Monday, March 26, 2007

GLAAD Responds to Criticisms Over Media Awards Nomination Policies

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Neil Giuliano issued a statement on Friday to respond to criticisms over its long-standing policy of excluding LGBT media outlets from its annual Media Awards.

Giuliano's statement explains GLAAD's reasoning behind the policy and he further discusses it with New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters []. Giuliano, in particular, said GLAAD is "always open to having conversations with all the key stakeholders in the broader LGBT movement" in the context of this policy. Fine. But a leading LGBT organization cannot send an exclusionary message to the community of which its own mission statement claims to work on behalf if it hopes to maintain its credibility. This statement indicates GLAAD's leadership is clearly worried about how this controversy may affect its image and hopefully a meaningful change in its current policy will result.

Friday, March 23, 2007

LGBT Media Watchdog Organization Excludes LGBT Media from Annual Awards Ceremony

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has come under fire in recent days for its decision to exclude LGBT media from its annual Media Awards. This policy has been in place for some time but it has come to light after the gay and lesbian television network here! severed ties with the media watchdog organization earlier this week. The Los Angeles Daily News published a story on March 21 that detailed the decision [] while Huffington Post contributor Gabriel Rotello [] and others have weighed in on the controversy.

GLAAD President Neil Giuliano told here! in an undated correspondence the organization's Board of Directors determined the focus of the Media Awards should remain on mainstream media after Logo, another cable network geared towards the LGBT community, raised the same concern last year. Giuliano further said he thinks "we should work to create a way to recognize LGBT-focused media, and am hopeful someday we will do."

Here! Senior Vice President of Corporate and Marketing Communications Stephen Macias rejected this explanation in a letter to Giuliano and GLAAD's Board dated March 20. Macias
cites GLAAD's own mission statement [] and adds the Media Awards criteria are "completely at odds" with it. He also urges GLAAD to either change its mission statement or discontinue the "exclusion of gay media from submitting work for a GLAAD Media Award."

This controversy is not about whether here! is a viable medium or whether GLAAD is a viable organization but rather, it is about a long-standing policy that raises some very troubling questions. GLAAD's work remains vitally important and those within the organization continue to work tirelessly to promote fair, accurate and inclusive coverage of LGBT people in the media. GLAAD's policy to exclude LGBT media outlets from the Media Awards, however, sends a strong message of exclusion to the community of which it own mission statement claims to work on behalf. The LGBT community has gained significant visibility over the last decade and has, in many ways, found an outlet within so-called mainstream media on marriage equality, adoption and a host of other important social, political and economic issues. GLAAD can certainly take some credit for this reality. But to exclude its own community members from its own awards ceremony threatens to undermine much of that goodwill. This policy from an organization that is so concerned about it's own image is very troubling indeed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Unintended Cost of American Immigration Policy

The detention of more than 300 undocumented workers at a New Bedford, Mass., factory earlier this month was the latest in a series of high-profile raids in the federal government's ongoing efforts to curb undocumented immigration into the United States. The raid left dozens of children stranded at school or with their caretakers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] quickly transported more than 200 of the factory workers to detention centers in New Mexico and Texas. Mothers were, in many cases, unable to speak with their children and published reports even indicate one baby who was breast-feeding was hospitalized for dehydration after authorities took her mother into custody.

This latest raid demonstrates yet again the unnecessary human suffering the federal government's continued purge of undocumented immigrants has inflicted on families in this country. Children, many of whom were born in the United States and are American citizens, remain victims of a policy motivated by xenophobic officials who continue to place their own political and personal objectives over the basic humanity and dignity of those who are most directly impacted. Case in point; the Los Angeles Times reported last month on the plight of 9-year-old Khadijah Bessuges and her father Sebastien [,0,3154088.story?coll=la-home-nation]. The two are currently detained in an 8-by-15 foot cell at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor, Texas. Khadijah and her father were placed into custody in Phoenix a day after Bessuges visited a federal immigration center to extend his visa. This family is part of the Department of Homeland Security's most recent plan to detain undocumented immigrants until their cases go before a judge.

These camps are symbolic of the strong tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, especially against non-White and non-English speaking people, that continues to manifest itself in federal and state governmental policy. Proponents of these policies continue to justify these crackdowns as a necessary tool to protect the United States from terrorists and future terrorist attacks. Terrorists? Do Khadijah Bessuges and her father really constitute a threat to national security? Are the more than 300 factory workers detained in New Bedford, who made vests and backpacks for U.S. military personnel [], really terrorists? Most likely not, but these raids continue to deny these people and their families their basic humanity and dignity that this country repeatedly claims to export to countries around the world.

