This was the question Velvetpark editors asked ourselves when we read the list of the nominees for the 25 annual GLAAD media awards. It seemed to read like the award ceremony for the recent Golden Globes. Our thought was if our organizations start to resemble other mainstream organizations, then have our orgs become irrelevant and redundant, or do they still serve a purpose?
With the growing divide between Gay Inc. and grassroots, our editorial board's opinions fell on both sides of this debate. Here's what a few of us had to say.
Adrian: Is GLAAD still relevant to the LGBT community? Yes, there is some value, in that GLAAD is basically the LGBT PR agency, acting as spokesperson when the media maligns us, though there are fewer and fewer instances of that, and in promoting LGBT tolerance through personal histories and stories. But GLAAD's media shift has changed so much that it no longer really focuses on the stories that make or break our community. Rather, it is caught up in the snare of celebrity culture, just like most of the major print and broadcast outlets in the mainstream. The GLAAD awards used to celebrate the "unsung heroes"—the regular people who were writing about LGBT issues and putting their lives on the line to stand up to the mainstream. Now GLAAD just celebrates the people who act those roles in the movies and on TV.
Amy: First, to your point on celebrity culture: I think that the fact that there is more and more LGBT representation in mainstream media is the reason that GLAAD has an opportunity to talk about big time celebs. In the past, none of them were talking about or representing us. So, I think that's a good thing.
Can we back up a minute though? I think that to talk about the GLAAD media awards is a specific issue within the debate of whether GLAAD is relevant at all, because they do lots of different things. So about the awards—I think that it's a great way to reward the advancements we've made, as far as visibility. Sure, some of the nominees are horrible, or rather, insignificant, and some of the categories make no sense, but other than that, as a general concept, I think they're awesome.
Jenny: I basically agree with Amy. I've never been one to notice or care in regard to ANY of the awards shows; I don't know when the Oscars or the Golden Globes happen, it's just not relevant to me—I like what I like regardless. However, knowing that celebrity culture is an inescapable part of our culture, I do feel it's important for the LGBT community to have some sort of organized voice/outlet to give the mainstream media a pat on the back when they do a good job with gay representation. The idea of a "gay mainstream" IS progress—there was no such thing 50 or even 25 years ago! And it doesn't mean we ALL have to become mainstreamed to appreciate that distinction.
Adrian: I see your points, for sure. However, besides the awards, what does GLAAD really do anymore? Other than protesting the "T" in LGBT, I hardly see GLAAD's name on anything. Right now, there is a backlash in the gay community in which gays are frustrated with the big money organizations, such as GLAAD and HRC, and mobilizing their own grassroots groups. One, Queer Rising, conducted a "die-in" at Grand Central to protest the suicides last fall. Where was GLAAD? Probably ensuring it had secured its venue and guests for the media awards.
Last summer, members of various groups (Equality Now was one) chained themselves to the White House fence to protest DADT. Where was GLAAD? Probably securing sponsors for the media awards. I'll cite one example: Queer Rising led a protest in November against all the anti-gay rhetoric in the religious community. GLAAD didn't even know about it. I know because I told one of the media people about it, even though I was not participating. My point is that GLAAD is out of touch with the community and the media awards are coming at that expense.
Jenny: Ok, so I actually completely agree with that—I'm also close with the folks at Queer Rising, and I agree that GLAAD is not at all in touch with a lot of the real LGBT progressive activism that's going on...