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LGBT Forum Provides Low Point of Day Two at NCMR

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LGBT Forum Provides the Low Point of Day Two

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It is 3:30 pm and I am back in the fancy press lounge with my head in my hands after a dismal presentation, “Purple Politics: Coverage of LGBT Issues in the Media. A Swiss media guy just told me about an all-night party attached to the conference that I most certainly will not attend. I want to get this review out before I hustle over to Arianna Huffington’s panel on “Reaching the Masses.”

After recent gay baiting on the OEN site about women wanting to be men, I was hopeful that I would learn something about the political context of gay and lesbian issues. That is what the panel description offered. I could not have been more wrong, once again was embarrassed to be in attendance at a panel, and am totally frustrated at another waste of valuable time.

Before the panelists gleefully try to “out” me for gay hatred and closeted tendencies, which seemed to be the theme of their presentation, let me say that I am dedicating this piece of writing to two people. One is my dear friend Ron who died of HIV in the late seventies, before the scourge had a name in the mainstream media. Ron was my dancing partner, talking partner, a shoulder to cry on, and I would have married him in a heartbeat if the thought had crossed his mind. His granny was always hopeful that would marry one day. Ron was my protector in a corporate media structure that was heinous to women in those days. He was a beautiful man, inside and out.

The second person is a woman singer/songwriter, my kahuna, whom I wrote a tribute to on these pages when I was in Hawaii. It was a car crash that killed her body, but societal definitions of sexuality and beauty certainly killed her sprit many times over in her short time on this earth. Ginny, Ron, this is for the two of you. I love you both, still.

I pray that there were no other press representatives from outside of the gay community at this presentation. I can also fully understand why the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities has tanked in the ratings if the kind of “coverage” of gay sex scandals presented to the audience here is indicative of standard news coverage at KSTP.

Producer Brandon Benavides should be careful when he is a panelist at what is supposed to be a gathering of alternative media. This was not intended to be (I don’t believe) a sniggling, simpering attack on individuals who have already been ridiculed and vilified for closeted sexual escapades. I am referring to Senator Larry Craig, the reverend Ted Haggard, Mike Jones, Mark Foley and Edward Schrock who have already been dragged through the press and vilified. This was an opportunity for Benavides to flounce his hatred and it was not dignified. Oh, I know I will catch heck for the “flounce” word.

Journalists did not need to learn the exact location of the bathroom at MSP airport where Craig was caught in a sting operation for homosexual soliciting, so we could “check it out.” The suggestion from Benavides was disrespectful and degrading. Plus, I had brought an African journalist along so that he could learn how to counter negative gay stereotypes on his home turf. He looked at me and said, quite rightly, “What are we learning here?” and begged me to stand up and redirect the discussion. Perhaps I should have.

Mike Rogers, blogger at PageOneQ, presented a totally incomplete “history” of coverage of gay and transgender persons in media. It was completely HIS STORY, neglecting to even mention the tremendous contributions of gay and lesbian and feminist women of the seventies and eighties. I am not going to write the history here, but to leave out the writers such as Jill Johnston and Kate Millet who were VERY visible in the media is to rewrite the era.

The only panelist who had anything to offer was the very young Tania Unzueta of Radio Arte in Chicago. Media does need to cover gay and lesbian immigrants who face a triple whammy in society by virtue of color, gender, and orientation issues. However, her youth and enthusiasm caused her to use language that was a total turn-off, and which had no business in what was billed as a serious, solution-oriented discussion.

This group was preaching to the choir and did a whole lot of damage to at least one person in the audience who had hoped to learn something.

I am not giving up. There is a responsible way to address gay issues that is not a reaction to slurs. I intend to find it. Ginny and Ron would have never been so unkind, cruel or ever exhibit such a total lack of class as this panel did, in my opinion.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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