Leadership Council Helps Amplify Community Voices in Atlanta

GLAAD Leadership Councils continue to be the ambassadors of GLAAD’s work in their local communities. In cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, South Florida, Washington D.C., and Atlanta, the councils work to increase the visibility of LGBT people and issues in their own neighborhoods.

A Southern city that is among the most diverse in America, Atlanta is home to so many stories of LGBT people and families that Americans need to hear. Nicknamed Hotlanta, it is a city steeped in history and gracious hospitality, but until recent years few outside the South knew how vibrant Atlanta’s LGBT community is. This is why GLAAD established its Atlanta Leadership Council in 2007 to help tell the stories of a diverse LGBT community and raise awareness of how integral the LGBT community is to this Southern landmark.

“The media has the incredible power to change people’s perceptions and ideals by how it chooses to portray the LGBT community. It is the duty of GLAAD and the Atlanta Leadership Council to make sure that that representation is positive and non-discriminatory,” states Atlanta Leadership Council Member and local radio DJ Melissa Carter. As one of the few “out” DJs in the country, Melissa reaches millions of listeners every day through her gig as co-host of “The Bert Show” on Atlanta’s Q100. According to Melissa, “being a lesbian is not the focus of the show. Of course it’s a part of who I am, but it does not completely define my life. When I’m on the radio I talk about the normal day to day business and if it involves being a lesbian than of course I freely share it the same way I talk about something funny that happened at the grocery store.”

One aspect she has recently shared with her audience is her new journey to start a family with her partner, Katie.  After the loss of her father, and a near fatal kidney disease of her own, Melissa began to re-evaluate her life and came to the realization that she wanted to start a family of her own. Unlike couples in neighboring southern states like Florida or Mississippi that ban LGBT people from adopting, Melissa and Katie were able to choose between the same options that straight Georgian couples also had available to them, and for that they are truly thankful. The topic of motherhood routinely comes up on Melissa’s radio show. “I tend to get advice from mothers all across Georgia,” shares Melissa, “most of them are straight women offering their sage parenting tips. I never receive hate mail or negative feedback. I think that because I talk so openly about my life in the media people just see me as Melissa.”

Melissa’s experience speaks to results of a study commissioned by GLAAD in 2008; the more people get to know their LGBT neighbors, family and coworkers, the greater their support for full equality. According to the study, nearly 1 in 5 Americans reported that their feelings toward gay and lesbian people have become 'more favorable' over the past five years. The top two contributing factors are 1) knowing someone who is gay and 2) seeing gay or lesbian characters on television, in the movies or covered in the news. The Atlanta Leadership Council and the efforts of Melissa are leading the charge to increase visibility and acceptance of LGBT people across the country by amplifying stories from the local Atlanta LGBT community to millions of Americans.

If you would like more information about getting involved with the Atlanta Leadership Council or another existing Council or want to know where the next Leadership Council will be forming please call GLAAD Senior Director, Juan Barajas at (323) 679-3032 or email him at barajas@glaad.org.