A Letter From GLAAD President Jarrett T. Barrios

On a recent flight from New York to GLAAD’s office in Los Angeles, I had a poignant experience with the woman sitting next to me. After the initial pleasantries we began the standard small talk about family, why we were traveling to LA and what we did for work. I reflected a bit, and thought about how best to describe what it is we “do” at GLAAD.

The country, our world and the media have changed since GLAAD began twenty-five years ago and so has GLAAD. What has remained constant, though, is this: At GLAAD, we believe that Americans are fair-minded, and when they see LGBT people – when they hear our stories – they come to understand that it’s not about “special rights.” It’s about their brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. People just like them, who deserve to be respected and valued for their contributions. I turned to the woman beside me and explained, GLAAD serves as a watchdog, storyteller and advocate for gay and transgender Americans– we amplify voices and bring stories to millions of Americans. She asked why? GLAAD’s new tagline sprung into my head and I replied, “Because words and images matter. Just think of the first time you saw Ellen DeGeneres talking about her wife on Oprah, conservative Bree van de Kamp embracing her gay son on Desperate Housewives or read about a courageous and skilled soldier being discharged from the military because he was gay. ” It’s culture-changing stories like these that GLAAD advocates for.

By now, you have seen the new GLAAD logo, which symbolizes the essence of what we do – amplifying voices. Our new logo also represents a time of change for GLAAD, as we expand and focus our work on digital and local advocacy. This year we will launch a new platform to become the LGBT leader in digital media advocacy. GLAAD’s media strategists are also on the ground in states where our rights are up for grabs – helping local couples, families and allies speak out for equality- allies like the Maryland Black Family Alliance. After news this week that Maryland will recognize marriages for gay and lesbian couples performed out of state, GLAAD is continuing to help important groups like this organization of African American allies speak out in local communities to support local LGBT organizations advocate for full marriage equality in the state.

I encourage you all to read the articles that feature fellow Alliance and Media Circle members. Find out why Rose Eustachio of LA and how Richard Gardner of Boston have become local advocates through the GLAAD Leadership Council volunteer program. Over the next three years, GLAAD will have formed over 15 local Leadership Councils across the country – perhaps there is a volunteer council near you or should be. Are you interested in participating? We want to hear from you.

As GLAAD moves into our very busy Media Award season, with the first Media Award show kicking off in NYC on March 13; make sure you have taken advantage of the benefits offered to you as a member of the Alliance Circle. Join me in NY, LA or San Francisco for the Media Awards and see your investment in action, firsthand. Don’t forget about the Alliance Circle Sunday brunch happening the next day - a relaxed setting to enjoy great food and friends. Check out the deadlines and dates in this issue -- I promise you that this year’s show will be exciting. Here’s hoping that I meet you at the GLAAD Media Awards!