One Chance in Ten

Last weekend, on a magazine buying trip to one of my favorite gay and lesbian bookstores, I picked up a copy of Hero magazine. I would love to tell you that I am a devoted reader of this new magazin

May 6, 1999 at 2:06 pm

Last weekend, on a magazine buying trip to one of my favorite gay and lesbian bookstores, I picked up a copy of Hero magazine. I would love to tell you that I am a devoted reader of this new magazine, but I have to truthfully say I picked it up because of the chiseled-faced man staring at me from the cover.

What can I say? I'm human.

Settled in my favorite reading chair later that afternoon, I learned more about this prince charming who the magazine's cover lines touted as the "hunky Hollywood watchdog." It turns out that the Hero cover boy is none other than Scott Seomin, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's (GLAAD) new entertainment media director.

For those of you who aren't familiar with GLAAD, it describes itself as "a national organization dedicated to promoting fair, accurate and inclusive representation of individuals and events in the media as a means of challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity."

Since its founding in 1985, GLAAD has worked to change the way our community and its members are portrayed on the screen and in the news. Acknowledging the role the media plays in defining perception, GLAAD also has worked to become a resource for decision makers in the entertainment industry and the news media.

In and of itself, the fact that GLAAD's latest hire made the cover of a national gay magazine was no surprise.

GLAAD is an influential, national gay and lesbian organization. And filling this high-profile position, which you might have heard of because it was formerly held by author and famous daughter Chastity Bono, is a newsworthy event. But I was surprised and interested to learn, not far into the story, that Seomin hails from none other than our own hometown, Cincinnati.

So, you ask, how does a boy from Anderson Township end up working in Hollywood for GLAAD, an organization that Entertainment Weekly called "one of Hollywood's most powerful entities" and The Los Angeles Times described as "possibly the most successful organization lobbying the media for inclusion?"

You got me. So I went right to the source.

Even as far back as his days at Anderson High School, being out of the closet was important to Seomin. He came out to his parents and three of his closest friends when he was 16. Seomin told me that it wasn't easy because his parents weren't excited about his news.

And they were especially unhappy that he had told his friends because they were worried that people would talk.

Lucky for Seomin, he had found a role model in the now well-know designer John Bartlett, who also happens to have grown up in Cincinnati. As Seomin tells the story, even though Bartlett attended another school and was a few years older, he was a role model to him.

"John had come out to his parents at 16," Seomin told me. "He was such an inspiration. I needed that. I needed to see a successful, smart, gay guy."

From high school, Seomin went to Ohio State and then moved to Los Angeles.

"I wanted to have good weather and get a good job in television," he said.

Almost nine years later, after stints at Entertainment Tonight (ET) as director of media relations and producer, and more than a year working with former ET anchor John Tesh's production company and record label, Seomin found himself searching for something more.

"I know it sounds so cliché," he said, "but I wasn't fulfilled."

So after some soul-searching and a long interview process, Seomin found himself starting his new position at GLAAD last September.

I asked Seomin about his goals as he continues to settle into his new job.

"I am only one person and there are so many outlets," he said. "I'm here to formalize GLAAD as a resource. Often people come to GLAAD at the end of the process. I want to get to the point where people in the industry use GLAAD as a resource before it is too late to change things."

As examples of the successful work GLAAD has accomplished, Seomin cites the work it has done around the television shows Dawson's Creek and Will & Grace.

"We have helped the press understand the importance of Will & Grace in both television and gay and lesbian history," he said.

On the flip side, though, Seomin says he is keenly aware of the fine line he and GLAAD walk. He is quick to point out that GLAAD is not a PR machine. GLAAD is in place to organize and educate, not blindly promote. Seomin uses Will & Grace as an example again. Though GLAAD has been very supportive of the show, Seomin says that if there aren't further character developments for Will — think dates and even possible on-screen romance — he says he won't be happy and he will not be able to continue to support the show in the same way he has to this point.

Now, if you aren't going to meetings in Hollywood or writing columns for the newspaper, you might be wondering what you can do help ensure the fair and inclusive representation of gays and lesbians in the media. Seomin has several suggestions for you. Check out the GLAAD Web site at or become a member of GLAAD. Seomin says they are also always looking for M and R — monitoring and response — volunteers. M and R volunteers are everyday people who help GLAAD monitor the media.

And finally, Seomin suggests, and I wholeheartedly agree, that people should pick up the phone, put pen to paper or put finger to keyboard and let your local newspaper, television station or radio station know when you read a story that you think fairly or unfairly represents gays and lesbians.

One word of caution from Seomin, though.

"You get more with sugar than vinegar," he said he has learned.

In other words, a positive letter or call will go a long way.

As our conversation drew to a close, Seomin shared a sentiment with me that hit very close to home.

"When people ask me why I do what I do," he said, "I tell them I don't want gay kids growing up alone."

Based on his own experience, Seomin is all too aware of the importance of role models.

"I tell parents, 'Don't assume your child is heterosexual,' " he said. " 'If you do, you may be teaching them to deny who they are. And you could be hurting them terribly. If you are teaching your children to hate gays and lesbians, there is a one in 10 chance that you are teaching them to hate themselves.' "

I couldn't have said it better myself.