GLAAD was originally formed in response to the "grossly defamatory and sensationalized HIV and AIDS coverage" by the New York Times, and through direct action, by 1987 had successfully persuaded The New York Times to "change its editorial policy and begin using the word 'gay'. Prior to this, the New York Times' Manual of Style prohibited the term entirely, with the only acceptable word being "homosexual".
In 2013, the organization officially changed its name from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to GLAAD. This change was made as part of a commitment to incorporate bisexual and transgender people more fully.
As of 2019, GLAAD had an "exceptional" charity ranking, indicating that donors can "give with confidence" due to its high level of transparency and financial health.