New York, NY June 17, 2011 –The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today convened a meeting between actor/comedian Tracy Morgan and LGBT youth from the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization serving homeless LGBT youth. Morgan also met with Elke Kennedy, whose 20-year-old son, Sean, was killed in an anti-gay hate crime. Photos of the meeting are available at www.glaad.org/TracyMorgan.
Last week, GLAAD, HRC, Truth Wins Out and bloggers called on Morgan to apologize and speak out against anti-LGBT violence after he went on an anti-gay rant during a June 3 comedy performance in Nashville, Tenn. GLAAD also called on Morgan to meet with LGBT youth shunned by their families, as well as families who have lost loved ones to anti-LGBT hate violence.
“Today, Tracy saw firsthand the toll that homophobia and anti-gay violence can take on a person’s life,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “By meeting with LGBT teens left homeless because of who they are, we hope that Tracy has come to understand that so-called ‘jokes’ about gay youth are not just irresponsible, they are damaging.”
Jayden Love and Raciel Castillo issued the following statement after meeting with Morgan:
"We really appreciate that we were able to meet with Tracy Morgan, and that he was able to hear our stories of rejection at the hands of our own families and of being subsequently forced to survive on the streets. Raciel's father insisted that his son's sexual orientation was a 'medical condition' that could be 'fixed' through therapy, and Jayden was expelled by her religious family for being who she is. Our parents' inability to accept us changed our lives for the worse. We hope that our stories have the power to change not only Tracy's perspective, but those of any parent who may be struggling with accepting their child. In the meeting, Tracy clearly took responsibility for his words, and we hope that he will use his platform to make the world a better place for LGBT people."
Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, issued the following statement:
"As Tracy learned today, family rejection is no joke. Jayden and Raciel's stories speak to the power of homophobic family members to harm their children. As the head of the Ali Forney Center, I have met thousands of other LGBT youths thrown out by their families. Over 70% were abused and assaulted in their own homes simply because they were LGBT. Research shows that these kids are as many as eight and a half times as likely to commit suicide. This problem will not disappear overnight, but we have the power to change it. I hope that Tracy has seen the error and impact of his remarks and that he will educate others about the terrible harm that family rejection does to LGBT youth. Even moreso, I hope this incident will bring attention to this crisis and encourage others to work toward a day when all youth are loved and protected in their own homes."
Morgan also announced that he will return to Tennessee on Tuesday, June 21 to apologize to those people he offended during his act. While in Nashville, Morgan will also meet with the Tennessee Equality Project and local advocates.
“Returning to Tennessee and apologizing to those he offended is an important step in showing that Tracy truly understands the weight of his words,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “In a state that continues to put anti-gay laws on the books, it’s now more important than ever that we let Tennesseans know that homophobia has no place on or off the stage.”
Morgan will also participate in GLAAD’s upcoming “Amplify Your Voice” public service announcement (PSA) campaign. Other participants include Russell Simmons, Rev. Al Sharpton, Kristin Chenoweth, Chaz Bono, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Vinny Guadagnino and Tori Spelling, among others. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has partnered with GLAAD to produce the campaign, and NBCUniversal has pledged national airtime. Famed producer Jonathan Murray serves as creative director.
More information on Morgan's original remarks and the request to apologize from GLAAD, HRC, Truth Wins Out, bloggers and others are available here: http://glaadblog.org/2011/06/10/glaad-calls-on-nbc-to-condemn-tracy-morgan-tirade/. During that show, Morgan reportedly claimed that being gay is a choice, that being gay is something that kids learn from the media, and that victims of anti-gay bullying are simply 'whining.' Spectators also allege that Morgan went so far as to say that he would stab his own son if he turned out to be gay.
About The Ali Forney Center: The Ali Forney Center (AFC) was started in June of 2002 in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBT youth in New York City. The Center is committed to providing these young people with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs can be met, and where they can begin to put their lives back together. AFC is dedicated to promoting awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth in the United States with the goal of generating responses on local and national levels from government funders, foundations, and the LGBT community. For more information, please visit www.aliforneycenter.org.