Philly is often described as a queer city and an LGBTQ+ safe haven, which makes it a great fit for NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists’ annual convention, taking place Sept. 7-10. At the Loews Hotel in Center City, queer and trans media professionals and allies from across the country will have access to three days of panels, workshops, networking opportunities, a Career & Community Expo and more.
“Our goal at our National Conventions is to provide a comprehensive and enriching experience for all of our attendees, whether they be newcomers to the industry or experienced journalists,” NLGJA Executive Director Adam Pawlus said in an email. “Our members and attendees work on every beat and in every medium, so we try to offer something for everyone.”
This year’s topics include multimedia storytelling, business journalism, ensuring accuracy in the coverage of trans and bisexual communities, covering LGBTQ+ issues from a legal standpoint, how to report on discrimination and inequality in health care, and even a session on navigating burnout as a journalist.
“One of the highlights of our convention is the focus on accurate and inclusive LGBTQ+ journalism,” Pawlus added. “We recognize the importance of telling authentic stories that reflect the experiences of the entire spectrum of LGBTQ+ communities, and continuously strive to provide sessions and networking opportunities for everyone. Our sessions will delve into the best practices for covering LGBTQ+ issues, exploring nuanced topics, and avoiding pitfalls that might perpetuate stereotypes or misinformation.”
Other conference offerings include a development workshop for producers, reporters and content creators led by ABC News journalists and executives; an author’s cafe; “fireside chats” with media professionals and activists; meetups for women, queer POC, the bi+ community and others; and evening receptions and events.
“At NLGJA, we understand the importance of continuous professional development,” Pawlus said. “Our conference is packed with a diverse array of programming meticulously designed to educate attendees on the ins and outs of our ever-evolving field.”
Apart from the convention itself, visiting journalists can also take advantage of Out in the Garden, an LGBTQ+-centric pop-up beer garden hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Visit Philadelphia. The garden, located at 1438 South Street, will feature a variety of events in September and October, beginning with a Sip City Mixer from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 7. Rebecca Kenton created Sip City, a series of happy hours for LGBTQ+ women, femmes, trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming folks to socialize and be in community.
“Ever since the Toasted Walnut closed, we don’t really have a quote unquote lesbian bar or a femme bar in the city,” said Janelle Findlater, a Black pansexual woman and general manager of the Out in the Garden pop-up. “[Rebecca] just put these mixers together that allow us a space so we can meet other people in our same community.”
A colorful, Pride-themed floral installation will also be unveiled in the pop-up garden on Sept. 7, created by arranger and designer Eric Schellack, who has exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
“With all the outside oppressions that are happening, I feel really good being a queer person myself in the city,” Findlater added. “I’m always looking for more beautiful spaces with beautiful people, and I want them to see this beautiful space and enjoy delicious drinks, a good time and good vibes.”
Following the NLGJA’s opening reception on Sept. 7, Visit Philly will host an after-party for convention-goers at the pop-up garden beginning at 9 p.m., after the Sip City Mixer. The general public is also welcome in the space, but Visit Philly will cover the first round of drinks for conference attendees.
“It is our mission and our goal to make sure that Philadelphia is seen as a welcoming place for all,” said Angela Val, chief executive officer of Visit Philly. “It should be a place where whoever you are and what you believe, that you have space here to have a good time, and a safe and a welcoming environment. There’s just so much happening throughout the country right now that is saying to every LGBTQ person that they’re not welcome. Philadelphia wants to be the opposite of that.”
To that end, the Visit Philly team invited eight visiting LGBTQ+ journalists from a variety of publications to go on a media familiarization tour to get acquainted with Philly’s arts, culture, restaurant and historical scenes.
Although the NLGJA convention will be packed with educational sessions and opportunities for professional development, the three-day event “is a space where attendees can truly be themselves and connect with like-minded individuals,” Pawlus said. “Many attendees have described the conference as a place where they feel they’ve come home, a place where they are understood, celebrated, and empowered. The sense of belonging that our community provides is immeasurable. As media professionals, we often face unique challenges, and the conference serves as a reminder that we’re not alone in our journey.”
For the NLGJA convention full schedule, visit https://nlgja23.sched.com/. For the full Out in the Garden schedule, visit https://www.visitphilly.com/things-to-do/events/out-in-the-garden/.