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Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Diversity Toolbox

LGBT stories need ethnic, gender diversity

By Sherri Williams

The Supreme Court hearing cases this year on same-sex marriage have thrust gay rights issues to the forefront again. One dominant voice continues to reflect the perspective of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in news: the white male.

“Mainstream (media) organizations will go to the one or two white organizations they know about,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, a statewide gay rights organization based in Atlanta.

The absence of the voices of people of color, women and transgender people from news stories about LGBT issues implies that they don’t exist, said Daryl C. Hannah, director of media and community partnerships for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“Because of the lack of representation in media, a lot of the concerns that the community has have been left out,” Hannah said.

News stories about the same-sex marriage hearings and their impact and outcome provide an opportunity for reporters to add a variety of LGBT voices to their stories and reflect how diverse communities are affected.

Here are some resources that can help reporters add different LGBT perspectives into stories:

CONTACT NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

The National Black Justice Coalition has a team of black LGBT experts who are willing to talk to the press, said Kimberley McLeod, communications director for the coalition.

McLeod says her group has worked closely with national magazines to find LGBT people of color for news stories.

Diverse voices in LGBT stories are crucial because media images have an impact on lawmakers, McLeod said.

“I see the national conversation is not inclusive of people at the intersections of racial equality and LGBT equality,” she said. “These multiple ‘isms’ that affect us are not being addressed in policy.”

Kylar W. Broadus, executive director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, said reporters must stop looking in the same places for LGBT sources because they’re missing nuances and important story angles.

“If you’re only capturing a gay white man’s voice, you’re missing a huge part of American culture and the many issues that people of color face,” Broadus said.

It’s also important for reporters to have gender diversity in their stories. Such voices can illuminate ways that issues including sexual harassment, sexual violence and job discrimination disproportionately affect lesbians and transgender people, McLeod said.

McLeod also suggests that reporters reach out to groups such as the National Association of Black Journalists’ LGBT Task Force and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

UTILIZE GLAAD’S NATIONAL PEOPLE OF COLOR MEDIA INSTITUTE

The institute was formed in 2011 to change the face of LGBT sources reflected in news stories.

GLAAD has trained 52 people across the country through the institute. “We have a robust database of people who are interested in doing media and have interesting stories that can make your stories better,” Hannah said.

Hannah said GLAAD’s experts can also help reporters contextualize stories and have their LGBT diversity stories go beyond the stereotypical black versus gay story and write about people who are black and gay.

CONNECT WITH LOCAL CENTERS

An LGBT community center is a good place for reporters to look for diverse voices because they will have an idea of the range of organizations in the community, Graham said. His organization, Georgia Equality, and the Health Initiative run the Phillip Rush Center, an LGBT community center in Atlanta.

LGBT centers can especially assist deadline reporters. But when journalists know that important stories such as the same-sex Supreme Court hearings are coming up, they should develop relationships with gay leaders and activists of color to prepare for their news coverage, Graham said.

But journalists don’t have to wait for gay issues to include diverse LGBT voices into stories, Graham said. They can incorporate them into issues they already cover.

“Do some human interest stories and profiles on members of the LGBT community,” Graham said. “Highlight some of the other stories and experiences that are out there in the LGBT community. There are a lot of rich stories.”

USE ONLINE MEDIA

Online media outlets can help direct reporters to fresh diverse LGBT voices. Follow bloggers, activists and online community groups on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to their blogs to stay updated on LGBT issues and how they affect different groups.

Spectra Speaks, founder of the media publishing and advocacy organization Queer Women of Color Media Wire, says multiple identities manifest in the lives of LGBT people of color. When reporters leave them out of stories, “They’re leaving out layers of oppressions.”

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