A Note for Jarrett T. Barrios
It’s already the beginning of spring and GLAAD has been hard at work promoting the first wave of marriages in D.C. Spring means so much to so many and for my family it means that Javier, our 18 year-old son, is getting ready for his high school prom. But in some places around the country, that rite of passage has been extinguished. In Georgia and Mississippi, two brave high school teenagers named Constance McMillen & Derrick Martin were treated differently than their classmates because of their desire to express who they are. Constance wanted to bring her girlfriend to prom, but Itawamba County Agricultural School cancelled the event. In Georgia, Derrick was given permission to attend his prom with his boyfriend by Bleckley County High School but has been subjected to protests from his fellow students and has been kicked out of his house by his parents.
When I first heard about Constance’s & Derrick’s stories, I thought about my two sons. I thought about what it would mean if someone told them they couldn’t attend their prom because of who they are. These are obstacles that no teenager should have to face and I have the utmost respect for the courage and bravery Constance & Derrick have shown by standing up for what they know is right. This month Constance McMillen shows her courage yet again by taking the stage at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles and addressing our over 1500 guests to present the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to Wanda Sykes. What happened to Constance & Derrick was not right and shows just how much work we have to do before we reach full equality.
Whether it’s local advocates in Florida fighting the ban on adoption by gay and lesbian people by sharing their stories at PTA meetings or Moses, a gay Ugandan man seeking asylum in the U.S. who had to speak at the National Prayer Hour with a bag over his head because of the proposed law in Uganda that includes the death penalty for gay people, GLAAD has stepped up our efforts to share the stories of individual LGBT people. GLAAD was on the ground training local advocates in Florida and GLAAD helped organize the National Prayer Hour and share the story of the growing support for LGBT people among voices of faith with the world via coverage in The New York Times, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal. Why? Because we know that by amplifying the voices of these individuals and the issues faced by LGBT people today, we can raise awareness, understanding and support for our full equality.
Every time that Americans hear stories like these they come to know that our community just wants one simple thing: the same rights and freedoms afforded to all Americans. GLAAD continues to improve and strengthen the ways in which we work through the media to amplify the voices of people like Constance, Derrick and Moses. Part of that effort is bringing in leaders like GLAAD’s new Chief Development Officer Jonathan Sandville. Jonathan joins GLAAD with more than 15 years of experience developing diverse fundraising plans at leading institutions like The Ford Foundation, Liberty Science Center and the National Urban League. We are excited to welcome Jonathan to our team and for the prospects that his dynamic leadership will bring to GLAAD.
Jarrett T. Barrios