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In this episode, host Jason Dressel sits down with Madeline Qi and Tyler Albertario from GLAAD to explore the organization’s profound impact on LGBTQ+ advocacy and culture. As we celebrate Pride Month and reflect on the legacy of the Stonewall Uprising, Madeline and Tyler discuss GLAAD’s unique approach to advancing LGBTQ+ rights through media and popular culture. Madeline, GLAAD’s Operations Manager, provides insights into the organization’s current initiatives, while Tyler, a dedicated LGBTQ+ historian and GLAAD’s archivist, shares his perspective on preserving and promoting LGBTQ+ history. Tyler is also working on a book about the New York Gay Liberation Front for Rutgers University Press. Join us as we delve into GLAAD’s pivotal role in shaping narratives and perceptions, past and present.

Show Notes:

Madeline Qi has spent the past three years at GLAAD, where she serves as the operations manager, playing a key role in the operations and marketing teams. A passionate believer in the power of storytelling, she leads the initiative to preserve GLAAD’s nearly 40-year legacy of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. Beyond her impactful work at GLAAD, Madeline expresses her creativity through short-form content creation, sharing her unique stories with the world.

For more than a decade, Tyler has immersed himself in LGBTQ+ history, focusing on 1950–1972. Since 2022, he has served as GLAAD’s historian and archivist, uncovering long-forgotten stories and sharing them on Medium and in other publications. Tyler is also working on a comprehensive history of the New York Gay Liberation Front. Since 2019, he has contributed to History UnErased’s “Intersections and Connections’” Curriculum, bringing LGBTQ+-inclusive history and social studies content to K–12 students.

Founded in 1985, GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ advocacy and cultural transformation. With a mission to ensure fair, accurate and inclusive representation across media platforms, GLAAD creates national and local programs aimed at advancing LGBTQ+ acceptance worldwide.

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Transcript:

SPEAKERS

Jason Dressel, Madeline Qi, Tyler Arbertario

Jason Dressel 00:12

Today on the History Factory podcast, the history of GLAAD. I’m Jason Dressel, and welcome to the History Factory podcast the podcast at the intersection of business and history. In today’s show I sit down with Madeline Qi and Tyler Albertario from GLAAD to talk about the history of one of the most influential organizations in the LGBTQ movement. It is of course Pride Month, which is held in honor of the Stonewall uprising of 1969, which happened 55 years ago. Over six days a series of violent clashes and protests between New York City Police and patrons and employees of a gay club called the Stonewall Inn and neighborhood residents reached a tipping point that is now regarded as the spark for igniting the gay rights movement, both in the US and around the world. And GLAAD is only one of many organizations focused on LGBTQ advocacy. But what’s really unique about GLAAD is their focus on changing culture and perceptions through media and popular culture. So here to share more about the organization is Madeline Qi GLAADs. Operations Manager. Tyler Albetario who is an old LGBTQs, history and education consultant, who has served as GLAADs historian and archivist since 2022, and is currently authoring a book on the history of the New York Gay Liberation Front for Rutgers University Press.

 

Jason Dressel  02:00

Madeline Tyler, welcome to the History Factory podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Madeline Qi 02:05

Thanks so much for having us, Jason.

 

Tyler Albertario 02:07

Yes, thanks for having us.

 

Jason Dressel  02:09

Absolutely. Our pleasure. excited to talk to you today.

 

 

Jason Dressel  02:13

And let’s start with first for those who may not know and not be as familiar with your organization who is GLAAD What do you do and what does the what does the acronym stand for?

