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The visibility professionals: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the cultural politics of mainstreaming

Vincent A Doyle, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Based on archival research, in-depth interviewing, and extensive participant observation carried out over two years in both New York and Los Angeles, this ethnography of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) critically examines the professionalization of a media advocacy organization and interrogates the value of visibility in contemporary sexual politics. On what and whose terms has the visibility of gays and lesbians been conceptualized and negotiated, and with what consequences for movement politics? How has GLAAD responded to movement tensions between legitimationist and liberationist approaches to social and cultural change? What is the nature of GLAAD's relationships with the media industries and with other movement agents and organizations? What representations does the leading cultural advocate for the gay and lesbian movement help (re)produce and, in the process, which political constituencies does it represent? I approach GLAAD as a positioned organization in the movement and media fields, in Pierre Bourdieu's sense of the word, in which various agents with stakes in the representation of gays and lesbians compete for various kinds of capital. I describe how, as a result of field positioning objectives, corporate media professionals have come to dominate efforts by the gay and lesbian movement to improve the representation of sexual minorities in mainstream culture. This professionalization has tended to produce normalized representations of gays and lesbians and has fundamentally altered the relationships between the gay and lesbian movement and the media, leading to unprecedented levels of integration. While this integration has contributed greatly to GLAAD's fundraising and institution-building objectives, it has not necessarily led to more influence in the media advocacy system, especially in periods of conflict, and may in fact have made it more difficult for the gay and lesbian movement to advocate effectively on behalf of diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies.

Subject Area

Mass media|Political science

Recommended Citation

Doyle, Vincent A, "The visibility professionals: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the cultural politics of mainstreaming" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193896.