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Meet GLAAD’s new firebrand-in-chief

Plainspoken Graddick working to restore media watchdog after scandal

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Herndon Graddick, gay news, gay politics dc

After a tumultuous 2011, and nearly a year without a permanent leader, GLAAD announced its new president is Herndon Graddick. (Courtesy photo)

The first thing you discover about Herndon Graddick, the new president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is that he’s direct and plainspoken —he doesn’t mince words the way more seasoned LGBT leaders do.

Earlier this week, Graddick told Europe’s Gay Star News, “I think it’s finally time for us to grab our power and really use it and make sure that we’re not sort of treated as second-class citizens anymore. I intend to do that in this role at GLAAD.”

He added that when he finally met other gay people after moving to California at 19, he was “pissed off.”

“Everything I had been taught was essentially bullshit,” he said of his epiphany upon coming out and realizing that LGBT youth were being taught they should remain in the closet.

Graddick worked for Current TV, CNN and at a global climate change initiative before becoming GLAAD’s vice president of programs and communication in 2010.

His determination and spirit match those of grassroots activists on the ground, rather than someone trying to appease finicky donors and politicians. And the honesty is a far cry from the political calculus of former President Jarrett Barrios, who resigned in June 2011 after a scandal regarding his role in pushing the FCC to approve AT&T-backed initiatives.

Graddick sat down with the Blade to discuss his role at GLAAD since that time and his vision for the future.

 

WASHINGTON BLADE: What was your role at the organization before being picked by the board for this position?

HERNDON GRADDICK: I was the head of programs and communications, so I oversaw all of our activist work, basically everything but the fundraising and sort of the physical operations of the organization, so everything we do in the movement.

 

BLADE: You’ve got a thorough handle on the inner workings of the organization, especially in terms of the programming?

GRADDICK: Yes I have. One of the reasons why I wanted to do this job is I feel like the work we’ve done in the past year has been really making a difference, and I’ve felt really satisfied by that. So I wanted to put my name in the ring for the president’s spot because I want that to continue and I wanted to do even more of it. And so it’s really a product of my believing in the work that I put myself up for this job. I’m humbled and take with seriousness the duties that the role has.

 

BLADE: What would you list as GLAAD’s biggest successes in the last year?

GRADDICK: The media awards are, as you know, how we support our work. They’re a fundraiser, they get the most attention in the U.S. and in the world, because celebrities are inevitably what people pay the most attention to. But GLAAD’s work is from the grassroots to the local, state and national levels. Some of that work gets a lot of attention in the press, and some of it doesn’t. But nonetheless all of it is important.

I would say that our Commentator Accountability Project that we just launched is something that’s really important to me, and works toward what I wanted to do when I came to GLAAD. To hold anti-gay activists accountable to the full breadth of their animus toward the gay community, and give journalists an easy access resource of what these anti-gay people have actually said.

And recently, Miss Universe has agreed to change their rules to allow the inclusion of transgender women, and we’re waiting to see the details of that, but we’ve gotten the full-throated promise from them that those details were coming, and I think that the fact that transgender women are now going to be participating alongside everybody else in the Miss Universe pageant, is a sign of the times that the world is changing to view LGBT people just like anybody else.

I could really go on and on about different things that I’ve been proud of, but I think in general our mission is creating a media where LGBT people can thrive, and where LGBT youth don’t have their self-esteem dictated by negative portrayals in the media and we’re able to be happy and live our lives just like anybody else.

 

BLADE: GLAAD’s had some great highs in the past year, but also some lows. How do you plan to continue to repair GLAAD’s public image in the LGBT community?

GRADDICK: Well, I’ve been really flattered and humbled by the press that we’ve received around our recent changes, and when I read that press, what I really think is what people are speaking to now is the strength of our programmatic work in the last nine months, and I think that people are really noticing that the work that we’re doing is having an impact. So I’m really encouraged by that, and I take inspiration in that. And my personal view is that we’re all in this together, and so I’m really grateful for the work that activists and bloggers and other movement organizations — it feels like we’re working together better than I’ve seen in the past, and I’m really encouraged by that.

I really look forward to working with the movement and the blogosphere and the LGBT press. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, and let’s fight for LGBT equality, and keep our sense of who the enemy is, and that’s people who would deprive us of all the rights and privileges that are afforded to every other American. I really take great pride in the fact that I’m in this position of helping to do so. I thank everybody out there for their individual efforts, and GLAAD is always open to hear the support, the advice and the criticism telling us where we can do things better and differently. I welcome that.

 

BLADE: What is your vision for GLAAD going forward?

GRADDICK: I think that over the years GLAAD has been a really effective force for the inclusion of fair and accurate portrayals of LGBT people in media, and my intention is to continue to be that. I think we’ve both been a defensive force against defamation, I think the time is now not just to be defensive, but to really go on the offensive, because we’re sick of not being treated like everybody else, and Americans are behind us and I think that if you really put your finger in the air, you can feel something changing in America. And so it’s my chance to be the tip of the spear — along with other movement organizations and bloggers and activists — to really make sure that this isn’t about asking for us to be treated fairly, it’s about demanding and insuring that we are treated fairly. So my interest in being the head of GLAAD is making sure that happens.

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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