Variety profiles Nick Adams, GLAAD's Director of Transgender Media & Representation

This year, Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Media & Representation, is celebrating 20 remarkably accomplished years with the organization. In a number of different roles, Nick has amplified trans voices in the media through working with journalists, consulting and training Hollywood executives and creators, and providing media training to trans people who want to tell their stories. As part of Variety's Transgender Hollywood issue, the magazine published an article looking back at Nick's career at GLAAD.

Early in his career with GLAAD, Nick wrote the first transgender section of GLAAD's Media Reference Guide which lays out best practices for respectfully and accurately writing about transgender people. In the early 2000s, Nick and GLAAD advocated for the Associated Press to bring its Style Guide more into alignment with GLAAD's Media Reference Guide. The 1998 edition of the AP Style Guide did not have an entry for transgender; it said "transsexuals - see sex changes." That entry told reporters to change a person's "proper name and pronoun" based on whether the action was "before the operation" or "after the operation." In the 2000 edition of the Style Guide, reporters were instructed to use the name and pronoun preferred by trans people, and if that preference was not expressed, to "use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly." This change provided trans advocates around the country ammunition when confronting media outlets which misgendered a trans person victimized by violence. It also set a precedent for reporting on trans people nationwide, as news publications often follow the AP’s lead in creating their own style guides.

Nick’s influence has also been felt through his role in helping a number of trans people navigate their transition in the public eye. In 2009, he worked closely with Chaz Bono as he announced his transition, and then later as he prepared to tell his story in media outlets across the country. When Chaz joined Dancing with the Stars, GLAAD launched a #ProBono campaign, urging viewers to support him, and criticized Fox News for attacking his participation on the show. Nick’s skills were needed again in 2015, when ABC reached out to GLAAD while researching and reporting on their interview with Caitlyn Jenner. ABC News used GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, along with quotes from GLAAD staff, in materials created for their website to accompany the interview. GLAAD also created and distributed a tip sheet to thousands of journalists around the country with information on how to report on Caitlyn's story accurately and respectfully. Nick watched the Diane Sawyer interview at E!, went live on E! News to discuss, and worked closely with the network before and during the run of I Am Cait.

In 2016, Nick began working with Zeke Smith and CBS in preparation for an episode of Survivor: Game Changers in which Smith was outed as trans by another player. It was important to Smith that he was given the opportunity to share his story, in his own words, and to counter the accusation that trans people are deceptive if they don't immediately reveal their gender history. Media coverage of Smith's story was one of the few high-profile media moments to focus on a transgender man.

Nick has conducted trainings on how to fairly and accurately portray transgender people to executives at NBC, FOX, CBS, Viacom, MSNBC, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, and other networks. He has worked with hundreds of TV shows, providing story consultation, script feedback, and casting advice to help them create more multi-dimensional trans characters. In 2010, he worked with Nickelodeon's Degrassi: The Next Generation as they introduced Adam, the first teenage transgender character on TV. The episode introducing Adam, entitled “My Body Is A Cage,” received a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award nomination for the show. In 2014, Fox's Glee reached out to GLAAD to help create a transgender choir for a pivotal scene related to Coach Beiste's decision to transition. By getting the word out, GLAAD brought 200 transgender people from around the country to be perform in the choir, and Nick was on set to oversee filming. Many of the trans people in the choir said they had never before had the opportunity to be in the same room with that many other trans people. In 2015, Nick worked with CBS' The Bold and The Beautiful as the popular daily drama told the epic story of Maya Avant, a trans woman who chose to disclose her gender history to her fiance. The story culminated in Maya and Rick's wedding, officiated by out trans actor Scott Turner Schofield.

Nick's work is not always with scripted entertainment. Nick worked with the Girl Scouts to help the organization craft a trans-inclusive policy, contributing to their 2015 decision to welcome transgender girls. He worked with The Sims to help them update the game to allow for more gender diverse avatars. And consulted with Tinder for over six months as they created and launched a trans-inclusive update for the app. In 2016, Nick was invited to speak at the Annenberg Space for Photography in conjunction with the premiere of an exhibit of photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders taken for the HBO documentary The Trans List.

Recently, he has collaborated with Casting Society of America to create and promote an international open call for trans actors, and worked with Breakdown Services to both improve the way character breakdowns are written for trans roles and create a search functionality that allows casting directors for search for transgender actors in the database.

This spring, he collaborated with Netflix on the #FirstTimeISawMe campaign, which brought together Jamie Clayton, Elliot Fletcher, Jazz Jennings, Laura Jane Grace, Tiq Milan, and Meredith Talusan to share stories of the first time they saw authentic trans representation in the media. Nick also met with NBA player Reggie Bullock to help him share the story of his transgender sister Mia Henderson, who was murdered in 2014, and work with him to use his platform to bring attention to the level of violence trans women face. 

Nick was most recently involved in Variety's special "Trans Hollywood" issue, for which he helped organized a roundtable of transgender Hollywood talent, and co-created an Open Letter to Hollywood and the TRANSform Hollywood guide, which includes tips for better trans storytelling and creating a trans-inclusive culture throughout the industry. The Open Letter was signed by over 45 agencies, production companies, and organizations in Hollywood, including TIME’S UP, Ryan Murphy Productions, SAG AFTRA, ACLU, Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Alliance, Shondaland, Apatow Productions, Berlanti Productions, Endeavor Content, Bad Robot, Topple, CAA, ICM, UTA, WME, Sundance Institute, Casting Society of America, and more.

Nick’s years of service and devotion to improving trans narratives, lives, and representation in American media has revolutionized the media landscape by creating a more accepting, diverse, and inclusive environment. We at GLAAD thank him for his phenomenal work and congratulate him on 20 illustrious years.