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LGBTQ News Coverage Evolving 50 Years After Stonewall

During the 1969 series of riots that followed a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, the New York Daily News headlined a story that quickly became infamous: “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.”

Some of the coverage of rioting outside the gay bar — unimaginable today in mainstream publications for its mocking tone — was itself a source of the fury that led Stonewall to become a synonym for the fight for gay rights.

Fifty years later, media treatment of the LGBTQ community has changed and is still changing.

“The progress has been extraordinary, with the caveat that we still have a lot to do,” said Cathy Renna, a former executive for the media watchdog GLAAD who runs her own media consulting firm.

FILE – A New York Police officer grabs a youth by the hair as another officer clubs a young man during a confrontation in Greenwich Village after a Gay Power march in New York, Aug. 31, 1970.

Coverage nonexistent or negative

Before Stonewall, mainstream media coverage of gays was generally nonexistent or consisted of negative, police blotter items.

When a small group demonstrated against government treatment outside the White House in 1965, a newspaper headline said, “Protesters Call Government Unfair to Deviants,” noted Josh Howard, whose film “The Lavender Scare,” about an Eisenhower-era campaign against gays and lesbians in government, aired on PBS this week.

A 1966 Time magazine article called homosexuality “a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste and above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.”

This is the sort of thing that Howard, who was 14 at the time of Stonewall, read about people like himself when he was young.

“It’s a hard way to grow up,” said the longtime CBS News producer. “I sort of realized that it was safe for me to be in the closet.”

Stonewall got some straightforward coverage at the time, although stories in The New York Times and the New York Post ran well inside the newspapers. An Associated Press story from June 30, 1969, said “police cleared the streets in the Sheridan Square area of Greenwich Village early Sunday as crowds of young men complained of police harassment of homosexuals.”

New York television stations ignored it, so the visual record amounts to a handful of still pictures.

A framed newspaper clipping hangs near the entrance of the Stonewall Inn in New York, June 14, 2019, headlining the 1969 riots. Some of the coverage of rioting was a source of fury that led Stonewall to become a synonym for the fight for gay rights.

Wake-up call for the media

The Daily News story was filled with slurs, and it began: “She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave.”

At the time, many demonstrators were more upset with riot coverage by the now-defunct alternative newsweekly The Village Voice, said Edward Alwood, author of “Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media.”

One Voice writer holed up with police inside Stonewall and said he wished he was armed. 

“The sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots anymore,” Howard Smith wrote. “It sounds like a powerful rage bent on vendetta.”

Another Voice writer, Lucian Truscott IV, repeatedly referred to “faggot” and “faggotry” and said of the rioters at one point, “limp wrists were forgotten.”

“That event has generally been seen through political lenses,” Alwood said. “It was also a wake-up call for the media.”

FILE – Guests attend the opening of the ‘Stonewall 50’ exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the dawn of the gay liberation movement, at the New Historical Society, in New York City, May 22, 2019.

Discomfort, stereotyping persisted

The immediate impact was growth and a heightened profile for news outlets specifically oriented to gays and lesbians, said Eric Marcus, author of the book “Making Gay History” and host of a podcast of the same name.

Marcus wrote in an essay this week about how Time magazine’s 1966 story “just about burned the skin off my face as I read it.”

Time didn’t cover Stonewall, but in October 1969 published a cover story about the emerging civil rights movement. While more straightforward in its reporting than the essay three years earlier, the story “was still dripping with sarcasm and contempt,” he said.

Time published Marcus’ piece as part of its Stonewall anniversary coverage, although it didn’t apologize for its past work.

While outright hate within the mainstream media subsided through the years, discomfort and stereotyping persisted. The go-to gay image for most publications was a silhouette of two men holding hands.

Coverage of gays in the military, for example, focused on “showers and submarines,” Renna said, or the unease of straight males in the presence of gays. Lesbians were barely mentioned, a sign of little awareness of diversity.

Through her work at GLAAD, Renna saw how Ellen DeGeneres’ revelation that she was a lesbian, both the ABC sitcom character she played at the time and the comedian in real life, was pivotal to promoting understanding.

The memorial outside The Stonewall Inn, considered by many the center of New York’s gay rights movement, after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, 2016.

Attention to language

Renna has urged journalists to pay attention to their language. Being gay is not a lifestyle, she notes; “Having a dog is a lifestyle.” She also urges the use of “sexual orientation” as opposed to “sexual preference,” a recognition that being gay isn’t a choice.

“The vast majority of journalists are not homophobic,” she said. “They’re homo-ignorant.”

Renna, who wears her hair short and favors tailored suits, is used to being mistaken for a man. Until about a decade ago, people she would correct generally shrugged. As a sign of changing attitudes, “now people fall over themselves to apologize once they realize I’m a girl,” she said.

