Jesse Monteagudo

GLAAD All Over

Filed By Jesse Monteagudo | September 15, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: GLAAD, sex workers

On August 30 the political website Huffington Post published an article about gay lifestyles by Amanda M. Fairbanks, apparently a heterosexual woman. Titled "Sex For Tuition: Gay Male College Students Using 'Sugar Daddies' To Pay Off Loan Debt," GLAAD2.jpgthe article featured a photo of a handsome Daddy and an equally attractive twink cuddling in bed.

According to Fairbanks, "an increasing number of gay male students have... taken to the web in the past several years searching for wealthy benefactors. While young gay men exchanging sex for money certainly predated the financial collapse, recent events have pushed some students to consider engaging in risky behavior that in more robust economic times might have been unthinkable, according to several owners of websites that broker such hook-ups... The rise in the number of straight and gay college students moonlighting as 'sugar babies' occurs at a time when the life plan of many 20-somethings have taken a brutal detour..."

As a frequent visitor to the Huffington Post website, I read Fairbanks' article the day it was posted and thought nothing of it. This was not the case with the folks at GLAAD which issued a "Call to Action: Tell Huffington Post To Stop Masquerading Anti-Gay Stereotypes As Journalism"

"Fairbanks and her interview subjects play into several alarming and dangerous stereotypes about the LGBT community - completely unchallenged," read the GLAAD press release. "This level of carelessness is surprising, given the Huffington Post's track record of commendable coverage of LGBT issues," said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD.

"It feeds into very outdated stereotypes, ignores the broad range of people from our community with many healthy and loving families and uses a few individuals to make sweeping and degrading generalizations about the gay community. It's shoddy journalism." GLAAD urged LGBT community members to "take action and let the Huffington Post know that they should not stand behind this careless and derogatory approach to journalism."

What did Fairbanks write that was so horrible? Fairbanks interviewed Brandon Wade, founder of the hook-up website SeekingArrangement.com, who told her that "the gay community were really the first to embrace the sugar lifestyle, even more so than the straight community."

Fairbanks herself added that, "unlike in the straight world, many say they find working as an escort on the gay scene to be an accepted, even applauded practice... And unlike the young women engaged in similar behavior who reported feeling great shame and remorse, the men generally seemed less traumatized by their decision. In fact, they often feel emboldened by the money they were able to earn, rather than shamed by the stigma." She makes reference to Christian Grov, assistant professor of public health at Brooklyn College, who "finds the gay culture more accepting of one-night stands and casual relationships."

So what's wrong with that? Escorts, one-night stands and casual relationships are more acceptable in the LGBT community (or at least the male part) than in the heterosexual mainstream. So are public nudity, pornography and open relationships. By denouncing Fairbanks' article, GLAAD seems to presume that our community shares in the heterosexual mainstream's prejudice against any form of "sex" that is not justified by "love."

We might want the world to think that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community consists mostly of happy, monogamous couples, with or without children, but wanting something does not mean that it actually exists. We should accept and celebrate our LGBT community in all its diversity, not try to pigeonhole it into a socially-acceptable "lifestyle." (This does not justify Fairbanks' use of generalizations, as when she quotes "sugar baby" Jake's opinion that, "in the gay scene, all you really have is your age or your money.")

This has not been a good year for GLAAD. Earlier this year, it sent a letter to the FCC endorsing a proposed merger between communications giants AT&T and T-Mobile. This was seen by many to be a conflict of interest, since GLAAD board member Troup Coronado was also a lobbyist for AT&T. This led to the resignation of GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios and eight GLAAD board members (including Coronado) before GLAAD withdrew support for the merger and took a stand in favor of net neutrality.

But GLAAD is not over. It has since recovered enough to lead the charge against homophobic rapper Tyler the Creator after he won Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards. GLAAD also called out comedian Chelsea Handler when she mocked transgender activist Chaz Bono's upcoming appearance on "Dancing With The Stars." There is still a place for GLAAD in the LGBT community, but it must choose its battles carefully. For all its faults, Huffington Post is our friend.

We already have too many enemies.


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Actually, not one month before they posted this story, they posted the SAME story, but with a focus on colelge students in general (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/29/seeking-arrangement-college-students_n_913373.html).

