GLAAD picked the right person when they chose Herndon Graddick to lead the organization last week. What I like about him is that he actually gets the harm caused by the extreme right. I don’t have to take him through “ex-gay 101” and explain to him that such groups still exist. He grew up in Alabama and knows the fight our community faces for equality.
Second, Graddick has a real media background and isn’t simply a politician. Why it took GLAAD so long to hire a person with a media background is a mystery, but I think it helps that he actually knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of press releases. Here is his bio and it is exactly like a bio should look like running this group:
Prior to his work at GLAAD, Herndon served as the Executive Producer of the Global Observatory, a media and communications effort which aimed to bring public awareness to the climate change crisis. He also served as Supervising Producer at E! Networks and the day-of-air news division director at CURRENT TV, the youth-oriented news and entertainment network created by former Vice President Al Gore. As a producer at CNN, Herndon also contributed to the creation of daily primetime programming such as “Paula Zahn Now,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” and “Live from the Headlines.”
Third, Graddick isn’t stuffy and insincere. He actually says what is on his mind:
“This isn’t just a party,” he told the crowd at the Los Angeles dinner, according to Gay Star News. “This is a fundraiser that funds our organization 365 days a year. We’re changing America bit by bit, story by story.”
The head of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation did not appear to be reading off of a teleprompter during his powerful remarks, including when he spoke movingly about growing up as a closeted gay kid in Alabama.
‘To be honest with you, I never thought that I would tell another person that I was gay,’ he said. ‘When I realized I was gay, I was 13 and, honestly, the first thing I thought to myself was: ‘Oh shit.’ … I pretended to be straight and I had a plan if I was ever to be found out. As sad as it is to say, what I was going to do was get drunk and drive my car into a tree.’
It was this kind of candid talk that characterized Graddick’s first appearance as president of an organization that appears to be taking on a more aggressive and proactive approach to its work.
In recent months, GLAAD’s work has included taking the lead in getting the Miss Universe pageant to change its rules and allow transgender females to compete, publicizing the case of Jennifer Tyrrell who was booted as den mom of her son’s Cub Scouts troop because she is a lesbian, slamming actor Kirk Cameron for his anti-gay comments, and launching the ‘Commentator Accountability Project’ which keeps tabs on anti-LGBT activists and their rhetoric on cable news.
‘I think that it’s time for our community to go on the offensive,’ Graddick told Gay Star News before the start of the dinner. ‘We’re not going to be the punching bags any more. … That we’re no longer the silent sort of invisible presence in our community.’
‘My ambition is for gay people and transgender people to be treated fairly in the media just like anybody else,’ he added. ‘I think it’s finally time for us to grab our power and really use it and make sure that we’re not sort of treated as second-class citizens anymore. I intend to do that in this role at GLAAD.’
I was at the LA dinner, my first ever, and was genuinely impressed with GLAAD’s new president. And it says a lot that I even noticed his speech, considering Betty White, Ellen, and Cher were in the house. I know that some of our readers have had differences with GLAAD. I urge those people to give the group a second look because it seems they are headed in the right direction and ready to have a major cultural impact with the new leadership.