A handbook of terminology for news organizations that is put out by LGBTQ journalists has helped increase awareness.

There are still missteps. The AP decreed in 2013 that its journalists would not use the word “husband” or “wife” in reference to a legally married gay or lesbian couple. After a protest, the AP reversed its call a week later.

Two 2017 entries in the AP Stylebook, considered the authoritative reference for journalists on the use of language, illustrate how far things have come since the “queen bees” days 50 years ago. The AP endorses the use of “they, them or theirs” as singular pronouns (replacing he or she) if the story subject requests it, although the AP urges care in writing to avoid confusion.

The stylebook also reminds readers that not all people fit under one of two categories for gender, “so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes.”

Gender identification remains an object of confusion for many journalists. Activists also urge news organizations to be aware of people who are emboldened to lash out at the LGBTQ community by the divided politics of the past few years.

A newspaper apologizes

With the Stonewall anniversary, Marcus, of “Making Gay History,” has been busy working with news organizations doing stories about the event.

One publication he finds particularly interested and responsible in marking the occasion is the New York Daily News. The News on June 7 wrote an editorial recognizing its unseemly moment in history.

“We here at the Daily News played an unhelpful role in helping create a climate that treated the victims as the punchline of jokes, not as dignified individuals with legitimate complaints about mistreatment,” the newspaper wrote. “For that, we apologize.”

It was the newspaper’s second apology for its 1969 story in four years.

LGBTQ News Coverage Evolving 50 Years After Stonewall

During the 1969 series of riots that followed a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, the New York Daily News headlined a story that quickly became infamous: “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.”

Some of the coverage of rioting outside the gay bar — unimaginable today in mainstream publications for its mocking tone — was itself a source of the fury that led Stonewall to become a synonym for the fight for gay rights.

Fifty years later, media treatment of the LGBTQ community has changed and is still changing.

“The progress has been extraordinary, with the caveat that we still have a lot to do,” said Cathy Renna, a former executive for the media watchdog GLAAD who runs her own media consulting firm.

FILE – A New York Police officer grabs a youth by the hair as another officer clubs a young man during a confrontation in Greenwich Village after a Gay Power march in New York, Aug. 31, 1970.

Coverage nonexistent or negative

Before Stonewall, mainstream media coverage of gays was generally nonexistent or consisted of negative, police blotter items.

When a small group demonstrated against government treatment outside the White House in 1965, a newspaper headline said, “Protesters Call Government Unfair to Deviants,” noted Josh Howard, whose film “The Lavender Scare,” about an Eisenhower-era campaign against gays and lesbians in government, aired on PBS this week.

A 1966 Time magazine article called homosexuality “a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste and above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.”

This is the sort of thing that Howard, who was 14 at the time of Stonewall, read about people like himself when he was young.

“It’s a hard way to grow up,” said the longtime CBS News producer. “I sort of realized that it was safe for me to be in the closet.”

Stonewall got some straightforward coverage at the time, although stories in The New York Times and the New York Post ran well inside the newspapers. An Associated Press story from June 30, 1969, said “police cleared the streets in the Sheridan Square area of Greenwich Village early Sunday as crowds of young men complained of police harassment of homosexuals.”

New York television stations ignored it, so the visual record amounts to a handful of still pictures.

A framed newspaper clipping hangs near the entrance of the Stonewall Inn in New York, June 14, 2019, headlining the 1969 riots. Some of the coverage of rioting was a source of fury that led Stonewall to become a synonym for the fight for gay rights.

Wake-up call for the media

The Daily News story was filled with slurs, and it began: “She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave.”

At the time, many demonstrators were more upset with riot coverage by the now-defunct alternative newsweekly The Village Voice, said Edward Alwood, author of “Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media.”

One Voice writer holed up with police inside Stonewall and said he wished he was armed. 

“The sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots anymore,” Howard Smith wrote. “It sounds like a powerful rage bent on vendetta.”

Another Voice writer, Lucian Truscott IV, repeatedly referred to “faggot” and “faggotry” and said of the rioters at one point, “limp wrists were forgotten.”

“That event has generally been seen through political lenses,” Alwood said. “It was also a wake-up call for the media.”

FILE – Guests attend the opening of the ‘Stonewall 50’ exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the dawn of the gay liberation movement, at the New Historical Society, in New York City, May 22, 2019.

Discomfort, stereotyping persisted

The immediate impact was growth and a heightened profile for news outlets specifically oriented to gays and lesbians, said Eric Marcus, author of the book “Making Gay History” and host of a podcast of the same name.

Marcus wrote in an essay this week about how Time magazine’s 1966 story “just about burned the skin off my face as I read it.”

