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GLAAD CEO calls for more LGBT stories in children's programming

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Wikimedia Commons/Ludovic Bertron

A leading LGBT watchdog group is urging Hollywood to incorporate more LGBT content into children’s programming as it pushes back against a new Florida law that prohibits public school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for kids 9 years and younger. 

According to Variety, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) CEO Sara Kate Ellis expressed her desire to see more LGBT representation in children’s media during Saturday’s GLAAD Media Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. 

“Don’t wait until you’re in the hot seat,” Ellis said. “There’s no more time to sit on the sidelines. We need Hollywood on the front lines, fighting for our rights and telling our stories.”

The activist stated the organization “will soon convene the biggest brands, agencies, studios and streamers together with two goals: one, to commit to improving the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBTQ images, especially in kids and family programming. And, two, to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation in favor of rights like the Equality Act.”

Ellis' organization, in 2019, called for 20% of all television characters to be LGBT by the year 2025.

Meg Kilgannon, the senior fellow for education studies at the social conservative lobbying organization Family Research Council, told The Christian Post that GLAAD making such an announcement at its annual awards event in Los Angeles should be taken “very seriously.”

“This is essentially the same thing for them as an announcement from the pulpit is to us as Christians,” Kilgannon said. “They’re telling you this is their faith, and they will make sure their children are catechized in it. And not only their own children, but they’re going to try to catechize our children in it.”

GLAAD’s recent push for LGBT representation in children’s programming comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education law. The law prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for children in kindergarten through third grade and requires schools to inform parents about changes in services that could impact their child’s well-being. 

In her public remarks Saturday, Ellis criticized the Florida bill, appearing to use its passage as a reason to focus on sharing an LGBT message through kids’ content. 

“In just one day, on March 8, the Florida Senate passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which was signed into law this past week,” she said. 

“The South Dakota Senate passed a bill that bans discussion of ‘divisive concepts’ like race and sex in college courses. The Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill that would send librarians to jail if they let minors check out books that include LGBTQ topics. And the New Jersey Supreme Court denied an appeal that would bar a religious organization from offering so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ This all happened not in one month, not in one week, but all in one day,” Ellis continued. “I expect every industry executive in this room to join us. GLAAD will give you the playbook. But we won’t give you a pass.” 

In a statement Wednesday, mental health professional Robin Atkins told CP that exposing children to adult sexual preferences could negatively impact their well-being. 

“Children do not have the necessary cognitive skills nor the life experience to incorporate adult sexual content into their lives,” Atkins wrote. “Children exposed to sexual content are inherently sexualized. Their innocence and natural gradual assimilation of knowledge are destroyed.”

The GLAAD CEO’s remarks come not long after leaked footage from a Disney company meeting showed employees expressing similar intentions for children’s programming.

The footage shows Disney Executive Producer Latoya Raveneau referring to her “not-at-all secret gay agenda.” During the meeting, Corporate President Karey Burke also called for upcoming projects to feature more “LGBTQIA” lead characters. 

“We have many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories, and yet we don’t have enough leads, a narrative in which gay characters just — just get to be characters and not have to be about gay stories,” she said. 

In 2020, the creator of the Disney Channel cartoon “The Owl House” admitted the lead character shared her bisexual orientation. The character is reportedly the first time the network has featured a bisexual character as the lead. 

Similarly, in 2021, Nickelodeon, another children’s television network, announced it would feature a trans-identified teen in an episode of “Danger Force” as part of a “Trans Youth Acting Challenge.”

In that same year, the network also showcased an animated Pride parade using characters from the kid’s show “Blue’s Clues.” In a 2021 reboot of the “Rugrats” children’s series, Nickelodeon rewrote one of its heterosexual characters, turning her into a lesbian single mom. 

FRC’s Kilgannon urged parents to turn to great alternative programming for kids.

“They don’t have these big budgets and the backing of big media,” she said. “But there is great programming out there for children from Christian sources. ... So, the more they push this, the more you’ll see a response for an alternative. And the best thing parents can do, of course, is just unplug it all and spend time with your children.”

In a 2019-2020 GLAAD report, “Where We Are on TV,” the media watchdog group claimed the role television plays in “changing hearts and minds has never been more important.” A 2017 GLAAD/Harris survey of 2,037 adults that reportedly found that one-fifth of Americans ages 18-34 and 12% of all adults identify as LGBT or other non-heterosexual, non-biological gender categories. 

A June 2019 Gallup survey found many Americans tend to overestimate the percentage of how many of their fellow citizens identify as gay or lesbian by a significant margin. 

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