Achievement Unlocked! GLAAD Media Institute trains 10,000 storytellers

Today, the GLAAD Media Institute hit a monumental milestone when it trained its 10,000th storyteller just three years since the program’s inception. The GLAAD Media institute was created with the goal of equipping and empowering advocates and storytellers to strengthen their media impact and accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community.

The GLAAD Media Institute has trained activists and advocates in their offices in New York and Los Angeles, as well as in cities around the country and around the world. Alumni have used the skills they learned to navigate the media world to effectively get their messages of equality and acceptance.

Sara and Parker Cunningham are two such alumni. The mother-son duo attended the GLAAD Media Institute course held in Oklahoma City. Their organization Free Mom Hugs, was just starting to attract media attention. Sara attended Pride marches around the country, offering a “free mom hug, or a high five, because not everyone is a hugger.” She expanded her services to stand in for unaccepting parents at same-sex weddings, even officiating some. Her work caught the attention of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who bought the rights to her memoir to turn into a film or television show. Jamie and Sara appeared at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards to talk about their work with the GLAAD Media Institute. Sara said, “We learned how to tell our story. We learned the power of social media. We learned how to make our words count. We found our voice, and we use our training every day.”

Additional workshops and courses include helping survivors of the Pulse Nightclub and other survivors of trauma tell their story in a compelling way, supporting college and university students in speaking out against laws designed to harm LGBTQ people, and equipping people of faith to evoke religious language in their public support for LGBTQ people.

The reach of the GLAAD Media Institute extends beyond the United States. Activists have been trained in Australia, Mexico, Japan, China, Argentina, France, Germany, Italy, Chile, the Dominican Republic, India, Taiwan, and many more countries. These activists take our best practices and adapt them to the local culture and media landscape.

The GLAAD Media Institute has also published resources that will equip and empower storytellers of all stripes to tell the story of the LGBTQ community. Entertainment reports like Where We Are On TV and the Studio Responsibility Index have informed entertainment leaders what the current state of LGBTQ representation is, and feeds into an important conversation on how to increase the quality of representation. Media guides like the Stonewall 50 guide inspire journalists to examine and explore the multitude of angles of the history of the LGBTQ movement since the Stonewall riots. Video resources examine specific skills for activists to add to their toolbox.

The GLAAD Media Institute has trained and consulted scriptwriters, filmmakers, actors, casting agents, and a variety of entertainment industry professionals learning how to represent the LGBTQ community and vast array of experiences in a way that is fair, accurate, and inclusive. The fruits of our consulting and training work in the entertainment industry has resulted in representations of LGBTQ people appear in Netflix’s “Tales of the City” and “Queer Eye.” Daniela Vega of A Fantastic Woman was trained by the GLAAD Media Institute before she presented and her film won at the Academy Awards.

The team behind “Vida” on Starz thanked the GLAAD Media Institute staff as they accepted the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.

The GLAAD Media Institute supported the award-winning documentary Transmilitary. This important documentary was released as the Trump administration ramped up attacks on transgender servicemembers, telling the story of brave patriots who are keeping America safe, despite constant attacks on their identity. The GLAAD Media Institute provided finishing funds for the film, trained the producers and cast to tell their story effectively in the media. Cast members appeared on media outlets, including Ellen, while Transmilitary won over 15 awards, including the Audience Award for Best Feature Documentary at the SXSW Film Festival.

Additionally, the Institute has also trained corporate employees with an interest in learning how to treat their colleagues and customers with dignity and respect, and how to direct their company to be an effective ally to the LGBTQ community. Companies are signing onto support for the Equality Act, and rolling out marketing campaigns that include the LGBTQ community in a natural and authentic way.

“GLAAD has sharpened its expertise around the inner-workings of the media over the last three decades, and it’s gratifying to see advocates, storytellers, and everyday people using these learnings to help accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community,” said Ross Murray, Senior Director for Education and Training at the GLAAD Media Institute. “This milestone, while important, is only the beginning. We have more work to do, and more people to equip and deploy.”

The alumni of the GLAAD Media Institute are fanned out, doing their own form of advocacy and storytelling. They are bringing attention to the various issues the LGBTQ community face, and helping others to see the world from their perspective. Just take a look at some of what our alumni are doing:

Al Azmi spoke to the Canberra Times in Australia about Mental Health.

Justice Horn is an openly gay, black wrestler and the student body president at University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Kimberly Zieselman of InterACT testified in support of CA SB 201 for intersex rights at the statehouse in Sacramento.

Michelle Paquette addressed a rally in Walnut Creek, California, on Trans Day of Visibility.

Shaun D’souza of Brisbane, Australia, uses social media to bring attention to the intersection of gender and racial diversity.

Melanie Nathan addresses the crowd at San Francisco Pride.

Dr. Ronald Holt presents on “The intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and mental health” to the American Psychiatric Association.

The GLAAD Media Institute was created in 2017 with a lead gift from the Ariadne Getty Foundation, and additional support from Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, Tinder, Turner, Hilton, Dr. Marci Bowers, David & Pamela Hornik, Rosie O’Donnell, the Eisenberg family, Southwest Airlines, and the Lear Corporation.