As you may know, I have not one but two majors: English and journalism. Now, all the reasons I’m majoring in journalism could easily fill an entire post, but I’ll leave that for another day because right now I want to talk specifically about what my major means to me as an LGBTQ+ student.
First and foremost, I want to write for an LGBTQ+ publication (or two or three) eventually. I want to write for lots of newspapers and magazines someday – National Geographic is a pipe dream of mine, and we’ll just have to see how that goes – and truth be told, it’ll probably be necessary to write for multiple publications anyway, just in order to make ends meet.
But I definitely want to write for some LGBTQ+ publications, and it would be amazing if I could start while still in college. I’ve been applying to several local newspapers/magazines – general stuff, not LGBTQ+-oriented – with the hope of expanding my resume so that I can go on to bigger and better thing hopefully beginning my senior year.
I have a few in mind: The Advocate, Autostraddle.com, AfterEllen.com… and those are just the ones that begin with A! I’m open to writing either for a more traditional/formal newspaper, as well as for something more bloggish.
Having my writing in this publications would be a concrete accomplishment, but I also want to achieve something more abstract. When I look at journalism as it exists today, I don’t see much accuracy and respect insofar as the treatment of LGBTQ+ people goes. Oh, it’s gotten better over time, to be sure.
But I still cringe every time I open a newspaper – yes, I still read the paper, because I can get it for free as a student – and I see references to “the gays” and “gay marriage.”
I die a little inside every time I read an article in which someone argues either for or against rights for “transgendered” people, because regardless of their views it’s so obvious that they have no idea what they’re talking about.
I roll my eyes while reading otherwise outstanding and important pieces of longform journalism such as “The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland,” which deadnamed its subject and repeatedly refused to use gender-neutral pronouns even though the singular “they” is a perfectly acceptable construction.
All this is beginning to change, though, and I want to be part of this change. The Oxford English Dictionary now recognizes the singular they as acceptable usage, for instance. My generation is also more out than ever before, and this can only lead to more and better writing concerning LGBTQ+ individuals and issues if there are more fellow queer people in the field of journalism.
I will push for greater accuracy in this regard and, quite honestly, if a publication that wants to hire me is still using an outdated style guide that permits constructions such as “transgenders” and “s/he,” then I can find work somewhere else. Yes, this is an idealistic attitude to have, but I’m willing to follow through with it. I don’t want to write sloppy articles about this subject, since it means so much to me, and if that means that I don’t publish anything about it for a few years until I find a publication or editor who shares this respect.
And while I’m on the subject of respect, another issue I feel very strongly about is outing people. This is a terrible thing to do to anyone, and a real problem when it comes to celebrities because our society has this idea that nothing in their lives is off-limits.
Coming out is an intensely personal decision, and it is not up to anyone but you – not straight people, not even other LGBTQ+ people – to make that decision for you. But unfortunately, situations like this happen all the time, because the media just doesn’t know when to leave people alone.
I’m nor a fan of Caitlyn Jenner – she’s neither a very nice human being nor a good spokesperson for the transgender community – but everyone, everyone, everyone deserves to be allowed to come out on their own time. She was subject to scrutiny and harassment, and it makes me both sad and mad to see that so many people seem to think this is OK.
Other examples I can think of just off the top of my head include Kristen Stewart and Taylor Swift. We now know that Stewart has definitely dated women, but we’re still not sure about Swift yet – and I hope we keep it that way. If she does like women, as people have guessed, and does come out one day, then good for her!
But it’s not the media’s business and journalists shouldn’t be trying to find out. That’s just invasive, and strips people of their ability to control their own image. I can’t imagine anything worse than not being ready to come out but being outed anyway, and then having to figure out how to deal with the fallout and have those conversations with family members, coworkers, agents, et cetera who may react in violently homophobic or transphobic ways.
All this and more is important to me. I can’t separate my passion for journalism from my passion for LGBTQ+ activism, and I hope to blend both of them in whatever I may write throughout my life.