 

Madeline Qi  02:31

Well as of today, GLAAD is not an acronym we are addressed G L A A D GLAAD. GLAAD is the most visible LGBTQ advocacy organization. Our work serves to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community by amplifying representation of LGBTQ people in media. We were founded in 1985 to combat defamation of the LGBTQ people and misinformation amidst the HIV and AIDS crisis in the 80s. So in origin, while GLAAD served as a purely media watchdog organization today, our work while still surrounding media representation has expanded as you know, our understanding of media and the existence of the media sphere has grown so well. It’s not just news today, news is still a piece of our work. It also extends into TV, Hollywood film, advertising, gaming, Broadway, and more than that, as well. We also have a dedicated arm of GLAAD, our GLAAD Media Institute, which is the training consulting and research arm of the organization which convenes and coaches 1000s of advocates, creators and journalists every year.

 

Jason Dressel  03:51

So in some respects, your name, you’re a victim of your success, your original name built up enough brand equity that you had to change the name because as you evolved through really the breadth and scope of the organization, is that fair to say?

 

Madeline Qi  04:09

I would say that’s fair to say, you know, where it started as gay and lesbian. Alliance Against Defamation. We’ve evolved in a scope of all of the areas that GLAAD touches on, like I just said, and then also evolved to, you know, really embody the full breadth of the LGBTQ community, the L and the G are just a piece of it.  

 

Jason Dressel  04:33

Yeah. So you invert a little bit to the sort of beginnings of the organization model. I’m curious. There’s more of a kind of story of the origin story of that organization back in 1985. And what were some of the kind of original sort of catalysts that really, you know, drove the vision for the organization being founded?

 

Tyler Albertario  04:59

So as Madeline said,  GLAAD was founded in 1985. And this was right in the immediate wake of the death of the actor Rock Hudson. And everyone knows very famous actor died very suddenly of AIDS in October of 1985. In the wake of his death, there was a very significant media panic in New York City in the entire country. In New York City was led by the New York Post and one of its more variably homophobic. Editorial writers Rake Harrison, tried to pressure New York City and New York State Public Officials into closing gay bathhouses and bars under the guise of protecting the public health from AIDS. And in witnessing this, people like Vito Russo, the author of the cycloid closet, and poets, Jewel Gomez and other artists and poets and advocates like Marsha pally and Jeff sighs, Nick, and Greg Cola, Bakos, and others, they decided that there was an immediate need to combat this organized campaign of defamation that was threatening the safety of the community. And so in an office in the New York City Council, the arts, they founded GLAAD in late October of 1985.

 

Jason Dressel  06:16

What were some of the kind of key accomplishments in those in those early months or years? 

 

Tyler Albertario  06:24

There were some initial disagreements, right. So one of the like, some of the early stumbling blocks, I guess, you could say is that about a year into its existence, there was a very, very big disagreement and sort of a schism, if you will, about a proposed public service advert and public service advertisement campaign. A lot. Some people on the board thought it was too expensive, and others thought it was a much more pressing need than some of the advocacy that was going on at the time. So it that that was, that was sort of a very early stumbling block. But by say, you know, 80, 88, 89 GLAAD really found its footing, and had a number of major successes. Like in January 1989, they successfully pressured 9x. Yeah, it’s not, it’s not very much in use today. But 9x managed to the, what were known as the Yellow Pages, and they’re still around today, but in much more reduced form, but they managed the Yellow Pages. And for years, they would resist efforts to include gay and lesbian organizations in their directory, and GLAAD was at the forefront of pressure of successfully pressuring 9x to become the first major metropolitan telephone directory in the United States to include gay and lesbian organizations in their directory. And this was soon followed up by GLAADs San Francisco chapter successfully pressured  Pacific Bell to follow suit with their telephone directory in San Francisco. And around the same time, there was a very successful outreach effort to be mega celebrity Bob Hope another. Another elements of the culture of the late 80s that older listeners might remember. Hope had used a homophobic slur on the Johnny Carson Show The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Marcia pally of GLAAD reached out to his representative and to GLAADs surprise, hope responded by producing an anti-homophobia PSA that was soon aired nationally by GLAAD. And also in 1987, GLAAD successfully pressured the New York Times to permit the use of the word gay instead of the word homosexual in their articles. That was a long-standing thing that the editorial board of the New York Times resisted allowing that change.

