ACT UP NY protests GLAAD Media Awards

Trans flag, blue, pink and white, is held up by a hand overlooking a sea of protesters at the Hilton Midtown.
ACT UP protesting GLAAD Media Awards by Alexa Wilkinson
Trans flag, blue, pink and white, is held up by a hand overlooking a sea of protesters at the Hilton Midtown.

On May 11, 2024, outside the GLAAD Media Awards at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, over 150 queer protestors and allies rallied, demanding GLAAD, the largest LGBTQ media advocacy group globally, to take a stand against Israel’s genocidal campaign in Rafah. ACT UP NY’s (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) protest called for GLAAD to platform queer and trans Palestinian stories, advocate for an immediate ceasefire, denounce genocide, and terminate its partnership with the Anti-Defamation League.

ACT UP released a press release that stated speakers at the outdoor rally included HIV advocates from ACT UP NY, queer Palestinian artists and activists, healthcare workers, and queer organizers aiding Gazan refugees in Egypt. Simultaneously, on the 42nd floor of the Hilton Hotel, a 40-foot-long banner unfurled outside windows bearing the message “NY LOVES GAZA,” accompanied by the pink ACT UP triangle symbol.

Meanwhile, inside the event, drag artist and trans advocate Chiquitita disrupted the award show, denouncing GLAAD’s complicity in genocide and demanding action. In response, some GLAAD Awards attendees walked out of the event, and at least, one staff member.

On the inside of the awards, drag artist and trans advocate Chiquitita, interrupted the award show in a rhinestoned yellow gown yelling “GLAAD IS COMPLICIT IN GENOCIDE!” 

Photo by Alexa Wilkinson for ACT UP

The demonstration comes after ACT UP NY’s email campaign urging GLAAD to address the Palestinian crisis. However, GLAAD’s continued silence and collaboration with corporations complicit in the genocide, including Google, Walmart, Disney, and others have drawn criticism from some activists.

Queer Palestinian-Syrian artist and writer Noor emphasized the intersectionality of queer liberation and Palestinian freedom, stressing that oppression knows no bounds and calling for solidarity in ending apartheid and violence.

“As a Queer Palestinian, it goes without question to me that there’s no such thing as Queer liberation without the liberation of Palestine. We fight for Palestine in honor of our Queer history and ancestors, for those Queer Palestinian siblings of ours living in Palestine, and for all those generations to come. This violent, unjust oppression — apartheid, bombs, weapons, mass destruction, disabling and displacement of indigenous humans — does not discriminate. Queer Palestinians are just as much a part of our community as any other, as such we must advocate for the end of this genocide & apartheid, from the river to the sea,” Noor said outside rally.

GLAAD was founded in 1985 in response to the AIDS crisis and the mainstream media’s homophobic coverage of it. At the time, over 16,000 people had died of AIDS. The organization was founded by Jewelle Gomez, Lauren Hinds and the late Vito Russo who died of AIDS. He was an organizing member of ACT UP NY. Today, he has remained a guiding light to the mission of GLAAD.

“Living with AIDS is like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes, you look around and you discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them. They’re walking the streets as though we weren’t living through some sort of nightmare. And only you can hear the screams of the people who are dying and their cries for help. No one else seems to be noticing,” said Russo, said at an ACT UP Demonstration May 9, 1988.

Photo by Alexa Wilkinson for ACT UP

The ADL known for characterizing pro-Palestinian protests as antisemitism “that trains U.S. law enforcement to use unconstitutional IDF tactics against U.S. civilians, and that embraces openly anti-Queer figures like Abigail Shrier and Jared Kushner,” reads ACT UP’s release.

Emmaia Gelman, director of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism and ACT UP member since 1996, says that GLAAD’s partnership with the ADL is a “betrayal of queer communities.”

“GLAAD can call attention to anti-LGBTQ violence without legitimating the ADL’s Center on Extremism, which smears Palestinian-, Jewish-, BIPOC-, and Queer-led social justice movements as ‘terror’ supporters,” Gelman continues. “Thanks to mass grassroots uprising, led by young organizers who are drawing on Queer activist legacies, Zionism is no longer compulsory in U.S. politics. GLAAD must catch up.”

ACT UP NY’s campaign aims to hold GLAAD accountable for its silence and complicity and to uplift the voices of marginalized communities.