GLAAD Awards: Kerry Washington Lauded for Pro-LGBT Clarion Call

Actress Kerry Washington got snaps from the media for her pro-LGBT speech after she received GLAAD’s Vanguard Award at the group’s 26th annual ceremony.

“Kerry Washington Rouses in Speech on LGBT Rights” was The Wrap’s headline, while E! News gushed with “Kerry Washington Gives Powerful, Moving Speech at 2015 GLAAD Media Awards” and CNN reported, “Kerry Washington brings cheering crowd to its feet in GLAAD speech.”

According to Washington’s speech, “the full rights of citizenship” still elude many people based on race, gender, sexuality and income.

"Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, inter-sex people, we have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us that fall into the category of 'other,’” the Scandal star told an audience at the event held March 21 in Los Angeles.

Washington was ambiguous as to whether she meant that the world in general or that America specifically denies those rights, but she was crystal clear when she noted entertainment media’s influence.

“We don't have equal access to education, to health care and some other basic liberties like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices. Now, you would think that those kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often, we don't,” she said.

“Because having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, or as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling and inclusive representations (emphasis added).”

Hollywood is a powerful player in the media’s push to break down the traditional family and portray alternative lifestyles as equally normal.

The media are moving quickly when it comes to portraying gender confusion as “the next civil rights struggle.” Interestingly enough, the next step in LGBT community representation is to stop portraying its members as unusual or special at all.

When receiving the Ally for Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign earlier this month, Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes slammed the use of “diversity,” saying the word itself is marginalizing.

“I really hate the word ‘diversity.’ It suggests something … other. As if it is something … special. Or rare,” Rhimes said. “Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV.”

LGBTQ characters should be as commonplace as heterosexual, “cisgender” characters to represent the everyday population correctly, according to Rhimes.  

“I have a different word: normalizing,” she said. “I’m normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look normal.”

Women make up about half the population and are still underrepresented in movies and TV, and entertainment has yet to catch up with the racially diverse American people; however, the percentage of the U.S. population that identifies as LGBT is far lower than the media would have you believe.

Last year, the first large-scale government survey of the U.S. population found that less than 3 percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, while the nonprofit trans-advocate Transgender Law & Policy Institute estimates that between 2 and 5 percent of the population has “some degree of gender dysphoria.”

As the Atlantic noted in 2012, “Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are.”

At the same GLAAD event, Zoe Saldana of Star Trek and Avatar stardom said the designers behind Dolce & Gabbana were “allowed to their own opinion.” Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana had recently come under fire for supporting traditional mother-father family structure over gay adoptions and in vitro fertilization.

Ellen DeGeneres, who brought wife Portia de Rossi to the event, was a 2015 GLAAD awards presenter and didn’t exactly echo Saldana’s measured take. The talk show host told E! News that she would never wear D&G’s luxury offerings “ever, ever again.”