7 keys for your journalistic work

Latin America is now one of the epicentres where the rights of LGBT+ people are most dynamic. Wilson Castañeda, director of the Colombian NGO Caribe Afirmativo, and Ana Fornaro, co-director of Agencia Presentes, from Argentina, agree on this point. From activism and journalism, both have dedicated themselves to advocating for and making visible issues of sexual diversity in our region, one of the most unequal in the world and where, alongside pioneering laws and significant legislative changes, cases of violence that make Latin America a hostile place for LGBT+ people.

“The greater the visibility, the greater the risk,” Castañeda sums up the situation on the continent, where activism has grown and the media has played a fundamental role in both recognition agendas and representation. harmful or misguided LGBT+ realities. “Latin America is a diverse” but “very unequal” region, says Fornaro.

On these essential aspects for the LGBT+ movement, as well as the challenges and recommendations for the development of journalistic agendas, the guests reflected in the online seminar. “Journalism out of the closet”, fourth meeting of the cycle “Possible scenarios for a diversified and inclusive journalism”, organized by the Gabo Foundation and the EUNIC Colombia cluster (National Institutes for Culture of the European Union), within the framework of the EULAT 4 Cultural Initiative.


1. Know the context

“To do journalism, especially journalism from a human rights perspective, it is necessary to know the legal and social legislative framework,” says Fornaro, who warns that the Latin American continent is full of contrasts. While in a country like Argentina there is a pioneering law on gender identity, in others there is still a legislative backlog fueled by anti-rights government policies, while activist struggles continue. echo.

For Castañeda, the “progress of LGBT rights” is obvious: on the continent, counting the nations of the North, there are 10 countries where same-sex marriage is recognized (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico (in almost all of its States), the United States, Canada, etc.); In addition, there are anti-discrimination laws and figures such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which for a decade has acted as a rapporteur on LGBT+ issues and produces regional reports.

Moreover, “it is a region where there is a great flourishing of LGBT+ activism”, asserts Castañeda, with “organizing processes in resistance, investigations and social mobilization”. Added to this are examples of “good practices” such as the gender approach in the peace process in Colombia and LGBT+ recognition in the Chilean constitutional exercise.

At the same time, the panorama is “very dangerous”. Brazil, Mexico and Colombia added more than 1,000 homicides against LGBT+ people in 2021 alone. According to Castañeda, so-called “anti-trans” programs are also on the rise; and in Central American countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua, hate speech against sexual diversity has increased in the political realm.

In conclusion, Castañeda says that due to the “dynamism in the region”, “the greater visibility achieved in recent years, there is also a greater risk in maintaining the human rights agendas of LGBT+ people”.

2. Continue to make the LGBT+ agenda visible

“I think the role of journalists is to take on the role that the state, society and its institutions have historically left hanging, which is the recognition of LGBT+ rights,” Castañeda says. In a world where political decisions are not at the forefront of LGBT+ rights and recognition, the work of media and journalists is more necessary. “Society is not prepared, there are more important agendas”, is a maxim of some governments that avoid legislating in favor of sexual diversity. Therefore, journalism must “assume a leadership role” and help “to move from invisibility – to which the political and cultural exercise has condemned us – to visibility”.

3. Point out mistakes and bad practices

Many media follow trends in sectors of capitalism that tend to present LGBT+ people as consumers who only like to walk, travel and spend more on goods and services than heterosexual people; omitting the fact that in Latin America “LGBT+ people are mostly poor” and have great difficulty in accessing employment. So it’s a mistake, says Castañeda.

On the other hand, according to Fornaro, the position of some companies that take refuge in the so-called pink wash or pink wash. “It’s a facelift that companies, but also the media, are doing, saying that we are dealing with this issue but from a commercial point of view, thinking of LGBT + people”, who are seen as a “part of the market” . We must therefore “be careful”, because if the LGBT+ population is not criminalized or treated with “morbidity”, it is stereotyped in the trend, fashion or leisure sections of the media.

Another misguided practice is associating LGBT+ people with “sick and immoral issues” or blaming them for the violence they experience, as has happened with African-American and Afro-descendant groups. who are re-victimized by being held responsible for racist attacks and assaults. “This is an outstanding task from which we expect great help from the media, because what we are receiving is violence motivated by prejudice related to our sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. That is why it is so loud to talk about hate crimes and femicide,” Castañeda says.

4. Develop the concept of LGBT+

According to Castañeda, a concept of “more gay” or gay men than LGBT+ has been created on the continent, and “more urban than rural, more middle class than poverty and inequality, more youth than adults more elderly”, which generated “an LGBT+ niche”. This approach has been exploited in the media, steeped in US cooperation policies, chambers of commerce and LGBT+ pride marches; but it must be understood that all of this is only a “minimal expression of LGBT +”.

5. Ensure recognition (rather than inclusion) in companies and newsrooms

What about editorial diversity? What do we mean by a diverse newsroom? What about quotas in companies? Asks Ana Fornaro. In this regard, Castañeda prefers to speak of recognition and not just inclusion. “The expression inclusion poses a conceptual problem: it never disturbs whoever it includes; and since we are such a religious region, we believe that inclusion is charity. We say ‘I’m going to have a good practice and I’m going to include it’, without questioning our patriarchal, misogynistic practices”.

In this sense, Castañeda prefers the term recognition, understood as an articulation with the other that implies a personal transformation. “In Latin America, we have a recognition challenge; culture, politics, economics have made the body of recognition disappear. That’s why journalism today has this challenge,” he points out.

For Castañeda, recognition involves three points:

  • positive actions, which tend to make visible those who have historically been made invisible and give them the social attention they need as citizens.
  • Generate opportunities, which means producing structural changes, because while there are job opportunities for LGBT+ people, education issues and unmet basic needs, such as housing and food for LGBT+ people, must first be addressed and taken into account.
  • In the media and newsrooms a question arises which concerns all companies. “How to achieve transform the workplace so that arriving lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and non-binary people feel safe and do not have to hide their orientation, expression or gender identity for fear of losing their jobs? If a person wants to make it less visible, that’s their right, but it’s not that the space creates a risk,” Castañeda explains.

6. Lose your fear and ask yourself all the questions

There are often journalists who ask in journalism workshops how to approach LGBT+ issues, how to approach them and do good coverage. The first thing to do, says Ana Fornaro, “is to lose the fear of approaching a subject if you don’t know it”, in addition to approaching it “in a way that respects human rights”. and to offer “interesting diaries”. “.

Before covering an LGBT+ issue, Castañeda recommends asking yourself what is the LGBT+ reality and what are the particularities of the reality to be covered. Also use appropriate pronouns, asking news sources what they prefer to be called.

7. Understand that each case is different

Finally, you have to understand the different factors that LGBT+ issues go through and avoid seeing acronyms as a “monolithic”, as something fixed. Wilson Castañeda recommends understanding the intersectionality of cases when it comes to a trans woman, or a peasant; if the living environment is rural, if it is a person of African descent or in a street situation, etc.

About the ‘Possible Scenarios for Diverse and Inclusive Journalism’ webinar cycle

Every Thursday in September, the Gabo Foundation and the EUNIC Colombia cluster (National Institutes for Culture of the European Union), within the framework of the EULAT 4 Culture initiative, convene this cycle of webinars on cultural diversity, which aims to promote reflection on the possibilities of a more inclusive journalism.

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