Image: Alan Cumming
Peter Lau
Alan Cumming hosted the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York.
NBC News
updated 4/8/2010 11:32:54 AM ET 2010-04-08T15:32:54

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with Scottish actor Alan Cumming about his work with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Cumming hosted the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York in March. Last year, he hosted the inaugural GLAAD Media Awards in Advertising, which recognized advertisers who promote fair, accurate and inclusive images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. GLAAD, founded in New York in 1985, advocates for the fair representation of people and events in the media in order to fight discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Cumming, a veteran of the stage and screen, trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama before finding fame in the U.K. for his television work and stand-up comedy. Audiences stateside first noticed Cumming in "Circle of Friends," and he has continued to appear in a variety of films and television series including "X2: X-Men United" and "Sex in the City."Cumming's charity work has garnered him the Vito Russo Media award from GLAAD in 2005, and two Human Rights Campaigns awards. Cumming is also an Officer of the British Empire, which was given for his contributions to film, theater, the arts, and activism of equal rights in the gay and lesbian community.

Q: Can you tell me about GLAAD?

Cumming: GLAAD stands for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Its purpose is to encourage people in the media to give fair, accurate and positive portrayals of the gay and lesbian community. Also, at the same time, to point out when people get it wrong.

Q: How did you get involved with the organization and what is your role?

Cumming: I’m just a supporter. I’ve actually hosted the awards in 1999. I’ve been involved with them [awards fundraisers] and going to them for quite a while. I just really think it’s, sadly, a very necessary part of our trying to get equality. So, it’s a kind of watchdog, and that’s why I support them.

Q: Why should people support GLAAD?

Cumming: Because if you are a caring human being, you will not support the unfair and derisory representation of other human beings. That’s pretty basic, but that’s true. I think if you sort of replace the word “gay” with black, or Jewish, or women, people would have a better perspective of what it’s about.

Q: Can you tell me about a moving moment you had while working with the organization?

Cumming: A few years ago I got the Vito Russo award from them [GLAAD] and that was a pretty amazing moment. I kind of made a big speech — it’s one of those things I felt I was really able to voice a lot of things I was angry about being, and it was quite a rousing evening for all concerned.

Q: What were some of the things you were upset about that you got to voice?

Cumming: About the fact that we live in a country where you pay the same taxes, but you do not receive the same rights as other people. That’s pretty huge. Also, just about a culture that doesn’t embrace differences. I mean it’s kind of changed now in the last year and a bit or so, sensibility-wise, a culture where differences are not embraced, it’s coarsened, and that was sort of what I was kind of talking about too. It’s online actually, it’s on YouTube.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cumming: They’re usually quite good fundraisers and it’s also got quite a good — it helps — a sense of humor. Sometimes I think the community can be more aggressive in our condemnation of things. In the past, it’s [GLAAD] been a little careful in the way it’s come back at certain things, but what I think is great now is there is that there’s a new regime there, and the awards are a kind of celebration as well as a kind of reminder that things aren’t as good as they could be.

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