This post is very difficult for me to write. I am a fan of the work that GLAAD does. I think the homophobic nature of many media institutions and outlets do continue to negatively perpetuate false stereotypes, and therefore unnecessarily continue the ongoing culture war between the conservative and gay worlds. I have had history with GLAAD. A few years ago when I was getting lied about, and attacked in the secular national media by a very outspoken, radical gay media figure, GLAAD helped me through the whole situation. I’ll never forget the phone call I was on with one of the directors of GLAAD who said the following:
“I apologize on behalf of the gay community, who this man attacking you is a part of. Today, I am very embarrassed for our community. He doesn’t speak for me, or for us. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is not just here to watch for hate speech against the gay community, but also for hate speech from the gay community against others. His lies against you are wrong, and we will not tolerate them and work to fix them.”
And you know what, GLAAD kept their word! They stopped this man, and because of that they stopped me from continuing to receive the hate mail, the death threats and the very negative impact from the lies being spread around. They had my back when I needed it the most. They stuck their neck out on the line for me, when by all means they shouldn’t have ever done so. I am truly humbled, and indebted to their work and boldness. Without them having my back at the most crucial point of my life to that moment, I don’t know if I could have been able to continue because the gay community was listening to what this guy was making-up. But because the most reputable source in the gay community stood up for me, it was in some way a shield that has protected me since; and fostered so many unbelievable relationships. For these reasons it is very hard for me to communicate the following message.
I know that the more conservative audience that reads this blog probably thinks that GLAAD “runs the media”. But in reality they offer advice and suggestions regarding accurate portrayals of GLBT persons when approached by networks and programming. There are also times, like the one I am going to describe, where GLAAD sees some type of injustice against the GLBT community and brings to light such issues to hold said institutions accountable.
The past few days GLAAD has been sending out a joint release with the United Church of Christ (UCC) regarding CBS’s decision to accept a Super Bowl advertisement from Focus on the Family. You can see the release here. And here is a related article from the Washington Post. The main issue GLAAD has in this situation is that in 2004 CBS denied the UCC ads that promoted a gay-inclusive church; and now in 2010 are accepting an ad from a well known conservative (anti-gay inclusion) organization such as Focus on the Family. Here are a few thoughts:
First, we live in a consumer based, free market society. By law, CBS can accept or deny any ads they want to—and also have the right to change their minds regarding the metric of what they deem as an appropriate message. As the CBS executives recently stated to the AP on why the UCC’s commercial was “unacceptable to broadcast”:
“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch [Bush Administration] has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”
I know that GLAAD does not think this debate should be held in a vacuum of 2010 vs. 2004, but as culture changes, so can advertisement messages.
Second, the Focus on the Family ad is about abortion, not the gay community or any legal policies the gay community is fighting for. If such an ad means so much to the UCC and to GLAAD, then just pay for a commercial reiterating your particular message—because as we’ve seen, the metric has changed for CBS over the years. So there should be no problem. Utilize their medium. None of this means that I agree with Focus on the Family or appreciate their lack of tact in how they handle most every situation.
The part that waves some flags for me though, is that GLAAD is infringing upon a freedom of not only the ability to communicate a message (no matter how appropriate or inappropriate anyone outside of CBS might think it is—from my perspective: see any beer commercials (although clever) or godaddy.com commercials as well), but also infringing upon the right of our consumerist culture to choose for themselves what they want to promote. Focus on the Family has every right to purchase an advertisement, just as the UCC and GLAAD. The last thing I want to see is our culture continuing down this harmful path of bullying “the other side” into aligning with one’s perspective. GLAAD might suggest that the Focus on the Family commercial is harmful and are trying to do the same thing; and that could be true. But it doesn’t mean CBS has to be mass-mobbed like they have done something wrong.
And believe me, if Focus on the Family were doing this to GLAAD or the UCC, you better believe I would be communicating this exact message! Bridge building is a two-way street, and until someone is willing to step up and stop this crazy back and forth, how can culture change? It can’t. And mob-mentality force doesn’t do anything except drive warring communities further apart.
Just so you all know, I am emailing this post to my friend on GLAAD’s leadership team. I hope they, just as they have a wonderful track-record of doing, will engage me in this discussion.