There is certainly no easy answer to remedy this unfortunate situation. But Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Executive Director Ali Noorani sums it up best in a recent interview with the Associated Press. Noorani told the news agency "As a country, we should not put our youngest citizens at risk of hunger, homelessness and living without parents." Indeed. This country can certainly do much better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gay Gotham Carries On Without the Roxy

It's now official... the Roxy has closed its doors after more than 15-years [and appearances from Madonna, Cher and other gay icons] as one of New York's most prominent, beloved or loathed gay club depending upon one's point of view. Life as we gay New Yorkers know it will never be the same again!

Yet, I could barely contain my queer distain, however, after reading Roxy owner John Blair's comments in Monday's New York Times [] about how the Roxy signified the emergence of the so-called Chelsea era. The article discussed in depth Blair's system that he used to rate clubgoers who passed through his velvet rope and told the reporter 'Four is for people we have to let in free -- either they're really hot or they're a friend of mine or somehow important in the club community.' Seriously John, on which planet do you currently live? I'm certainly no prude about the realities of gay life in the city but let's not insult the people who continue to feed the ever growing -- and diverse -- pink empire in New York and across the country. Times continue to change and people like Blair and his ilk should move past the gay nostalgia in which they continue to live. We are now in the post-Roxy, and perhaps the post-Chelsea boy era...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Vaginas in the Cross Hairs

The Journal News in Westchester County, New York, reported today that administrators at John Jay High School in Cross River suspended Hannah Levinson, Megan Reback and Elan Stahl after they said the word ‘vagina’ during a reading of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at the school. [Cross River students, suspended for saying "vagina" at open mic, create media and community buzz] Administrators objected to the monologue “My Short Skirt” and had asked the students to refrain from reading the stanza “My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women’s army. I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina’s country.” The students ignored the request and were each given a one-day suspension.

Principal Rich Leprine defended the administration’s decision to suspend the students and said in a statement that the challenge is to “balance the rights of student speakers and the sensitivities of the community.” What exactly constitutes community sensibilities? Americans as a whole remain completely uncomfortable with the notion of open and honest conversations about sexuality. The word ‘vagina’ poses as much threat to the so-called sensitivities of the community as do articles about prostitution rings in the suburbs or blow jobs in the Oval Office. So what is all of this fuss really about? These three young women chose to discuss female sexuality in an honest and open way in the same vein that Ensler does in her collection of monologues. It just so happens that their principal, who is a man, objected to the word ‘vagina’ and decided to impose the suspensions. Draw your own conclusions… but I laud these young women for challenging a society that remains irrationally insecure about its own expressions of sexuality. They took a stand in support of their own bodies and sexuality at great personal risk. They are true vagina warriors!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Oops... They Did It Again!

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter called Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards a 'faggot' during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., on March 2. The New York Post reported that Junior's in Brooklyn has banned troubled artist Foxy Brown after she refused to pay for her food at the popular eatery. And the press detailed every twist and turn of Britney Spears' bizarre behavior last month before she again checked into rehab. Who actually cares about these people as they desperately seek to generate attention while their stars continue to sink?

Well, that question has perhaps an all too obvious answer -- Americans consume these stories in the same way that they consume junk food. They simply can't help themselves. But let's follow the lead of the Associated Press for a second and examine it's decision to ignore socialite Paris Hilton for a week []. The queen of shameless promotion [and sex videos] was arrested late last month for driving with a suspended license. The arrest was certainly not breaking news compared to the War in Iraq, the Presidential campaign and the tornadoes that had devastated parts of the South. The Associated Press, in its journalistic brilliance, decided to ignore the over-exposed heiress for one week. Kudos to the AP for actually showing some restraint and denying Hilton the coverage that she and her ilk obviously continue to crave. The agency did not provide the public with a play-by-play of her oh so fabulous life. The American public did not capitulate from the lack of Hilton coverage and we continued on with our lives. The same observation could be applied to Coulter, Foxy Brown and others who continue their desperate quest for attention while their stars continue to sink. These figures do little more than promote themselves with outrageous comments, self-serving press conferences and other PR tactics. Let's not be naive about their true motives, but we, as media consumers, can do better than falling into their ongoing cycle of self-promotion and selfish antics. Break the cycle!