For the past year, GLAAD has been tracking many of the loudest voices called upon to speak to the media against the rights and welfare of LGBT people. We have been having conversations with members of the media about why it's important to put these pundits into context, and to inform audiences about what they have said to build up their national profiles to the point that landed them these gigs in the first place. With great success, we've done this. We've seen on-air anchors use some of the findings that GLAAD and others have documents to hold these voices accountable for the incendiary things they say about us when they think only their most fervent supporters are looking and listening. This attempt to reconcile the more staid roles these pundits take on for the mainstream media with the less measured approaches they use when speaking in their own forums has led to more conversation, more understanding of the problem as we presented it, and, yes—more accountability.
So now a proposal for you. This week, as we all head to our respective places of turkey (or tofurkey)-dom, I challenge you to take some of these same principles that we have been using with the Commentator Accountability Project and apply them to your own life.
- Hear your uncle whisper a crudely anti-gay or anti-trans joke to your cousin? Don't get angry. Instead, ask him if he'd like to share the joke with the entire room, then challenge him on why he feels like he needs to denigrate certain kinds of people for his own punchlines. Do it calmly, but do it firmly.
- Is your mother making demands of you and your partner or spouse that she does not make of your heterosexual siblings, even though she claims at the dinner table to be a strong supporter of you and your life? Challenge her on this! She might not even realizing she's doing it. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Help lead her to her own reconciliation, marrying what might be her intent (i.e. making you feel at home) with what she is unknowingly demonstrating (i.e. casual homophobia/heterosexism).
- Is your aunt giving you that speech we've all heard before? You know, the one where she asserts in the most self-satisfied of tones that she is fine with gay people like you because you don't "act gay," but that she has a problem with those who "flaunt it." Again, keep your cool. But don't let this stuff slide. Tell her that if she really feels this way, then she in fact does have a problem with you. Ask her why she deems you okay because you present with a certain demeanor but gets our her "defective" stamp whenever her gender roles are challenged. Have a deep conversation about this. Ask her where her fear and discomfort really lies.
- Have a younger relative who you sense is struggling with his or her own sexual orientation or gender identity? Take the time to have a meaningful conversation. Certainly do not make assumptions that might cause conflict or consternation, but do lend a gentle shoulder to a person who make need it more than you even know. After all, the reason we hold others accountable for their own hostilities is so we can pave an easier road for generations to come. Use the tools that you have learned to help someone else cut through the noise.
- Are there allies in your family who are with you in every way but who don't really know how they can make a difference? Encourage them to be accountability agents themselves. Challenge them to have these own conversations in their own daily life. Ask them to say something when they see or hear something, be it in their personal life or in their local media outlets.
Like so many other things in life, accountability begins at home. With the Commentator Accountability Project, GLAAD has asked for more substantive conversation about the issues that matter, the voices that chatter, and the actual human beings whose real world impact and/or damage often goes undiscussed. This is not just about CNN or The New York Times. This is also about asking grandma to "yes, please pass the cranberry sauce" but to not pass the buck when it comes to making a difference. We all can.