Time didn’t cover Stonewall, but in October 1969 published a cover story about the emerging civil rights movement. While more straightforward in its reporting than the essay three years earlier, the story “was still dripping with sarcasm and contempt,” he said.

Time published Marcus’ piece as part of its Stonewall anniversary coverage, although it didn’t apologize for its past work.

While outright hate within the mainstream media subsided through the years, discomfort and stereotyping persisted. The go-to gay image for most publications was a silhouette of two men holding hands.

Coverage of gays in the military, for example, focused on “showers and submarines,” Renna said, or the unease of straight males in the presence of gays. Lesbians were barely mentioned, a sign of little awareness of diversity.

Through her work at GLAAD, Renna saw how Ellen DeGeneres’ revelation that she was a lesbian, both the ABC sitcom character she played at the time and the comedian in real life, was pivotal to promoting understanding.

The memorial outside The Stonewall Inn, considered by many the center of New York’s gay rights movement, after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, 2016.

Attention to language

Renna has urged journalists to pay attention to their language. Being gay is not a lifestyle, she notes; “Having a dog is a lifestyle.” She also urges the use of “sexual orientation” as opposed to “sexual preference,” a recognition that being gay isn’t a choice.

“The vast majority of journalists are not homophobic,” she said. “They’re homo-ignorant.”

Renna, who wears her hair short and favors tailored suits, is used to being mistaken for a man. Until about a decade ago, people she would correct generally shrugged. As a sign of changing attitudes, “now people fall over themselves to apologize once they realize I’m a girl,” she said.

A handbook of terminology for news organizations that is put out by LGBTQ journalists has helped increase awareness.

There are still missteps. The AP decreed in 2013 that its journalists would not use the word “husband” or “wife” in reference to a legally married gay or lesbian couple. After a protest, the AP reversed its call a week later.

Two 2017 entries in the AP Stylebook, considered the authoritative reference for journalists on the use of language, illustrate how far things have come since the “queen bees” days 50 years ago. The AP endorses the use of “they, them or theirs” as singular pronouns (replacing he or she) if the story subject requests it, although the AP urges care in writing to avoid confusion.

The stylebook also reminds readers that not all people fit under one of two categories for gender, “so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes.”

Gender identification remains an object of confusion for many journalists. Activists also urge news organizations to be aware of people who are emboldened to lash out at the LGBTQ community by the divided politics of the past few years.

A newspaper apologizes

With the Stonewall anniversary, Marcus, of “Making Gay History,” has been busy working with news organizations doing stories about the event.

One publication he finds particularly interested and responsible in marking the occasion is the New York Daily News. The News on June 7 wrote an editorial recognizing its unseemly moment in history.

“We here at the Daily News played an unhelpful role in helping create a climate that treated the victims as the punchline of jokes, not as dignified individuals with legitimate complaints about mistreatment,” the newspaper wrote. “For that, we apologize.”

It was the newspaper’s second apology for its 1969 story in four years.

У Києві стартує Марш рівності – трансляція

У Києві починається Марш рівності на захист прав ЛГБТ-спільноти. Ходою завершуються акції «Київпрайду», що тривали в столиці України від 16 червня.

На свою акцію також вийшли противники Маршу рівності. Їхня колона розташована на відстані від учасників маршу. Дві колони розділяє кордон правоохоронців.

Організатори очікують на участь щонайменше 10 тисяч людей. На захід запросили президента України Володимира Зеленського.

Наразі про участь у марші в Києві повідомила низка іноземних посадовців. Серед них – німецька євродепутатка від Партії «зелених» Ребекка Гармс, яка завершує свою каденцію, німецька феміністка й правозахисниця, депутатка Бундестагу від «зелених» Улле Шаувс, депутат Палати громад Парламенту Великої Британії від Шотландської національної партії Стюарт МакДональд. Також, за повідомленнями, свою участь напередодні підтвердили посли Великої Британії, Німеччини, Канади, США в Україні.

Колишній учасник АТО, доброволець батальйону «Донбас» Віктор Пилипенко, який не приховує своєї орієнтації, днями анонсував участь у марші окремої колони ЛГБТ-військових і їхніх родичів, не менш ніж у 15 осіб.

Через прикінцеві акції 22 і 23 червня в центрі Києва частково обмежують дорожній рух і рух транспорту, зокрема й метро.

Міністерство внутрішніх справ України закликало організаторів «Маршу рівності» в Києві й їхніх опонентів утриматися від провокацій і дотримуватися закону. А в Київміськдержадміністрації повідомили, що спільно з правоохоронцями проведуть заходи для гарантування безпеки учасників маршу.

У попередні роки захід пильно охороняла поліція.

Раніше голови кількох іноземних представництв в Україні виступили із заявою, в якій зазначили, що останніми роками українські правоохоронні органи «значно покращили свою здатність захищати права ЛГБТІК-українців». Дипломати просили надати всю необхідну підтримку і цього року.