 

Jason Dressel  08:54

Amazing. Now, you mentioned the Media Awards before and you know media coverage, obviously and you know, goes right back to kind of the sort of origins of the organization but the GLAAD Media Awards have become such a kind of prominent element of the of the organization and the brand. What exactly are the Media Awards? And how has that program evolved over time? And what’s its impact then?

 

Madeline Qi  09:33

Yeah, I’ll speak a little bit about what the Media Awards are today everything that they are and that they become and Tyler, I’ll let you speak a little bit about the origin of the Media Awards. But the GLAAD Media Awards are commonly as referred to as the GMA’s is our largest event put on annually in both LA and New York. You can watch them on Hulu actually. And what they do is they award excellence in media representation for the LGBTQ community across a variety of platforms and mediums. So that has obviously evolved from the inception of GLAAD in terms of what that encompasses. We have categories for so many areas, not just movies, but areas such as podcasts like what we’re doing right now. And so it is one of our most visible and our largest events as well as one of the largest fundraisers for the organization. GLAAD is a nonprofit organization and the efforts of the GLAAD Media Awards helped to make it possible for us to do all of the work that GLAAD does beyond just Hollywood and the red carpet.

 

Tyler Albertario  10:48

And on that note, I think it’s amazing given the origins of the GLAAD Media Awards, it originated in late 1989 really as a way to provide a forum for GLAAD to distribute its annual media guide that it produces to people sort of in the industry. And the first event was kind of a humble little affair that was held at the time life building in midtown Manhattan, just down the block from where it’s currently held today at the at the Hilton. And you can, as Madeline said, you can see what it has blossomed into over the years, right, it’s become this massive, massive events that really just had these sort of humble, modest origins. And I think that’s beautiful.

 

Jason Dressel  11:27

Yeah. And obviously, we’re talking about how, you know, the name itself, really just kind of a microcosm of the evolution of of the organization from, you know, initially representing gays and lesbians to now representing, you know, the, the entire LGBTQ community. But presumably, there’s also been a great evolution of, you know, the causes that you all have championed, especially given obviously, you know, the progress that’s been made in terms of civil rights over the last 40 years. But I’m curious abouthow what happened, some of those kinds of signature issues that have evolved over the course of the history of blood?

 

Madeline Qi  12:18

Yeah, I want to first underscore that, from the beginning of GLAAD all the way to where we are today, in 2024. I think that our priorities still remain the same, they still hold true those priorities being correcting the record, holding the media accountable, and changing culture to achieve 100% acceptance for the LGBTQ community that said, with GLAAD doing this through the lens of media, those priority issues and the avenues that those causes open up to change as the media landscape evolves. So we’re really at a pivotal moment where the LGBTQ movement today were nearly 40 years ago, GLAADs inception was oriented around the HIV and AIDS crisis. Today, we see a lot of the priorities in the areas that GLAAD is ensuring accurate representation for the LGBTQ community in new emerging areas of media that didn’t exist back in 1985. So that includes areas such as gaming, we released a now GLAAD releases an annual gaming report with all of this research that, you know, summarizes and is a resource to people to see all of the LGBTQ people that are you know, a part of the gaming community as well as representation of those people in the games themselves. We also have a dedicated social media safety team. The social media safety index is released annually as well as a report that GLAAD puts out that offers a rating a score for all of the major top not LGBTQ pardon, social media platforms out there such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, etcetera, issuing them a score similar to a report card saying how are you ensuring the safety of LGBTQ people on your apps making sure that this is a space that they can act they can safely be a part of the community and then other emergent areas such as Broadway, all of these areas that media expands? Is were GLAAD then in stock also expands to

 

Jason Dressel  14:52

I mean, it’s such an innovative and unique organization I mean, other other org integrations that GLAAD models itself after or other other organizations have modeled itself after, after, you know GLAAD, like, what are what are kind of some of the sort of pure organizations that you all look at that maybe have different missions? Is that even a fair question?

