News - July 1996

Homophobic anti-drug campaign hits television airwaves

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched a national media campaign July 1 to alert television networks and independent and affiliated stations nationwide of a public service announcement (PSA) it considers patently homophobic.

GLAAD asked the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) to recall the ad, which is part of a campaign to end heroin use, but a terse response last week (June 26) from PDFA flatly refused to address GLAAD's concerns.

In a strongly-worded letter delivered to PDFA President and CEO Richard D. Bonnette on June 20, GLAAD demanded the recall of one of ten television PSA's now being distributed to the nation's top 50 media markets. The PSA presents the teen-aged "David," who, due to an addiction to heroin, undergoes one tragic circumstance after another, one of which, as presented by PDFA, is a homosexual encounter. In the spot, David describes his downward spiral, from unemployment to life on the street. He concludes by saying, "...and now I have sex with men (cuts to a long-shot) for money, to support my habit." (Then there is an abrupt cut-David cries.) "I wish I didn't have to be like this."

According to GLAAD, the ad suggests that drug use ultimately leads to sex with men, which is portrayed as a social ill more severe than drug use, and uses homosexuality as a scare tactic to prevent drug use amongst teens.

"GLAAD is outraged by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's lack of sensitivity to the lesbian and gay community," said William Waybourn, GLAAD's managing director. "This spot sends a misguided message to America's young people, and specifically to lesbian and gay youth. The ad has the potential to exacerbate higher-than-average risks gay and lesbian youth face for substance abuse and suicide by implying that being gay is worse than being addicted to heroin. On the whole, GLAAD agrees with the aims of this campaign but cannot support it so long as one of the spots contains an anti-gay message."

Waybourn expressed concern that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America squandered the opportunity to educate the American public about the pressures endured by lesbian and gay adolescents that place them at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse. "Instead, the Partnership took the opportunity to ostracize gay youth and takes an even more dangerous step, reinforcing an antiquated and heinous stereotype: that of the predatory homosexual," added Waybourn.

GLAAD is the nation's lesbian and gay news bureau and the only national lesbian and gay media watchdog organization. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate, and inclusive representation as a means of challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.