By C. Molly Smith
November 09, 2014 at 04:42 PM EST

The Los Angeles LGBT Center hosted its 45th Anniversary Gala Vanguard Awards Saturday night, honoring Marvel; George and Brad Takei; and Zev Yaroslavsky for their LGBT advocacy. Cort Lane, Marvel’s VP of Animation Development, accepted the Corporate Vanguard Award on behalf of Marvel Entertainment, presented by Two And A Half Men’s Holland Taylor. George and Brad Takei were the International Vanguard Award honorees, with Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor, as the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award honoree.

“For Marvel, I think it’s a really wonderful validation. They’ve been trying for decades, in publishing, to tell real stories about real people and that includes portrayals of LGBT characters,” Lane said. “For me, as a gay man who grew up reading these comics, and being really encouraged and inspired by these characters, it’s pretty awesome.” Lane pointed to Hulkling and Wiccan, two gay, teenage boys who have an ongoing love story in Young Avengers, as one of his favorite storylines featuring LGBT characters.

George and Brad have been married for six years and are fierce champions for the LGBT community. George, best known for his turn as Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, pointed out that his career has tracked the progress of LGBT visibility. “I started in the business back in the ’50s when LGBT people did not exist on television or in movies,” George said. “Compare that to what we have today.” He noted that there are series based on LGBT people, and that urban dramas set in major cities reflect the diversity of those areas, which often extends to the LGBT community.

Yaroslavsky, who has dedicated much of his 40-year career to LGBT advocacy, will finish his time in office in three weeks. He received an award named after a close friend and fellow advocate, Schrader, who died from AIDS. Of the honor, Yaroslavsky said, simply but well stated, “This means a lot to me.”

The honorees tell a story of progress, and while this progress is evident in their accomplishments, there’s still always ways to improve. Red Band Society‘s Wilson Cruz pointed out that gay, white men in supporting roles occupy much of the LGBT representation on screen. He believes that A) there could be even more representation, particularly in mainstream Hollywood film, and B) that these representations need to be more diverse. “Our stories should be front and center,” Cruz said. “There’s a vast array of stories that need to be told and should be told and can be told, that are funny, dramatic, and worthy of being seen.”

There are steps that can be taken to improve visibility and, more importantly, understanding. For Jay Duplass, who stars on Amazon’s Transparent, continued progress is all in the storytelling. “I think it really comes down to people telling personal stories, and telling great stories, that are truthful and revealing,” Duplass said. “That’s what’s going to break the barriers down. Once people connect with their heart, there’s no limit.”