 

Madeline Qi 15:18

I mean, it’s a fair question, in so far as there are definitely other leading LGBTQ organizations with extremely sizable impact on the LGBTQ community and on the history of the LGBTQ movement. That said, I want to say that truly nobody is doing the media advocacy work in the way that GLAAD does. We are the only LGBTQ advocacy organization that is primarily focused on the accurate representation of LGBTQ people in media. So we do while we do have other peer organizations such as HRC, HMI, Trevor Project, etc. These organizations, oftentimes and mainly work directly with the LGBTQ community, to ensure their safety, their the difference and the unique area of GLAAD is that we serve to open the eyes and the understanding of people who maybe have never met an LGBTQ person in their life or who are operating the world with an understanding of our community that’s based in inaccurate representation or in misinformation. So while we’re not a direct service, nonprofit, the work of GLAAD makes us unique, because we’re set apart from these other leading organizations by the fact that we are serving our community with harnessing the media, the power of media by ensuring inclusive and accurate representation.

 

Jason Dressel  16:53

And are you familiar with other organizations serving other communities with different missions and is similar person in a similar way that you all are?

 

Tyler Albertario 17:04

Well, I did that. In the very earliest days, some of the very earliest founders of GLAAD had been involved with like such as Vito Russo and Arnie Kantrowitz and Marty Robinson and Jim owls were heavily involved in the Gay Activist Alliance of the early 70s.

 

Jason Dressel  17:27

Interesting, and you mentioned obviously, a couple of times that the organization is a nonprofit. How does the organization you know operate? How is it? How is it supported? How does it generate revenue?

 

Madeline Qi i 17:41

Yeah, well, we spoke a little bit about the GLAAD Media Awards. The GMAT, which funds a lot of GLAAD’s work, but being a nonprofit organization. We rely on the support generosity from donors, fundraising and our partners.

 

Jason Dressel  18:00

What is there anything about GLAAD that’s kind of broadly misunderstood?

 

Madeline Qi  18:08

I would say perhaps it’s not so much a misunderstanding. But I think something that is worth shedding light on is the fact that a lot of what people see of GLAAD behind a screen is a lot of glitz, glam red carpet. And even beyond what is glitzy and glamorous, everything that you can see about GLAAD in the media, so much work goes into all of the reports that we release, the events that we put on, that is not seen, you know, alone, just looking at social media, looking at our website or our Instagram there, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on before something is published that is potentially years in the making in terms of the research the folks on our communications team that are on the grounds, helping ensure accurate representation, convening and meeting with other major culture and changemakers in the world. So not so much misunderstanding so much as just a reminder of all of the work that goes on to make everything that people see possible.

 

Jason Dressel  19:21

So there’s a lot of paddling going on underneath that water. 

 

Madeline Qi 19:24

Definitely. 

 

Jason Dressel 19:27

What have been some of the kind of long standing challenges, is there some sort of recurring themes or have those evolved over time?

 

Madeline Qi 19:39

What I will say is the forces of bigotry are constantly adapting. Not only are they adopting, they are also well funded, which keeps GLAAD constantly on our toes evolving in step with these with these forces of opposition Um, and being a nonprofit organization, it is, I would say one of the challenges, I think is the word that you used, one of those challenges would be keeping up with the opposition in terms of the, you know, millions, billions of dollars that the opposition has they are well funded. And I would say that as well as misinformation that is spewed by those forces is one of the greatest challenges that GLAAD faces.

 

Jason Dressel  20:33

And that opposition has it been? Has it been? Have you? Have you seen it, wax and wane? Or has it been constant? Has there been moments of extreme sort of backlash where things spike up and then go back down? What does that kind of algorithm look like from your experience over time?

 

Jason Dressel  20:54

Tyler, you want to speak to that?

