He has two and a half months before he officially takes over the reins at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, but former Massachusetts state senator Jarrett Barrios is hitting the ground running. When Barrios takes over as GLAAD's president in September (Neil Giuliano announced he'd be leaving GLAAD earlier this year and officially stepped down last week), he'll become the youngest leader of the gay rights organization in its history. He'll also be the only leader of a national LGBT organization who is bilingual.
A father to two teenage boys, Barrios is also a married man -- part of the deal he made with his partner of 16 years, Doug Hattaway, and with GLAAD when accepting the position was that he be allowed to work from their home in Boston part time, and work out of the New York office the rest of the week. It's that family, he says, and his experiences working and living in Massachusetts (a state that boasts many firsts for LGBT Americans, and where he has spent many years serving as president of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, a driving force behind the state's groundbreaking universal health care program) that make him that much more excited to lend his efforts to leading GLAAD.
In these ever-changing political times, Barrios sat down with Advocate.com to talk about what changes GLAAD needs to make to stay relevant and ensure change actually happens for the gay community.
Advocate.com:In moving GLAAD forward given the current political and media climate, what do you hope to bring to the table -- what do you see for GLAAD in the next few years? Jarrett Barrios: GLAAD is about changing hearts and minds, but in this political environment where so much is at stake, where victories are happening in places like Iowa, Maine, and New Hampshire, and some heartbreaking losses like in California, GLAAD's mission has never been more important. You don't win legal battles for equality and you don't win legislative battles for equality unless you've first achieved an equality of heart and spirit and mind -- until you've sort of persuaded the public of the value and the dignity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americansâ€¦ and that's what GLAAD does. GLAAD puts those everyday stories out -- yours and mine -- for America to understand who we are. We are their neighbors, we are their family, we are their friends.
Are there any issues you think GLAAD should be involved in that it isn't currently? When you look at GLAAD's incredible work in the entertainment industry and the media advocacy work that it does, in some ways, it's hard to see the full story. GLAAD's media advocacy work isn't about changing Hollywood. That change happened a long time ago. It's about reaching through entertainment. It's about reaching people in middle America, in their living rooms, on their terms. That's how you win real equality, full equality for people in places like Iowa, for people in places like Maine. That work is absolutely critical for GLAAD to continue. But there's other work that I would like to see GLAAD continue to build onâ€¦work that's not as well known. The work that GLAAD does with young adultsâ€¦ in sports and, increasingly, where I would like to see GLAAD blossom, is in the world of digital media -- the social media networks in the media age, that is where people get their news, that is where people get their perceptionsâ€¦and, unfortunately, in some cases, stereotypes.