As the general population grows more accepting of our community, is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) news media still relevant? Do we really need newspapers, radio shows, web sites and television shows that are all gay all the time? Do we really need to perpetuate a media ghetto?
My answer now, as it has been since 2000 when I first considered the question, is an emphatic yes. Now, then, and in the future, we will need the LGBT media. It is one of the threads that hold together the crazy quilt that is our community.
Historically, there's no denying the critical role community media has played in the political and cultural advances we have achieved. But even if that were the sole justification for its existence, we certainly can't say that all the battles have been won. While we may be thrilled about recent victories, it remains true that many U. S. states can legally discriminate based on one's sexual orientation in employment, services, and many other areas. Even fewer states are transgender-friendly, and outside our borders, many, many countries are just plain dangerous.
Even in the places where we have won, we can't pretend that we don't need a strong and constant spotlight on fairness and equality to maintain the ground we've gained. The general public, as well as much of the LGBT community, remains uninformed about the challenges we face. Polls have shown a disconnect between actual and perceived legal landscapes.
Our publications are an important resource for politicians and others who should serve the community. News that breaks in LGBT outlets or blogs informs mainstream coverage, and often spurs the coverage itself. Prominent journalists and bloggers are "go-to" commentators for mainstream media.
While mainstream media outlets report on LGBT issues, it is only through local LGBT sources that the community gets a full picture of what's happening close to home -- particularly in a time of cutbacks at mainstream publications and broadcasters.
LGBT news outlets provide us with much-needed context, not only for the hot-topic issues, but also our lives in general. Members of other cultures, races and identities are often brought up surrounded by family and friends of similar backgrounds. Very few of us were fortunate enough to be raised in predominantly LGBT communities or even households. So we turn to community media as a place for validation, confirmation, and information. There we learn that we are not alone and find our common culture.
The LGBT media also remind us of the shoulders upon which we stand. It shows us those who went before us and how we got where we are today.
The ultimate proof of the necessity of the LGBT media is in its continued existence. From the largest national and international publications to the hyper-local, the LGBT media is our archivist, clarion, advocate, authority, and voice. We find each other in our media, and in finding each other, we learn. We learn who we are and where we've been. That helps us see where we're going. We will always need that.