Phil Donahue was amongst those honored by The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) this past weekend at the 20th Annual Media Awards ceremony in New York. A number of elites were there for the gala. A posh posh star studded event, don’t you know! Phil Donahue, let's just say he was the Oprah of his day. He would get a kick out of that. Some of you might not remember him.
GLAAD is the nation's leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization. They have come under criticism from gay leaders for their focus on honoring straight celebrities and mainstream media for their efforts, sometimes at the expense of our own community’s very legitimate heroes, who allegedly are too often ignored by GLAAD’s powers that be. That’s for a later day.
One exception to that argument for sure came Saturday, as they recognized a person who has been by our side for decades, when the cause was unpopular and the numbers were few. It is therefore worthy of comment that a Special Recognition Award was presented to Phil Donahue, who was the honoree at the first GLAAD Media Awards in 1990.
Phil championed gay rights long before it became fashionable or trendy or socially acceptable. He was there in the beginning when it was gutsy and courageous to be on our side. He bucked the public tide to be supportive of homosexuals. His comments are therefore revealing and intriguing, a reminder of how far we have come:
"It's unbelievable to think about the power and the warp speed of this revolution," Donahue said during his acceptance. "Twenty years ago when I proudly accepted the first GLAAD Media Award...it was a very small crowd. There are more photographers here tonight than there were people then….And now, we look up in 2009, and [the LGBT community] is popular. The majority of the people in the nation agree with us. Our job now is to summon these people to stand up and say so out loud. To tell them to join us. To march the lavender line with us down Fifth Avenue, and to remind them, when they do join us, they're going to meet a lot of nice people."
Thank you Phil, for being there then, for being there now, and for making it easier for so many to walk that lavender line.