As I write this column from my home office in Washington, DC, it’s been snowing for hours and there’s already 6 inches of white stuff on the ground. I started my morning outside in the cold with a snow shovel instead of sitting at my desk with a hot cup of coffee.
While I was out there shivering and shoveling it gave me the opportunity to think about two things: a memory and a dream. With every wet scoop, the two wound together into a rope of past and future that built around each other.
For the past five years I've been honored to host a gathering of journalists who primarily cover LGBT news. Whether they’re bloggers, the editors of local papers or magazines, mainstream journalists, or radio hosts, they gather every year under the auspices of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association thanks to a grant from the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.
I’m particularly proud that this year, the LGBT Media Journalists Convening more reflected the diversity of the LGBT community. One of the biggest challenges in LGBT media is the dearth of minority voices; most of our community newspapers are owned and run by white men. This year, 15 percent of our attendees were transgender, 15 percent were people of color, and 35 percent were women.
The event is invite-only and we carefully pick our attendees to include the writers with the biggest audience. Every year, all sessions are “on the record” and participants tweet, blog, and post to Facebook all through the day; their followers from social media are encouraged to ask questions and everything is shared publicly. What bigger audience is there than social media?
Whenever anyone asks how we determine which outlets to invite, I remember why our perspective on audience is needed. While an established gay gossip site may have a higher number of daily visitors than a blog aimed at transgender political activists, if sharing information about trans-inclusive legislation is the aim, the smaller trans website will speak to a larger audience of people we want to reach who are outside of the room.
The topic of the convening changes every year and our invitation list adjusts accordingly. Like the swirling snowflakes drifting to the ground around me this morning, each participant is different. Together, they add into the blanket of the LGBT media industry and it takes them all to form anything with weight and strength.
This year, there was an unusual ending for the event. A big snowstorm, like the one hitting the city today, shut down local airports and several attendees, like SFGN editor Jason Parsley, were stuck in DC for a few extra days until the city thawed out.
Eventually all of our journalists were able to make it back home and I’m sure after staring at the nonstop flurries, they were happy to get out of town. I didn’t blame them. I wanted to escape someplace warm and welcoming after that snowstorm. Now that this latest round has hit, I’m even more impatient to feel the sun on my face.
The other thing that kept running through my head while I shoveled snow this morning was that dream of sunbathing and swimming under palm trees and blue skies. It’s even more potent today since I leave for a vacation in Fort Lauderdale. By the time this publishes, I’ll be able to pick up my own copy. I’ll read it poolside.
Bil Browning is a long-time gay activist and writer. He is the founder and publisher of The Bilerico Project. Known for his political and social commentary, Bil does consulting work for political communications and new media projects.