Democratic debate shows why we need queer media


Most weeks, someone asks me on social media why I “waste my time” writing for the queer press. I write predominantly for the mainstream press, but I have never stopped writing for the queer press because the stories of our LGBTQ lives must be told, and there is no one else to tell those stories but us. We’re losing the queer press — PGN and Bay Area Reporter are anomalies as independent newspapers that have never ceased publication since the 1970s. There were more closings of queer publications in 2019 than in any other year, and, according to an investigative piece last week by Maya Kosoff, 3,385 American journalists lost their jobs in the past 12 months. A dozen I know are LGBTQ.

Yet we need LGBTQ voices telling our stories more than ever. After the Dec. 19 Democratic debate, an LGBTQ exchange— and how rudimentary it was — was not a “hot takeaway” on any mainstream media list.

Pete Buttigieg, the first out gay man to run for president, repeated a line he often says in debates and at rallies. “The Supreme Court is very personal for me, because my household, my marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on that body.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), was asked by moderator Yamiche Alcindor, “At least 22 transgender people were killed in the United States this year, most of them transgender women of color. Each of you has said you would push for the passage of the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill. But if elected, what more would you do to stop violence against transgender people?”

Sanders replied, “We need moral leadership in the White House. We need a president who will do everything humanly possible to end all forms of discrimination against the transgender community, against the African-American community, against the Latino community, and against all minorities in this country.”

He said, “But above and beyond providing the moral leadership of trying to bring our people together, what we also need for the transgender community is to make sure that health care is available to every person in this country, regardless of their sexual orientation or their needs.”

He meant gender identification, but no one corrected him.

Sanders added, “And that is why I strongly support and have helped lead the effort for a Medicare for all single-payer program, which will provide comprehensive health care to all people, including certainly the transgender community.”

Not an answer to the question asked.

Alcindor asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) the same question. Warren has been one of the most outspoken candidates on LGBTQ issues and had read a list of names of murdered trans women at a town hall in September.

Warren said, “The transgender community has been marginalized in every way possible. And one thing that the president of the United States can do is lift up attention, lift up their voices, lift up their lives.”

Warren then made this promise: “I will go to the Rose Garden once every year to read the names of transgender women, of people of color, who have been killed in the past year. I will make sure that we read their names so that as a nation, we are forced to address the particular vulnerability on homelessness. I will change the rules now that put people in prison based on their birth sex identification rather than their current identification. I will do everything I can to make sure that we are an America that leaves no one behind.”

When Warren’s time was up, so was the discussion. None of the other five candidates were asked to respond. There were no questions about the 17 percent uptick in hate crimes against LGBTQ people revealed by the FBI’s annual crime report last month that I reported on here, nor the global epidemic of corrective rape of lesbians that has been reported with alarm by WHO. Nothing about the war the Trump administration is waging on LGBTQ people — I have reported more than a dozen stories on that this year. Nor about the rise in LGBTQ suicides among our youth and elderly, revealed in a report last month.

No mention when discussing immigration of the two trans women I reported had died in ICE custody, nor LGBTQ folks being denied asylum and sent back to countries that will jail and execute them.

On Twitter, trans women like HRC’s Charlotte Clymer revealed, “Elizabeth Warren’s team reached out to me eight months ago to ask about transgender rights. I’m not special. They did this with a LOT of trans folks. We found this out by talking to each other and realizing the full extent of their outreach. She knows trans issues.”

Clymer suggested that “Warren’s team focus on violence against trans women of color, particularly Black trans women, and suggested a few names. ‘Oh, we talked to them already.’ And they had. Incredibly thorough and committed to learning.”

This is the only place you will read this story about the debate — or any of the stories I mentioned not covered by the debate. If a queer reporter weren’t writing this for the queer press, you would never know about it. As Stonewall 50 draws to a close, LGBTQ people remain marginal and niche to mainstream media. We know silence = death and LGBTQ lives matter. Unless and until mainstream media “gets” that fact, the queer press isn’t just an auxiliary to the mainstream; it’s essential reporting on our lives.