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GLAAD all over

Last week the Atlantic posted an article by James Kirchik called How GLAAD Won the Culture War and Lost Its Reason to Exist. Mr. Kerchik, a gay conservative, uses the recent award that GLAAD gave to Bill Clinton as a spark for a note about GLAAD being a partisan liberal organization rather than a gay-rights organization. His larger claim is that, as the headline says, gays have decisively conquered … the media and therefore GLAAD should fold up its tent and go home. That argument is well addressed by Gabriel Arana’s response Why We Still Need GLAAD (and frankly a glance at the nominees for TV and film counters the argument rather effectively) , but there is certainly a question about the purpose of GLAAD giving a major award to Bill Clinton.

This in fact was discussed quite a bit in Queer Blogovia, where feelings about the Big Dog are decidedly mixed. Yes, he was about as good an LGBT ally as you could imagine having been elected president in 1992. That’s a condition, though, that meant he was a disappointment in many, many ways. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a compromise that it’s possible he could have improved on, although it’s not exactly clear how much. DOMA is a worse case—whatever might or might not have been passed, his explicit personal opposition to marriage equality defined the limits of the compromise. It’s fair for Mr. Kirchik to wonder how GLAAD demands so little of elected officials.

On the other hand, it’s fair to discuss the accomplishments. Particularly, as President, Mr. Clinton nominated many LGBT people to posts within the administration and in the judiciary. I remember the James Hormel and Roberta Achtenberg nomination fights, but there are a lot more that I don’t remember. Deborah Batts, for instance. Elaine Kaplan, who is now Acting Director of the OPM. John Berry, who was the last Director of the OPM. Fred Hochberg, who is now head of the Export-Import Bank. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is now the US Representative from NY 18th. And a dozen more, most of whom became lobbyists and consultants—and I feel disappointed that they did, but hey, that’s equality for you: without somebody having appointed some LGBT folk back in the twentieth century, they would not have had the chance to cash in come the twenty-first.

Still and all: is this award-worthiness?

The reason I’m writing about it, though, is that GLAAD is giving its Corporate Leader award to a major entertainment company that I have a particular interest in: The San Francisco Giants. What have they done to deserve it? Well, the press release talks about holding fundraising (mostly for HIV/AIDS) at a couple of games a year, and the It Gets Better video, and Matt Cain’s NoH8 photo. And… that’s pretty much it.

That’s award-worthy?

I mean, I’m proud of my Gigantes and all, but that’s… kinda… sparse.

But here’s the thing: they are a major-league sports team, and they are, however tepidly, an LGBT ally. That is award-worthy in 2013. It was award-worthy in 1994. They have for twenty years consistently been just a tiny bit better than all the other teams—not just the baseball teams but the football teams and the basketball teams. Even (until recently) the hockey teams. And while it’s frustrating to hand out an award to something that’s just a bit better than the others—not good, just a bit better—that’s what GLAAD is really for, isn’t it? Giving an award to Fried Green Tomatoes and Frankie and Johnny, because they are just a bit better than the other ones?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


There are so many more factors in choosing an award recipient than strictly merit-based considerations. Can you make the recipient more of an ally or a more active ally? Can you win over the recipient's fans to your cause? Can you attract media coverage or improve fund-raising with a high-profile recipient? Can you affect public perception in a useful way? If you can retroactively make Clinton more convincingly seem like the first gay-friendly president, then your victories stretch back farther and you can cite more precedent for politicians being gay-friendly. Does it matter if the Giants are actually an LGBT ally? The award says they are, so maybe other sports teams will decide it's ok if they are too.

Michael—an excellent point. And, of course, if the Giants accept a GLAAD award, that says something, too.


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