Talking about sexual diversity in journalism is talking about the intersection between gender, race and social class, say panelists at Knight Center's diversity conference - Journalism Courses by Knight Center
sexual diversity

March 30, 2021

Talking about sexual diversity in journalism is talking about the intersection between gender, race and social class, say panelists at Knight Center’s diversity conference

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View video of this conference panel.

“The sexual is being displaced by much more complex constructions,” said Chilean-Argentine journalist Christian Alarcón. In the last five years in Latin America, along with the feminist struggle, there is the struggle for non-binary, a battle or cultural movement, Alarcón said, to which journalism must open channels to give it visibility, “but a proactive visibility.”

Alarcón, founder of Revista Anfibia and Cosecha Roja, was the moderator of the panel on sexual orientation of the First Latin American Conference on Diversity in Journalism, which was organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, sponsored by the Google News Initiative, and held virtually from March 26-27, 2021.

sexual diversity
Panel on sexual orientation of the First Latin American Conference on Diversity in Journalism.

How can we make society understand in a progressive way that speaking about LGBTQ+ communities is talking about human behavior? This was a question from one of the hundreds in attendance.

Caê Vasconcelos, a journalist for the Brazilian nonprofit Ponte Jornalismo, answered the question with an example that intersects diversity with issues of social class, race and gender in Brazil.

“Part of the white LGBT community does not understand that the Black population, the population on the periphery, is the target of police violence. When we looked at the data on transfemenicides, as we call the deaths of trans women, the vast majority are Black women,” Vasconcelos explained. There is a structural problem of racism in Brazil, he added, in that sense, racial, class and gender issues must be carefully observed when talking about diversity in order to change reality.

Vasconcelos covers human rights, public security and LGBT+ topics at Ponte. The organization seeks to amplify voices marginalized by class, race and gender discrimination.

The reporter recounted that he found his identity as a trans man in 2017, when he was interviewing trans people for his college degree work, which was later turned into a book, “Transresistencia.” In his experience as a journalist and trans person in Brazil, doing journalism about the LGBT community is very difficult.

“We are a very Christian country, and we have a person in power, in the presidency, who is against the struggles of LGBT people … We are one of the countries in the world that kills trans people the most,” Vasconcelos explained.

However, since he entered Ponte, he feels that he is making progress in his coverage, that he and his colleagues are managing to change the situation, albeit “at the pace of ants.”

For another of the panelists, Colombian researcher Lina Cuellar, co-founder of the journalistic site Sentiido, curiosity is a good tool to find that other angle that is missing when you want to address issues of sexual diversity in journalism.

“What has brought these incredible panelists to where they are has been, in addition to probably the experience of personal life, curiosity and autonomy for wanting to do a different journalism, a journalism that includes, that gives other perspectives and that not only talk about diversity when they are on the courts beat,” Cuellar said. The diversity filter should be incorporated into all issues discussed, she added.

Cuellar regretted the little or no training on diversity issues at universities, much less on LGBTQ + issues.

“The young journalists, very enthusiastic, get hit with the relentless criticism of social networks, because they published in their media outlet an article that says ‘gay is caught robbing a supermarket’ or poetically trying to talk about a trans woman saying ‘Mariela, whose real name is Germán.’ Please don’t do either of these two things in your articles,” she emphasized.

In Sentiido, a media outlet focused on gender and sexual diversity since its inception ten years ago, began by making content that answered the questions that they asked themselves as a team and to investigate, from their own ignorance, about LGBT issues to understand how sexual and gender diversity existed in people’s daily lives.

Eladio González, the third panelist, is a Mexican journalist and general editor of Expansión, an economy, business and finance platform, who presented the inclusion of the LGBTQ + landscape and diversity and inclusion in business.

Expansión is not a specialized media outlet on issues of sexual and gender diversity, according to its editor, but they are sensitive to what happens in companies in terms of inclusion, diversity and the LGBT community, and what companies are capable of doing. through leadership, corporate culture, etc.

For two years, González said, Expansión has been certified year after year as a place that works for LGBT equality.

In 2019, according to González, the LGBT movement in Mexico turned 41 years old, and Expansión published a list of LGBT executives in the country. The list, added the editor, had a considerable impact on readers and in some media, reaching eight million people, in addition to receiving positive and negative comments on social networks. This year the team will release the third edition of the list.

“LGBT inclusion in business is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a good business decision,” González said.

“In Mexico, being an LGBT person is still one of the five main causes of discrimination, both in the social sphere and in the workplace,” González explained.

Addressing LGBTQ issues also opens the debate between activism and journalism, Cuellar noted. Activism is thought to be pure emotionality and shouting in the street, without any type of rigor or knowledge, she explained. But the opposite is true, Cuellar said, as human rights activism has transformed the lives of millions of people and challenged the status quo, she said.

Cuellar argued that what good journalism has in common with activism is its ethics, transparency and sense of justice. Therefore, she said, no journalist should be afraid of being called an activist when they practice those three values.

In Alarcón’s opinion, it is regrettable that there is still a discussion of whether inclusive journalism is activism. “This debate to me already sounds a bit stale between the issue of journalism and activism, as if we had to go around asking for permission or defending ourselves from having a deep commitment to transformation in Latin America,” he said.

What is sought, Cuellar said, is to reach the point where there is no need to talk about inclusion, of a differential approach, and talk about LGBT issues without generating violence, “but really that is still very difficult.” Above all, she added, with the “immense” disinformation that currently exists in Latin American countries and the rest of the world.