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The following article appeared on

‘American Idol’ under fire Comments from judges on two episodes prompt complaints
By ANDREW KEEGAN > Friday, January 27, 2006
Recent remarks by “American Idol” judges questioning the gender identities of two contestants national gay media watchdog group to ask for a meeting with the show’s producers.
“American Idol” judges asked contestant Zachary Travis if he was “a girl” or “confused” on the Jan. 18 show.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement last week following the season premiere of Fox’s popular talent hunt show expressing concern and indicating officials with the gay media watchdog wanted to meet with show producers.
“The real offense here was in the producers’ decision to add insult to injury by turning a contestant’s gender expression into the butt of a joke,” Damon Romine, GLAAD’s entertainment media director, said in a Jan. 19 statement.
The statement noted there was confusion on the group’s position about the two episodes.
“There are stories circulating on a number of websites — mostly pop culture sites in the U.K. and a handful of local/regional news station sites — that attribute to GLAAD inaccurate and fabricated quotes regarding ‘American Idol,’” Romine said.
The statement goes on to say GLAAD never deemed the show “homophobic.”
The group declined further comment on the matter.
“American Idol” is produced by FremantleMedia, a European company that also produces “Idol” in other countries. The company did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
The incidents occurred during the show’s first two episodes of its new season that aired Jan. 17-18.
Auditioning in Chicago on the show that aired Jan. 17, contestant Charles Berry was ridiculed by judge Simon Crowell, who is known for his biting comments.
But rather than comment on Berry ’s singing, Crowell advised, "Shave off your beard and wear a dress. You would be a great female impersonator."
Berry walked out of the audition in tears.
On Jan. 18, this time with auditions in Denver , judge Randy Jackson asked contestant Zachary Travis, "Are you a girl?"
Travis, sporting high heels, a blond bob hairstyle and a feminine top, sang "Queen of the Night" by Whitney Houston. He was visibly upset with the comment.
Travis told the judges before singing that people often confuse him for a girl, which he remarked is a reaction that amuses him.
When informed he was not selected to continue, Travis lambasted the show as being "typical America ," which he said was racist and prejudiced.
"American Idol" played the theme from the 1992 movie "The Crying Game," which featured a transgender character, as Travis left the audition.
Having not viewed the episodes, neither the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition nor the National Center for Transgender Equality had any comment.
Fox did not return calls for comment on the recent episodes.
After four full seasons, “American Idol” has yet to have an openly gay contestant. But, according to one former contestant, it’s not because there are no gay singers on the show.
Jim Verraros made it to the finals on the first season but didn’t win. He came out publicly as gay soon afterwards.
“I don’t expect another ‘Idol’ to come out anytime soon,” Verraros told TV Guide last year. “I hope they do. You just take a look at a few of them and it’s like, ding, ding, ding.”
Verraros said he felt if he came out on the show, Fox would have edited it out.
Second season finalist Clay Aiken fueled speculation over his sexual orientation, but he has repeatedly denied that he is gay and labeled questions about his sexuality as “insulting.”
Season three featured the very masculine-looking Briana Ramirez-Rial. The 22-year-old clearly challenged gender stereotypes with her short hair, visible tattoos, lack of makeup and suspenders.
Last year, Mario Vazquez and Anwar Robinson were the object of speculation about their sexual orientation. Vazquez, who was picked by the often-belligerent Cowell for the finals, abruptly dropped out of the show after several weeks citing “personal reasons.”
The lack of openly gay contestants is not limited to the American version of the popular show.
Will Young, the first U.K. winner, came out almost immediately after winning and has enjoyed tremendous success.
“Australian Idol” contestant Anthony Callea dodged rumors about his sexual orientation through the first season as he made it to the finals.

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