so much respect. And for telling her story to Latino audiences.
Thank you to GLAAD for bringing us here, for recognizing Angie's story and for helping us with the trial, and more. To all of you here tonight, I would like to say exactly what I would tell Angie if she was here. Be yourself and be proud of who you are. No tengas verguenza. Eres una buena persona (Don't be ashamed, you are a good person.)"
You can also watch a video of producer Belissa Morillo accepting the award for the Aqui y Ahora segments as well as Monica's speech below:
The resolve of seeing this wonderful family stand up and demand dignity is inspiring. It is my hope, that as this family continues to speak up they can, as Monica implores people, "change the world for Angie."