Every year in the waning weeks of winter, LGBT journalists and media makers come together for a weekend. Sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, hosted by NLGJA, and organized by Bilerico Project Publisher Bil Browning, the annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening features speakers, panels, and topic-driven discussions focusing on issues and stories of key concern and interest to the LGBT community in general, and to LGBT people working in media in particular.
It’s always a great weekend with presentations, attendees can learn a lot from, but that’s not the only reason why this annual invitation-only event is such a hot ticket. For a few days, those of us working in this business get to connect with each other and share stories and information, learn from each other, reconnect with friends and colleagues, and interact with each other in a friendly and personal group setting which cell phones and the Internet simply can’t match.
As not only an LGBT journalist but also a trans journalist who most often writes on topics and issues of direct concern to trans people, for me this event distinguishes itself from others of its kind in another way as well. Trans journalists and media makers are well represented and that’s by design, but it’s more than just that.
Nowadays we are welcome to attend, and participate in, many events of this type. But this event is unique in my experience because trans people and issues, aren’t just included, we’re prioritized. We’re included in the planning as members of the host committee. There’s always at least one session that takes on an important trans-relevant issue directly. We’re not only welcome at the Convening, we’re an essential and core part of what this event is all about.
This matters and it matters a lot. When I first started doing this work, I made a few attempts at joining similar professional groups. What I quickly discovered was that trans-identified journalists weren’t taken seriously. These groups often used the “LGBT” acronym for inclusivity cred but the people in charge rarely, if ever, looked beyond the first two letters in the acronym.
These organizations and events were organized mainly by cis gays and lesbians for cis gays and lesbians. And while we were often allowed to be present and even participate it was usually as little more than uninvolved observers of groups and events which were run by and intended for gays and lesbians exclusively.
We were allowed in the room, but always with the clear understanding that it wasn’t about us or about the issues that mattered to our own audiences because it wasn’t intended to be.
Recently, trans people and issues have become more and more a focus of the media spotlight, but we still have a long way to go before we can say that we’re getting the kind of attention we deserve in mainstream media. LGBT media outlets, on the other hand, have been leading the way in putting our issues front and center.
I believe that a big reason why that’s the case is because the gay and lesbian editors and publishers who run these outlets are not only better informed on our issues than they used to be, but also because they’ve come to know and respect the work of trans journalists. They know that we represent and cover the issues, which are most important to one of the fastest growing segments of the LGBT community. Not only is it good policy from a social and political perspective, it’s good business as well.
Thanks in large part to events like the Convening, LGBT media is now setting a higher standard for trans inclusion than it ever has before and the positive results are increasingly evident for all to see.
Journalists of all stripes are finally coming to understand that “LGBT” has four letters in it, not two, and each of those letters matters. Events like the Convening help us set that bar higher and open doors, which were once closed to us, and those are the most important benefits of all.