Once my response to Greg Grunberg's email about my post regarding his tweets about Chaz Bono that many transpeople and allies found to be transphobic hit The Bilerico Project, things started happening pretty quickly.
Bil got in touch with Rich Ferraro, Public Relations Director of GLAAD and told him what was going on. Shortly thereafter, we received word from Rich that GLAAD's entertainment team was in agreement with the sentiments expressed in my original post on the topic, and they were ready to help. The folks at GLAAD posted about the story on their blog and began tweeting their list that people should send direct messages to Greg Grunberg that he owes Chaz Bono and transgender community an apology.
And apologize he did. Wednesday afternoon, this tweet came across Grunberg's feed:
Clearly, he got the message. While I called Grunberg out on this originally thanks to the efforts of one of our Projectors, Firebolt, tweeting it to many in our community including transgender author Kate Bornstein, who retweeted it to her own list, including me, it was through the efforts of the community and our allies that this story became a lot more than just a single trans blogger and a few tweeters speaking to their respective online choirs.
Special thanks are due to Rich Ferraro and the staff at GLAAD. They've been extremely helpful and supportive on this, quickly and effectively taking action as soon as they became aware of the story. While many of us have had problems with the way GLAAD has handled certain issues (and really, is there any org out there who we think is right every time on everything?), they've been instrumental in getting word out to the community and ensuring that Greg Grunberg knows that not only is there a strong and vibrant LGBT community which pays attention to and cares about these things, but that we can and will speak out as a united community when we feel we must.
In my opinion, even though relatively out of the major media spotlight for the most part as compared to a lot of what this organization usually does, this was GLAAD at their very best: concerned, committed, and hardworking activists fulfilling and honoring the essence of their mission:
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
GLAAD has earned my thanks and support, not only as an LGBT person who cares about how we and our issues are presented in the media, but also as a transgender mediamaker who in large part because of their efforts was able to reach outside her own circles to get my message and our concerns heard by a much larger audience more quickly than we'd likely ever have been able to manage otherwise. It's in large part because of the efforts of these people and this organization, that we've been able to have what I hope is a real impact here, not only on Greg Grunberg, but hopefully also on the folks at NBC and other networks who care about these things. I hope you feel the same and will offer GLAAD your thanks and support.
While I've certainly been one of the complainers in the past, I've decided that based on this experience, I'm going to pay GLAAD the highest compliment for their efforts here that I can offer: I'm going to reactivate my GLAAD membership and encourage you do the same. Those of us who are quick to complain when it's warranted should be just as quick to commend and compliment when it's deserved as well. No, GLAAD isn't perfect, but they've come through for us bigtime on this one and they deserve our thanks and our support for it. Even if you can't afford a membership, donate a few bucks if you can, and if not, at least drop them a note to say thanks. I doubt this story would ever have had anywhere near the reach or impact it did if GLAAD hadn't gotten involved.
Now, let's talk about Greg Grunberg.
Unfortuantely, I have no way of knowing if Grunberg ever read my second post on the topic featuring the long letter I wrote to him. I wrote the letter in the hopes of doing some education and explaining to him why what he said on Twitter was seen by many in our community as transphobic, why we're so angry about it, and why what he said was not only hurtful to many of us but also potentially genuinely harmful as well. Given that, there's a few things I want to say publicly before I (presumably) put this issue to rest, at least from my perspective.
First and foremost, I honestly don't believe that Greg Grunberg is a bad person or a true transphobe. At the same time, however, he did say things that were, in fact, transphobic, even though he didn't intend them to be seen that way. What I do believe he is (or was until now) is ignorant. I don't believe he made those jokes about Chaz Bono to intentionally dengrate him for being a transperson. Based on what I've read on his Twitter feed and elsewhere over the course of this, it's my belief that Grunberg thought his Chaz Bono tweets were just funny and clever and really didn't understand what all the hubbub was about. It's also my belief that Grunberg simply never considered that his tweets, and particularly his mixing of gender pronouns in reference to a transgender person, would be seen as offensive. Once we'd made that clear to him, he did apologize, twice in fact.
In my book, that's a win.
As anyone who reads my posts with any regularity knows well that I rarely, if ever, have a problem publicly going on the attack against any individual or organization when I believe it's justified, no matter who it is. Thats not how I feel about this situation, though. The truth is that I have no interest in bashing Greg Grunberg because I really don't think he's a bad guy, but it's important to me that he understand what he did, why it was wrong, and why he should refrain from doing it in the future. For me, that's what this effort has been about from the beginning and what it continues to be about now, not to attack and condemn, but to educate and help him to understand why what he did was wrong.
My original post got Grunberg's attention, and so I tried to capitalize on that attention with an attempt to educate, inform, and hopefully inspire a little positive change. As I remarked to Bil on the phone, what I was really trying to do here was to use my words to reach across the country and give Grunberg a little whack on the back of head and say "Hey! That's not nice! Stop it!" My response letter to Grunberg was as long and as personal as it was because that was what I felt was the best way to convey that message to him.
Did it work? Did our message get through? The truth is that right now I can't say I know the answers to those questions for sure, but I think I can safely say that Greg Grunberg will remember this experience. Based on the kind of person I believe he really is based on the evidence I've seen, I think it's fair to expect that Greg Grunberg has indeed learned the lesson we joined together to teach him. I also believe there's good reason to hope that he'll take that lesson to heart and next time he'll give a little more thought to what he says publicly about transgender people and how it might be taken before he says it.
And if so, that's another win.
Most importantly of all, we saw our community come together online to quickly take action and to make our voices heard by someone who needed to hear them. Bloggers, readers, the online rank-and-file of our community, bolstered by the support and participation of a major civil rights organization, quickly and seamlessly united to get the job done and create some positive change. We were heard, acknowledged, and assuming Greg Grunberg's the kind of guy I think he is, we did some real education here, with everyone working together to make it happen.
This is a lesson for us as well. In my opinion, this experience demonstrates how we can be so much more powerful and effective as a community and as a force for positive change when we unite to work together than when we work separately as individual people or organizations. I believe we should all remember this effort and what we've learned from it, not only in regard to how we advocate our issues publicly in the future, but also about how when the call came, we were able to put any issues we might have had with each other on the shelf for the time being and work in concert with each other for a positive outcome.
I fervently hope that what we've seen here is that we're finally learning how to team up and really work together for maximum impact. We need to be able to do this again, and again, and again, every time we need to bring our collective voices together in unison to foster positive change.
If we can do that, if we can learn what we must from this effort, not only about Greg Grunberg but also about ourselves, and make it work for us in the future, then that'll be the biggest win of all.