 

Tyler Albertario  20:56

Well, it’s, I’d say we’re definitely in a spike in intolerance and defamation at the current moment. And like you said, it ebbs and flows over the decades. And right now we currently find ourselves in a moment where GLAADs work is needed, perhaps more than ever, right. I know, Madeline could speak, can speak to that as well.

 

Madeline Qi  21:19

Yeah, I think there are moments as a community where we really deserve to celebrate the wins that we’ve had so far, or how far we’ve come. And then I think at the same time, we’re all constantly aware that we are not yet at 100% Acceptance we have so far to go. And we have to continue showing up to do the work. And when we have something to celebrate, not just celebrate it as something that is one and done, but ensure that we maintain it less the opposition’s comfort again and take it away.

 

Jason Dressel  22:05

And what are the kind of others? I’m sure there are some specific current initiatives and programs, what are the kind of current imperatives for the organization

 

Madeline Qi  22:20

Current goals and priorities for GLAAD I think, are like I said earlier, keeping up with the forces that we’re that we are up against, as they’re adapting, making sure that we’re shifting to be able to show up in the same spaces to ensure that we are compounding that narrative in whatever spaces that it pops up in and ways that it pops up in. And additionally, I’ll underscore just one more time. It’s that fundraising piece, it’s making sure that we can continue doing this work to show up for our community and make acceptance and maintain everything that we’ve built thus far over the 40 years that GLAAD has been serving the LGBTQ community.

 

Jason Dressel  23:13

And for our listeners who want to fight for LGBTQ rights, what advice can you offer in terms of things they can do to help your cause? How can they support the movement? How can they support GLAAD specifically?

 

Madeline Qi  23:31

Well, of course you can donate to GLAAD, I would implore people who are interested in figuring out how they can get involved to visit GLAADs website to check out our social media. We’re on all of the major platforms. But following on Instagram is a really great way to see what we’re up to the spaces that GLAAD is in on a day-to-day basis as well as see some really great opportunities on Instagram live in so far as Hangouts that we’re having with different partners, different voices in the LGBTQ community that we are uplifting. And of course areas that people can stream see our work and donate.

 

Jason Dressel  24:14

Last question, my favorite one that I always like to ask, you’re, you know, you’re on a plane or you’re at a bar and you’ve got one story to tell that captures the essence of GLAAD. What would it be? Hmm. And you each can each tell a story.

 

Tyler Albertario  24:33

Yeah, I’ll take this one. So, to me it really goes back to sort of seminal moments at the founding general meeting of GLAAD on November 14 1985. At the Duane street metropolitan church right around the corner from where the LGBT Center currently is. And it was a speech by Darrell Yates Rist, one of GLAADs original founders, and he closed his speech by saying any of us have had to live a lie too long. But in these years since Stonewall brought us out, we have learned the truth about ourselves, and it is good. We will not go back not to closets, nor to shame, nor to fear, nor to celibacy, nor to letting heterosexual lies about us rule our lives, in the name of all of our friends who have died. And in the name of us who are still alive, we are putting out the warning, no more lies. I think that’s a very powerful ethos that, in my opinion, sums up GLAADs origin and mission and where it’s headed.

 

Madeline Qi 25:47

I’m not even going to try to follow that up with a different story. I’m going to let us let that one continue ringing in our minds. You can’t see me in this audio, but hearing that every time just makes me feel emotional.

 

Jason Dressel  26:07

Amen. Well, Tyler and Madeline, thank you so much for joining the History Factory podcast. We appreciate everything that you all are doing and we’ll make sure to share some of the information we shared in the show notes for people who want to support your cause. So thank you so much for being with us today.

 

Madeline Qi  26:24

Thank you so much for talking with us.

 

Madeline Qi  26:27

Thank you so much for having us Jason.

 

Jason Dressel 26:34

Okay, that concludes this episode of History Factory’s podcast. Thanks to Madeline and Tyler. Thanks for listening to the History Factory Podcast. I’m Jason Dressel. Be well.

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