Guest Blogger

Special (Lack of) Recognition

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 31, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Derek Hartley, gay media, GLAAD Media Awards, LGBT community, OutQ, Sirius XM

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Derek Hartley is a radio talk show host and writer living in New York. He is one half of the radio duo Derek and Romaine, airing weekdays nationwide on SIRIUS XM Radio's OutQ Channel. He also blogs semi-annually on his personal website. Photo credit: Brian Orter.

hartleyortercrop.jpgRomaine and I accepted a GLAAD Award on Saturday night but you would never know it from the media coverage of the event, especially the coverage from gay media. For years, we have all railed against GLAAD for tripping over themselves to lavish attention and praise on whatever straight celebrity was willing to show up at their event to get an award (Jennifer Aniston... a nice lady and all, but really?!) while ignoring worthy efforts done by LGBT people everywhere.

Since then, GLAAD has made huge strides in correcting this, while gay media has continued to lag behind in the coverage of gay people. Well, gay people who haven't been anointed by mainstream media. After six years of broadcast our show is good enough for TIME Magazine and The Washington Post to praise but I guess that doesn't reach the tipping point to make us worthy of even a short blurb in The Advocate.

The world may see the gay community as a trend setter but in gay media, it is all follow-the-leader. The gay people profiled and pushed in our own media get there because attention was paid to them first in "straight" media. Everyone politely forgets the real damage Clay Aiken did to the gay community for years before coming out on the cover of People Magazine in 2008, and as I predicted on my radio show last year, he was front and center at the GLAAD Awards just a few scant months later, with the gay press on the red carpet scrambling to get a sound byte.

Two years ago, the Claymates tried to get a personal friend of mine fired from his job, assaulting the head of his company with weeks of angry phone calls and emails for daring to tell the truth about Clay's unseemly internet advances. But Clay is famous! So let bygones be bygones.

Our award was a Special Recognition, one of only four given out on Saturday night (Suze Orman, Tyra Banks, Phil Donahue and us), for a radio special we did called "The Laramie Project Ten Years Later: The Lasting Legacy Of Matthew Shepard." Yes, I am certain a documentary about the most produced play in America's colleges and high schools does sound more dry than Tyra giving free sex reassignment surgery to Isis on her daytime talk show, but real people in this country face down the threat and danger of hate crimes every single day. And while the bodies stack up like cord wood from California to the Carolinas, gay media ignores what is happening until it is too late.

The passage of Prop 8 was a hate crime, don't kid yourself. And Keith Olbermann himself admitted that he should have done his Special Comment before the vote instead of after, which he acknowledged in front of the teary-eyed crowd at the Marriott Marquis as he accepted his GLAAD Award for his brave closing of the barn door after the horse was gone (wither Rachel Maddow).

The work to fight hate in this country continues every single day. Judy Shepard is still traveling around the world getting the word out. Our award was an opportunity for the gay community to highlight the real work being done out there to help prevent the next Lawrence King or Ryan Skipper. Maybe even promote the free download of the special now at where donations are being solicited for the Matthew Shepard Foundation so that they can continue to fund their good work even as the spotlight has faded. And in the week after George Weber was murdered right here in NYC, one of the websites we helped promote at launch, cut us from the piece written about the GLAAD Awards.

A teacher in Oklahoma was just fired for doing scenes from The Laramie Project at her school, but didn't want to interview us on the red carpet. I guess we weren't as topical and timely as the genuinely lovely Phil Donahue whose show went off the air quietly 13 years ago. After waiting to be interviewed by the reporter, we were told he was gone, having to leave early. Except that I saw him and his ugly purple vest upstairs in the media viewing area later during the show.

So even though we host a radio show available to 19 million subscribers across North America in numbers that swamp nearly all the rest of gay media, we'll spend another year in gay media purgatory not on the OUT 100 list and other cherry-picked personal vendettas in print form. Meanwhile not-out gay celebrities will walk the red carpet at GLAAD with immunity and present awards, getting free passes from gay media because they are really funny on that ABC show of theirs even if their personal life is just too personal to discuss.

Everyone wanted to Join The Impact after Prop 8 passed in California but why were some people so slow to act beforehand? Why did it take Brad Pitt putting his money where his mouth was before Ellen DeGeneres? I guess some people don't feel it is important to do anything until it is already too late. After all, crying over spilled milk is always better television than making sure the milk doesn't spill in the first place.

Last weekend, while sitting in the SIRIUS XM booth at Pride South Florida some gay walked by and tossed an unwanted folded-over flyer onto our table as he passed by. I took his thoughtlessly discarded trash and threw it right back at him, much to the horror of another gay man walking by who couldn't believe how rude I was.

