Victoria A. Brownworth, who has been writing for PGN since its inception in 1976, reflected on her tenure at the publication.
“I have been doing what has often been groundbreaking work as a queer journalist since I was 17, including stories that have been dangerous and put me at risk of physical harm, so I really appreciate what I see as the body of that work being recognized,” Brownworth said in an email.
All these years later, Brownworth has received the Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ+ Journalist of the Year from NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists. This particular award carries extra meaning for Brownworth because she worked with Pettit, the award’s namesake, at OutWeek magazine in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s, up until the magazine closed. She later worked for OUT magazine during Pettit’s tenure as editor.
For years, Brownworth was the only woman journalist reporting on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. She covered the 1986 Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick, the first major LGBTQ+ case heard by the Supreme Court. At the time, the decision upheld a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized private, consensual sexual activity between same-sex adults.
“I was there in the SCOTUS as a reporter for the oral arguments and when that case was decided,” Brownworth said. “That’s how far back my institutional knowledge of the Court and LGBTQ cases goes. I have reported on all of them.”
In addition to PGN, Brownworth covers LGBTQ+ issues for Queer 40, Curve Magazine, Bay Area Reporter, LGBTQ Nation, Lambda Literary and other national queer publications. She also regularly reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Alternet and other mainstream publications.
Over the past year, Brownworth published a series of stories in PGN on the wrongful detention of out basketball player Brittney Griner, who was held in a Russian prison from March to December of 2022. Brownworth also appeared on BBC and CBC talking about Griner’s case before it was being reported on in mainstream news outlets. She cited those stories as work that she’s most proud of from the past year.
“I also won the first ever Curve/NLGJA Award in April for lesbian reporting and I think my reporting on Griner was a factor in winning that award,” Brownworth said.
Brownworth is also proud of some of her series reporting for PGN, covering issues such as long COVID, LGBTQ+ elder care and mpox — the latter of which she won a first place award in series reporting from the National Newspaper Association. Additionally, she underscored the importance of LGBTQ+ reporting and outwardly queer journalists in a society where queer and trans people still face discrimination and violence for living as their authentic selves.
“We still need a responsible and responsive LGBTQ press and out LGBTQ journalists because we are among the most marginalized communities in the U.S. and the world,” Brownworth said. “Reporting through the prism of queer and trans people is essential to telling our stories correctly and with the kind of insights only people in our community living out LGBTQ lives can intuit and express. We are living it, so we get it.”
Brownworth herself has experienced significant discrimination related to her queer identity since she was a teenager. She was expelled from Philadelphia High School for Girls in the 1970s for being openly gay, she said, and was subjected to conversion therapy at a psychiatric ward for teens.
“It’s essential that the work of LGBTQ journalists be recognized because our work is still treated as niche and not as important as reporting on more mainstream issues,” Brownworth added. “But queer and trans people are a significant population in the U.S. and more Gen Z Americans identify as LGBTQ than ever before. We deserve real reporting by serious professional reporters. That work should be recognized.
“I am very pleased to have the scores of stories I have written in the past year noted and appreciated. It means a great deal to me. I only wish my late wife, Drexel professor and artist, Maddy Gold, were here to share in this award, as she was a constant cheerleader for my work and for most of these stories.”
PGN publisher Mark Segal said that he thinks Brownworth “is one of the finest journalists in LGBT media today. Her kind of professional reporting is essential to a healthy press, and we are proud to have been her home base.”