Story at a glance
- GLAAD is a nongovernmental media watchdog that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.
- After launching the Trump Accountability Project, the organization is expanding the archive to include more than 200 politicians, commentators, organization heads, journalists and other public figures.
- The profiles of “anti-LGBTQ+” words and actions have already been met with pushback from some.
Since GLAAD launched the Trump Accountability Project during the former president’s administration, the catalog of anti-LGBTQ “words and actions” has been cited in more than 60,000 articles, says president Sarah Kate Ellis. Now, the media watchdog is expanding the project to hold more than 200 politicians, commentators, organization heads, journalists and other public figures accountable.
“You can see just by the reverberations of it over the past couple of days how important it is and how needed it is,” said Ellis, referring to pushback from some of the figures profiled in the project.
The archive was published before GLAAD could finish a final internal review last month and was immediately noticed online.
“GLAAD should absolutely take down this entire page on me. It’s irresponsible nonsense and I’m furious I had to take time out of my day to respond to it,” said Jesse Singal, a cisgender author and journalist who countered the profile in a post online (which was then countered by a trans journalist).
Anyway, I’m speaking up now because this bullshit @glaad is pulling is just appalling. Putting Singal on a list with people like Tony Perkins and Brian Brown and Keith Ablow is just fucking bullshit. It’s defamatory.https://t.co/kTKAs3aFnH
— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) March 22, 2021
.@glaad needs to fix this immediately. It’s totally inexcusable and discredits the organization.
GLAAD Took False, Previously Disproven Internet Scuttlebutt And Used It To Justify Putting Me On A List Of Anti-LGBT Bigotshttps://t.co/eJbbJIMEv1
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) March 22, 2021
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After criticism over revisions, which Ellis said were ongoing at the time, they did take the project down, saying, “no entries are being removed from the project, but additional profiles will be added and an official launch will happen soon.”
— GLAAD (@glaad) March 23, 2021
Now the project is up — officially — and GLAAD is prepared for more pushback. But, the group is also open to conversation “for real change” with Singal and others on the list, which Ellis said is intended to be a “living breathing document that will evolve.”
“We live in a time where what you say is documented, and that’s all this is, is a documentation,” she said. At the same time, “we are a community that if we weren’t open to conversations and people evolving, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Certainly, the media landscape has changed drastically since GLAAD was founded in 1985 as a protest against “defamatory and sensationalized” coverage of the LGBTQ+ community during the HIV and AIDS crisis. Entertainers like RuPaul and Laverne Cox have broken records and barriers for LGBTQ+ people in television and film, elevating the profile of this historically underrepresented and misrepresented community. But change has also come slowly — and at a price.
“I think it’s come to a boiling point now because the visibility of the transgender community has grown over the past five years,” said Ellis. “The rise of Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, the show ‘Pose’ — when you start to see popular culture really telling trans culture, which we are just so excited about, you also see on the other side the backlash to that, and that’s what we’re seeing in real time.”
Right now, more than half the states in the country are debating bills to limit access to sports or medical care for transgender people, while national lawmakers debate the Equality Act in Congress. Organizations including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign tracked an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policies over President Trump’s term in office that Ellis said was a natural extension of their previous work.
“What we saw at the end of that administration was that many members of that administration were being offered high profile positions and using their platforms to continue talking about whatever they felt was important,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that there was a place that was still holding them accountable for their actions and their words that were anti-LGBTQ.”
GLAAD, a nongovernmental media watchdog, plans to maintain the archive, adding and updating profiles as necessary, as a repository for journalists and other members of the media to consult in their research. Right now, the profiles include lawmakers who have proposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as well as public figures that Ellis said have a sustained history of using their platform “to spew lies and misinformation about the LGBGT community” that reach a large audience.
“When people with big platforms say awful and untrue things about our community it creates a dangerous environment for our community and GLAAD’s role is to inform and ensure accurate coverage and to speak up for vulnerable people who don’t have a platform or don’t have a seat in Congress,” she said.
Last year, a record number of transgender Americans were killed violently as hate crimes motivated by bias against gender identity increased by 20 percent. Transgender youth, who are the subject of many of the proposed laws restricting transgender rights, are especially at risk, with 40 percent reporting having considered suicide in the last year.
“The transgender community in our country is under attack,” said Ellis. “And I think that when you look at these over 200+ profiles, a lot of these anti-LGBTQ people are anti-trans. This is urgent because this constant misinformation is used to create laws against the transgender community or attack them physically and emotionally.”
Still, the GLAAD president has hope for a time when this project will no longer be necessary.
“We also see tremendous support for the trans community and Americans don’t support discrimination,” she said. “This is still a few people with loud voices that are anti-LGBTQ that don’t represent the majority of Americans who are pro-equality, who are pro-LGBTQ.”
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