Організатори «Київправйду» 19 червня повідомили про напади на відвідувачів їхнього заходу: за їхнім повідомленням, група невідомих напала на групу людей, які поверталися з прем’єри фільму «Не ховай очей-2. Наші у США», яка проходила в центрі «Ізоляція» в Києві. На думку організаторів, «очевидно, що злочин був cкоєний на ґрунті ненависті».

«Київпрайд» – це українська громадська організація, метою якої, за її словами, є «сприяння досягненню повного дотримання прав людини для ЛГБТ+ в Україні, формування поваги до цих прав у суспільстві шляхом підвищення видимості та участі ЛГБТ+ у суспільних процесах». «Окрім своєї діяльності протягом року, ГО «Київпрайд» організовує щорічну подію, що називається «Київпрайд-тиждень», – мовиться в повідомленні на сайті організації.

У Києві стартує Марш рівності – трансляція

У Києві починається Марш рівності на захист прав ЛГБТ-спільноти. Ходою завершуються акції «Київпрайду», що тривали в столиці України від 16 червня.

На свою акцію також вийшли противники Маршу рівності. Їхня колона розташована на відстані від учасників маршу. Дві колони розділяє кордон правоохоронців.

Організатори очікують на участь щонайменше 10 тисяч людей. На захід запросили президента України Володимира Зеленського.

Наразі про участь у марші в Києві повідомила низка іноземних посадовців. Серед них – німецька євродепутатка від Партії «зелених» Ребекка Гармс, яка завершує свою каденцію, німецька феміністка й правозахисниця, депутатка Бундестагу від «зелених» Улле Шаувс, депутат Палати громад Парламенту Великої Британії від Шотландської національної партії Стюарт МакДональд. Також, за повідомленнями, свою участь напередодні підтвердили посли Великої Британії, Німеччини, Канади, США в Україні.

Колишній учасник АТО, доброволець батальйону «Донбас» Віктор Пилипенко, який не приховує своєї орієнтації, днями анонсував участь у марші окремої колони ЛГБТ-військових і їхніх родичів, не менш ніж у 15 осіб.

Через прикінцеві акції 22 і 23 червня в центрі Києва частково обмежують дорожній рух і рух транспорту, зокрема й метро.

Міністерство внутрішніх справ України закликало організаторів «Маршу рівності» в Києві й їхніх опонентів утриматися від провокацій і дотримуватися закону. А в Київміськдержадміністрації повідомили, що спільно з правоохоронцями проведуть заходи для гарантування безпеки учасників маршу.

У попередні роки захід пильно охороняла поліція.

Раніше голови кількох іноземних представництв в Україні виступили із заявою, в якій зазначили, що останніми роками українські правоохоронні органи «значно покращили свою здатність захищати права ЛГБТІК-українців». Дипломати просили надати всю необхідну підтримку і цього року.

Організатори «Київправйду» 19 червня повідомили про напади на відвідувачів їхнього заходу: за їхнім повідомленням, група невідомих напала на групу людей, які поверталися з прем’єри фільму «Не ховай очей-2. Наші у США», яка проходила в центрі «Ізоляція» в Києві. На думку організаторів, «очевидно, що злочин був cкоєний на ґрунті ненависті».

«Київпрайд» – це українська громадська організація, метою якої, за її словами, є «сприяння досягненню повного дотримання прав людини для ЛГБТ+ в Україні, формування поваги до цих прав у суспільстві шляхом підвищення видимості та участі ЛГБТ+ у суспільних процесах». «Окрім своєї діяльності протягом року, ГО «Київпрайд» організовує щорічну подію, що називається «Київпрайд-тиждень», – мовиться в повідомленні на сайті організації.

Technology Helps People who are Visually Impaired to ‘See’ Art

Museums across the United States are striving to be more accessible to everyone. That includes touchable versions of photographs and paintings for people who may not be able to see them. At a recent expo by the American Alliance of Museums in New Orleans, new technology was used to help the visually impaired “see” art and pictures. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us more.

Technology Helps People who are Visually Impaired to ‘See’ Art

Museums across the United States are striving to be more accessible to everyone. That includes touchable versions of photographs and paintings for people who may not be able to see them. At a recent expo by the American Alliance of Museums in New Orleans, new technology was used to help the visually impaired “see” art and pictures. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us more.

Kabul at Night: Daily Life Steeped in Security Risks

Concrete military walls and police security checkpoints are seen on every corner of Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul.  The robust security presence signals a major effort to protect civilians and government officials from terrorist attacks.  But the very real threat of violence, like a suicide attack, doesn’t stop Kabul residents from living and enjoying their daily lives.  VOA’s Ahmad Samir Rassoly gives us a unique view of a typical night in Kabul.