GLAAD Needs to Rethink Awards, or Its Mission
02/27/2011 11:57 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
Adrian Margaret Brune A.M. Brune is a freelance writer and contributor to The Guardian, The Nation, the New Yorker and This Land Press
As a reporter who covers LGBT activism, the other morning I received the following question in my oft-overstuffed inbox:
When the GLAAD awards start to resemble The Golden Globes and all other mainstream award shows does this mean?
1a) GLAAD is redundant?
2b) Queers have finally made it?
3c) GLAAD needs to revisit its mission statement?
4d) ___________ (your answer)
The e-mail came in response to the announcement that for the 25th year, in the middle of awards season, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) would host its annual media awards. The nominees read like a Who’s Who gallimaufry of not only the Golden Globes, but also the Oscars, the SAG awards, the Emmys, the Tonys and every other celebrity television vehicle one could possible imagine. For the consideration of the gays, we have, among others, “The Kids Are All Right,” the Ginsberg biopic “Howl,” Fox’s hit show “Glee” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for Ricky Martin’s first televised interview. Aside from “Prodigal Sons,” a transgender coming-home story, it’s hardly a groundbreaking array.
The author of the e-mail — the founder of a popular lesbian website — did not necessarily post to provoke, but to solicit feedback about whether her online magazine should cover the red carpet at the awards. “We’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now, and that is starting to feel like a very superficial reason,” said Grace Moon of VelvetPark.
Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy my celebrity photos and red-carpet walking just as much as the next media gadfly. I also appreciate that the organizations representing my interests look and act modern, if not a little trendy. But Moon is right: Either she needs to rethink covering GLAAD, or GLAAD needs to rewrite its mission statement. Because when I consider GLAAD, I think of the things its celebrated oogling is costing LGBT people.
For starters, for the past two years, a backlash in the LGBT community has been taking place over the amount of money large LGBT organizations have been putting into fruitless lobbying and endless awards shows. They now seem to be filling in the many gaps GLAAD and others have left while chasing celebrities. One grassroots group coming out of the backlash, Queer Rising, conducted a “die-in” at Grand Central Terminal to protest the six LGBT bullying suicides last September. Despite its pledge to ensure that “the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media,” GLAAD skipped the “die-in” as well as the other events that took place that awful week. Last summer, members of GetEQUAL, another new LGBT group, chained themselves to the White House fence to protest DADT. Even though its mission proclaims that GLAAD helps “grassroots organizations communicate effectively,” not a single GLAAD rep came to DC that day. Finally, GLAAD’s clear lack of pulse came shortly after the beating LGBT people took at the hands of anti-gay politicians and their religious fans (Carl Paladino, anyone?) in the November elections — happily highlighted in all the right-leaning dailies. GLAAD remained mum, overlooking that pesky part of its mission statement about “holding the media accountable for the words and images they present.” Member of GLAAD’s Religion, Faith and Values team couldn’t be bothered to attend a march led by LGBT-friendly ecumenical leaders in early December, either.
GLAAD and its media awards used to celebrate the “unsung heroes” — the regular people writing about LGBT issues and putting their lives on the line to stand up to the mainstream. Even though GLAAD still invites “those people” to its show (Judy Shepherd — bereaved mother of the slain Matthew — might still make an appearance), it basically tramples over them to throw awards at the people who act as lesbian moms and gay poets in the movies.
So, in staying true to answering the question put before me last month, I have devised a new mission statement for GLAAD: “The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering people to sit in offices in New York and L.A., watch TV and every now and then issue a report shaming “Saturday Night Live” over its drag skits or N.F.L. football commentators for making “Brokeback Mountain” jokes. The rest of the time, it prepares for a Media Awards show that hardly gets any coverage in the press anymore and celebrates the movies, TV shows and actors already honored by mainstream award shows.