Writer Matthew Lopez has said he grew up “equating being gay with dying”.
The writer has won the Olivier Award for best new play for his ambitious two-part work The Inheritance.
Lopez has said the play marks the end of a long journey from fear over his sexuality to acceptance by the theatre-going public.
The Inheritance, which deals with the Aids epidemic which caused Lopez such fear, has also been honoured with an award for Stephen Daldry, who directed the play in London.
Lopez spoke at the Royal Albert Hall after his win at the Oliver Awards.
He told the Press Association: “I grew up in the 1990s in the panhandle of Florida which is very religiously conservative area.
“I grew up in the midst of the Aids epidemic.
“I was seven when I first understood what was going on in the world.
“I grew up equating being gay with dying.
“It took years to accept who I was and claim my place in the world.
“This play feels like a culmination of that very long journey.”
He added that each honest portrayal of being gay helps to change stereotypes and allow people to be properly represented.
He added: “Telling your story gives people courage to tell their own.
“We’re arriving at a time where we can celebrate each other’s stories.”
The play also won the award for best lighting.