Chicago Queer Activist, Erik Roldan, Calls for the support of LGBT Media
Join Me in Support of The Qu
As a native Chicagoan with almost a decade of working in queer media (zomg, wtf), I’m proud to help The Qu with their IndieGoGo campaign. Starting right now, I’m doing a matching grant of up to $300. So, if you put in $10, I’ll match it, making your donation $20. I’m so happy and lucky to be able to do this. If you can help, and want to have your money count for twice as much, put my name in the comments section of the donation page.
I’m a gay man with queer politics working in communications, and I’m lucky to do this as my full-time job at an LGBT organization. “Pro-gay,” for all the obvious reasons. Writing a press release or dealing with a media contact usually involves an educational component – I help the journalist with the nuance involved in LGBT issues. I do this even when the writer or producer is lesbian or gay themselves. Getting our images, our stories, our queerness right in a news clip or magazine is really tough, and it’s easiest when the person I’m working with actually wants to get it right.
Earlier this year, I went to a national conference for journalists in Las Vegas (perks, baby! yeah!). I was at a panel discussion titled something like, “Gay News in 2012 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The point was to discuss the big news items of the year, and identify which were generally covered sympathetically and which stories were not. First up, Bullying, which scored a resounding “good,” by the panelists. Someone finally commented on how in Tyler Clementi’s story, he was “a perfect victim” — being a white, meek-looking young person contributed to the widespread coverage of his suicide. In the discussion, LGB journalists from all over admitted they hadn’t thought of how the victim’s race played into the media coverage, and finally I had to jump in. Dharun Ravi’s race was, to me, a bigger and more important factor in the ubiquity of that story, because he was the perfect villain. His skin color and name very much played into the racist notions Americans have about brown people, and this was completely ignored in the media coverage by both mainstream and LGBT news outlets. When I said this, the room changed. People got energized/defensive. Finally, a senior (and somewhat notorious) queer activist raised their hand and claimed that “gay men were some of the most anti-femme and misogynistic people they had ever known.” Ooo Lord! The room erupted with opinions galore on the perception and treatment of gender variant people and trans issues in the LGBT community. It was thrilling. Finally, a panel moderator interrupted and said “this is not a panel on trans issues.” Before I realized the words were coming out of my mouth I said, “maybe it should be!” I got some nods and “m hms” from my neighbors, but I left thinking there was more to be done.
My point here is that the LGB people who report our stories still need to be educated on our very own issues. The Qu has, from its inception, had a mission to not only propel our community’s stories, but they have also explicitly and openly admitted that they are learning as they go. Soto’s personal arch has been a public display of growth and struggle. Yearning to learn that being an ally is a constant process is not commonplace; it’s even more rare to learn while owning your mistakes and struggling openly. The Qu is special not just because it’s based in Chicago, not just because it’s queer (and not singularly gay) but also because it’s malleable. Let’s be honest, 2012 is not the time to think you’re sure how the news cycle works! The Qu embodies “new media” and I’m betting the future will require content makers to be more like Joey, Tony and Erin: engaged in the ally process and adaptable to how it changes.
Let’s support some good people who are doing good work. They want to do great work – join me in this gesture with a donation!
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