Over 70 LGBT Journalists Convene in Philly to Discuss Hot Topic Media Issues

Published March 17, 2015

Over 70 LGBT journalists from 23 states came together in Philadelphia for the 6th Annual LGBT Media Journalists ConveningMarch 13-15.

The event was sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and organized by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).

The weekend kicked off with wine and appetizers at the Comcast Center where Rev. William Barber gave the keynote address.

Barber, a Protestant minister in North Carolina and member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) emphasized the importance of working to change America from the bottom up.

“We’re not going to change America by national movement…it doesn’t change from D.C. down,” Barber said.

Barber, who calls himself a conservative because “we want to conserve love, we want to conserve justice,” said that the worst thing you can do is “be loud and wrong.” He called on LGBT journalists to find take out the extremists, and that by working together, we can win.

Host Bil Browning, founder and publisher of The Billerico Project, began the next morning by welcoming Katherine Grainger to the platform to discuss the danger of Religious Liberty laws.

Grainger spoke about the history of religion, and that “historically, religion has been an effective tool to do an end-run around the democratic process.” She showed a map of the states with refusal clauses, meaning they can deny services to patients based on their own religious rights and warned the LGBT community to learn from history without undoing the progress already made. Like Barber, Grainger said working together is key.

“Fight these bills together in order for us to be successful over the long term,” Grainger said. “We as a progressive community must be much better at playing the game.”

Philadelphia was the site of the 6th Annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening

Next, associate writer at the Source Weekly, Erin Rook, moderated the talk “What Happens When the Dog Catches the Car?”  and Senior Media Strategist of National News at GLAAD, Tiq Milan, leader in the LGBT social justice movement, Urvashi Vaid, and afrofeminist Nigerian writer Spectra Asala spoke of the importance of asking questions, finding people and telling their stories.

“Always pay attention to who’s not in the room,” Asala said.

Segregation through gender, sexual orientation and identity, class etc. is still present even within the LGBT community. Ayala said it is important that everyone is respected and affirmed.

“Give readers a chance to see themselves reflected and represented in the media,” Asala said. “It’s a journalists’ responsibility.”

She also called on journalists to seek out everyone’s full potential.

“People of color are not just experts in being people of color,” Asala said.

Vaid warned journalists to be skeptical of mainstream queer news reporting because they are asking different questions than queer media.

“Read everything,” she said. “Be ahead of the curve.”

Milan asked journalists to help each other out.

“Pull as you climb,” he said. “Fill your space as needed, then reach out to others.”

Former Naval Reserves pilot, now trans advocate and writer Brynn Tannehill, moderated the next segment about naming the LGBT community. The Advocate’s Editor-at-large Dianne Anderson-Minshall, director of LGBT HealthLink Scout and bisexual Christian Eliel Cruz addressed how queer media journalists are essentially gatekeepers for the news.

“We need to reach out to the media to give them better examples of transgender people to listen to,” Anderson-Minshall said. “People always find the outliers in groups to fuel the fire.”

Cruz touched on bisexuality disappearing from the media.

“There are stories out there,” Cruz said. “There are twice as many bisexuals in the community than gay and lesbians. Let’s see ‘bisexual’ in the headlines.”

Anderson-Minshall agreed, adding that Hollywood needs to humanize bisexuals in the same way they have humanized gay and lesbians.

March 14, 2015 declared LGBT Media Journalism Day.

During the lunch break, the mayor’s liaison to Philadelphia’s LGBT community Nellie Fitzpatrick announced Mayor Michael Nutter declared March 14 LGBT Media Journalism Day.

She said that the city government shouldn’t be viewed as the enemy and that the LGBT community needs to pay attention to the smaller elections and get involved.

“How do we get people into the government positions in places we need them so everyone is fairly represented?” she asked.

During the breakout sessions, journalists could choose to attend a panel about either bisexuality or race and gender.

President of BiNet Faith Cheltenham moderated the discussion on bisexuality with writer and bi activist Ellyn Ruthstrom, filmmaker Kyle Schickner and Cruz.

Schickner started the conversation off by saying he fights the same issue of acceptance within both the gay and lesbian communities as he does with the straight community, and that he feels he has to come out every day. (AfterEllen’s Trish Bendix pointed out, that femme lesbians do that every day as well).

All panelists agreed that bisexual had been silenced during the same-sex marriage fight because even those identified as bi were assumed gay or lesbian if they married a partner of the same sex.

The final panel of day was hosted by gay HIV positive blogger Mark S. King. HIV activist and community editor for The BodyMathew K. Rodriguez and Anderson-Minshall, spoke on writing about HIV.

“Writing about HIV can be messy, but it needs to be done for health,” Anderson-Minshall said. She also said that most mainstream journalism almost always get stories about HIV wrong.

Rodriguez, who takes pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) every day as a way to prevent HIV infection, spoke about the benefits of taking the pill daily, adding that young gay men are at the highest risk for HIV.

The day concluded and the rest of the time was spent exploring the gayborhood, the John C. Anderson LGBT senior housing of Philadelphia and local gay night life.

To follow conversations all had during the weekend, check out this list Bendix put together, as well as her video asking attendees what they believe is the one thing queer women should be talking about.


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