The author essentially recycled her article to focus specifically on gay men. The difference? The first article about young women seeking men to finance their tuitions was titled "Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using 'Sugar Daddies' To Pay Off Loan Debt". The latter article? "Sex For Tuition: Gay Male College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies' To Pay Off Loan Debt". Whereas the first article shows a clothed woman and man sitting on a bed together, the latter article shows two topless men lying in bed together wrapped in sheets.

I guess "Seeking Arrangement" wasn't salacious enough of an article title the first time around, nor was an image of people wearing their clothes...at least not when it comes to talking about gay men having sex for money rather than straight women.

I have separate thoughts about the article itself and the young men in it who report desperately turning to sex work to "pay for iPhones" or those who "didn't really need the money", but that's an entirely separate thing.

Is HuffPo justified in printing it? Yes. GLAAD should shut up about cases where it's clear that what's happening is a reality. You cannot control EVERY news story to ensure that nothing reported is ever potentially unflattering about a subset of gay men. That's about as much bullshit as people who go out of their way to denigrate gay men.

But I will say that HuffPo allowed the recycled article to run with an even more salacious title and racier image, which looks like more pandering to the idea of gay men as sexual perverts.

On the day same-sex marriage became legal in New York, GLAAD had volunteers at City Hall in NYC passing out leaflets telling soon-to-be spouses how to answer questions from the press. The leaflets enjoined excited couples to be careful not to talk about civil rights, and instructed them on how to appear as "normal" as possible. Can you imagine? On one of the most exciting days in the recent memory of many of us, GLAAD comes out to tell the thousands of us waiting in line how to feel and to behave. I can't tell you how insulting - and ultimately pointless - I found that gesture.

So, I don't know Jesse. For me at least, GLAAD is well and truly OVER.

Achieving the goals of the LGBT movement will put many LGBT orgs out of business -- and that is the situation in which GLAAD finds itself. The more people accept, or at least don't bother to oppose, LGBT people, the less GLAAD will have to complain about, the less the donation dollars will roll in, and the fewer employees GLAAD will be able to bankroll. When GLAAD tries to make a campaign out of every straight person who looks at us cross-eyed or sticks their tongue out at us, they are actually trying to generate work for themselves and thus justify their organizational existence.

In the meantime, they have centered their offices and workforces in huge cities, and totally ignored the real work that still needs to be done in the more rural areas of America. Yes, Jesse, there are still places for GLAAD across the American LGBT scene: they really ought to move their HQ out of NYC and to Ogden, Utah, or Couer d'Alene, Idaho, or Fort Collins, Colorado, or even just Falls Church, Virginia -- there, they would confront some real (meaning, unimagined) anti-gay messages that genuinely deserve major dollars to be countered.

I have long complained about how GLAAD spends its donation dollars, particularly how it throws multiple tres-chic awards dinners per year, almost invariably in a top-ten American metropolis, and the closest they ever get to the middle of the country is Chicago or Atlanta. I have also long thought they need to change their operational model: instead of attempting to continue as centralized, they could transition to being the mothership for local community GLAAD chapters in small towns dotted all over the country.

If the folks at GLAAD have worked themselves out of a job as far as ultra-urban America is concerned, then I am willing to salute them -- but if they have self-destructed by living out glitsy celebrity fantasies, waging war against scarecrows and avoiding the real work that still needs to be done, then I say good riddance.

Sorry Jesse, but the Huffington Post article did suck, and GLAAD was right. The author quoted a young man who clearly had internalized homophobia. His statement about needing lots of money for the "GAY LIFESTYLE" (ugh!), and also that when you are gay, all you have is your youth or $$, were sad and ugly. It was not an article about gays who hate themselves. Those quotes would have been appropriate in that type of article.
GLAAD was correct in blasting the Huffington Post for perpetuating ugly stereotypes by quoted a young man who clearly has a warped view of his sexual orientation and his people.

Wait a minute! ... Who needs to be criticized here? The HuffPo for printing a true remark that was actually made to them -- or the gay guy with the internalized homophobia problem who made the statements in the first place, knowing that they were likely to be published?

In my book, criticizing the HuffPo is a form of shooting the messenger. Is it HuffPo's duty to censor true stuff that makes the LGBT community look bad? ... No! It's their job to report the world as it really is.

If GLAAD wants to address internalized homophobia within our own community and fellow LGBT individuals, that's a decent thing to do, providing they do so with a proper measure of compassion -- but that would also be a change in their current primary mission.

Other than salaciousness and article-recycling, HuffPo is not the real problem here -- it is the actual people in the article, and we have no evidence that they were represented less than truthfully.