GLAAD held their quarterly town-hall meeting online this week to discuss their upcoming plans for the new year. GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, along with Vice President Lauren C Dowling, Zeke Stokes, VP of Programs and Monica Trasandes, Programs Director Spanish Language and Latino Media, spoke about their top three 2015 initiatives and fielded questions from the online audience.
Zeke Stokes VP of Programming, was reporting from Nashville which he called the “epicenter of the south” to discuss their Southern Stories initiative geared towards southern artists. These are “stories of LGBT people and families in the South and are not just for a natural audience,” Zeke stated, “but for a southern audience in a very authentic way that shows equality, inclusion and acceptance are not scary things, and in fact it is where we are headed as a country.”
Southern Stories have included recording artist Lance Bass and his husband, pop visual artist Michael Turchin talking about their E! Special “Lance Loves Michael.” Lance grew up in Mississippi and discusses what it means to be out and married. In the video Lance says, “”Once you’re able to say ‘husband,’ it just means so much more”
“If you are not on the side of acceptance, you’re in a growing minority and not a growing majority” Zeke continued, GLAAD likes to feel that these new initiatives are “enhancements of their ongoing work and want to think of GLAAD as a proactive force and our work has been well documented as it comes to working with the media but also holding the media accountable when necessary.”
Zeke Stokes also took quite a bit of time to talk specifically about the transgender community. “The transgender community lags behind when it comes to acceptance and inclusion and we have seen tragic stories everyday on transgender violence around this country and around the world. GLAAD is working everyday to combat this through the media…to educate the public about what it means to be transgender and what it doesn’t mean be someone who is not transgender and to capitalize on really what I see as a transgender moment in entertainment media that is happening this year to be a force for education and move that needle forward.”
Finally, GLAAD discussed the significance of Spirit Day on October 15th, 2015. Spirit Day is a way to show support to LGBT youth by taking a stand against bullying. The day is the third Thursday of October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month and is represented with the color purple; that color symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. “We were so proud that for the first time this past year the Empire State Building went purple and that was a great symbol ” GLAAD said.
Near the half-way point of the town-hall meeting, GLAAD began the Q & A session and fielded two questions about the transgender community.
“There is an epidemic of violence against trans-women of color on top of systemic barriers to education, housing , health and safety” asked an online audience member, “yet the media is far more fixated on Bruce Jenner and Transparent [the series]…How do we shift the attention to where its most needed and what is GLAAD doing to help?”
Monica Trasandes took this question and responded by saying that when stories like Bruce Jenner come into the media stream, GLAAD taps media folks to let them know that other stories about real people are not getting covered, specifically stories of the violence trans-men and trans-women are facing all around the country. “Its our job to reach out to them… to tell stories of real people.”
Another question was directed towards comments Zeke Stokes made earlier in the meeting. “Zeke mentioned that GLAAD is taking an initiative to educate the public about people who are transgender. [especially in this moment of media and entertainment exposure and interest] Can he elaborate on how GLAAD is educating the public and media?”
“Its something that we are working on everyday because this is an issue that has really been moved to the forefront so dramatically in the last year or so. We’ve been working on this for a long time and in fact GLAAD has been working with Laverne Cox several years before she sort of hit this moment that she is having in media this year and we are so excited that just yesterday she was named publicly as and actor in an upcoming CBS drama where she will play a transgender attorney, its a transgender role always intended for a transgender actress and that is a major turning point in network television, so we are incredibly excited about that. ”
“As it relates to day to day education of the public and the media GLAAD works on an ongoing basis with media to field specific questions they may have when they are covering a story…in an age of widely downsizing of news rooms many people have to cover lots of different issues over any given period of time. and so someone who may be a reporter working in a local news room somewhere who suddenly has to cover a transgender story may have never covered that issue before, never written that word in a story and so he or she has to educate themselves about this issue, meet a deadline, write a story and write something that is authentic and informational for readers”
Zeke elaborated by saying, “We work with an individual reporters and outlets on that in a nearly daily basis , we [GLAAD] are also quite often called to do workshops with entire news rooms about how to cover transgender issues or LGBT issues as a whole. We also have a great guide on our website at GLAAD.org that gives the media and the public a 101 when it comes to what issues are important to the transgender community and how to cover those authentically and effectively.”
Sarah Kate Ellis closed out the town-hall meeting and stated that these meetings would take place on a quarterly basis so that GLAAD can stay connected with the community and its allies.