As far as I am concerned, there are two kinds of gay people in this world: those who just accept the trash thrown at them and do nothing and those who take the trash and throw it right back. Well, I am the second kind of gay. Here is your trash back gay media.

Shove it up your ass.

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Wow, here here. I agree, we need to throw the trash right back in their faces. Too little, too steps...its all a bunch of BS.

Hi, there Derek! Welcome to Bilerico! I guess your here to slum with the little people, mmm?

I must admit I find it pretty damn karmic to see you here complaining about the lack of media attention and respect for your work, particularly after the way you repeatedly treated me like shit on MySpace for wanting the very same thing as a trans mediamaker.

It really sucks to have your hard work diminished (and your special was truly excellent and award-worthy, kudos on that, I mean it) and to be looked upon or even censored by those who you consider colleagues or even examples of the kind of work you want to do, isn't it? I think you know I mean it when I say I know exactly how you feel.

My purpose in commenting here, however, is not to kick you when you're down, but simply to point out how what goes around comes around, and to express my hope that when the next transperson or other Queer mediamaker crosses your path looking for support or even just a kind word, you'll be a lot more charitable to them than you were to me.

Good for you for speaking up, Rebecca!

Derek, your tirade was too long for me to read word-for-word, but the best thing to do is to please discard trash, whether yours or others, politely in the receptacles provided. Throw it back and forth and, before you know it, you are living in a dump.


Thanks for your comment but I am neither down nor slumming. I was honored that asked to reprint my blog entry because I am anxious for people to know that the special we did is available as a free download at and to request people to continue to support the fine and important work done by Judy Shepard and the Matthew Shepard Foundation every day to protect all of us from hate. I only hope they will invite me back again soon. But I appreciate you using this as an opportunity to grind an axe and exact some kind of personal revenge over something that never happened.

It is not my fault you bet on the wrong horse. You picked your own path, which I believed then and now was ill-advised. I was privvy to information that you were not aware of and while I tried to warn you to move in other directions you took that as me trying to squash your hopes and dreams. You made your own choices and that is where you ended up. That isn't my fault. We are all adults here and I am sorry that the truth was not what you wanted to hear, but I think the ensuing years have proven that I was right. I thought I was doing you a favor by trying to steer you in the right direction so that you could succeed but you chose instead to see that as me acting out of some kind of trans-oppression, a suggestion I find repugnant and beneath you.

I am disappointed that instead of airing your unfounded grievance with me personally, you chose to spew public hatred instead, clouding the waters and diminishing my call (which I would have assumed from your post that you support!) that gay media do a better job of highlighting the work of the LGBT community. But I suppose your own personal anguish at not being a bigger media star is more important than eradicating hate or improving the quality of covering in gay media for others in the LGBT community. Good job!

Actually, I did make the attempt to contact you once through your website to try to make amends. You never responded. I took that to mean the obvious. If you actually felt differently, you certainly never gave me any reason to believe it.

I didn't do anything needing amending. And if you wanted to make amends on your end, I don't see how my not responding to your email that I don't remember receiving somehow makes me the bad person worthy of this tirade.

In all honesty, Derek, I don't think you're a bad person. I never have. What I do think is that you acted like an asshole. Truth be told, looking back I know I did as well. And yet, when you're on the outside looking in and those on the inside are treating you badly, you can't help but feel at least a little justified, y'know?

No, the startup I signed on with didn't work out, but it wasn't because of a lack of quality or a lack of capability on anyone's part, nor do I believe that the reputation of anyone involved had anything to do with it. All I can and will say is that as is so often the case with these things, it was all about money.

I took the shot because taking the shot is better by far than not having a shot to take at all, if that makes any sense. There were no alternatives offered (and I was and still am looking), so I went with the one person who told me he believed in me and would put me on the air. How could I not say yes?

Because of that choice, I became persona non grata in some quarters, in others, there were times when I should have been less of a forum warrior and probably should have just shut the hell up.

Regardless, even knowing everything I know now I'd still go for it if another such opportunity came my way. Even though this last effort didn't make it, the first effort lasted five years and the second is now past that mark and still going. I'll bet on those odds because even long odds are better than none at all.

Dear Derek,
I'm going to sift through my photos to see if I even managed to get anywhere near you on the red carpet. You know what scramble it was. And our assigned position near the far end made our work harder. I didn't really have a choice about who to interview. I took anyone that I could get. And of course everyone was screaming for Clay Aiken. He's news, good or bad.