What is the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality? Should you mention a perpetrator’s sexuality in a crime report? Can a straight person be commissioned to write an opinion piece about LGBTQIA+ issues? The answers to these questions and many more can be found in the LGBTQIA+ Media Reference Guide - Part 1, that has been released today by Queer Chennai Chronicles (QCC) and The News Minute (TNM). The two organisations came together in October 2021 to create a guide for news media organisations and journalists who want to be sensitive in their reportage of LGBTQIA+ communities, persons, and issues, but may not have all the information required.
The QCC and TNM LGBTQIA+ Media Reference Guide - Part 1 has a glossary of terms related to sex, sexual orientation, and gender, and has three other chapters: Basics for reporters; Writing and commissioning opinion pieces; and Crime and LGBTQIA+ persons. “LGBTQIA+ persons and communities are misrepresented in the media quite often,” said C Moulee (he/him) – Co-Founder, Queer Chennai Chronicles, “and when we point this out to journalists, many of them say that they made a mistake out of ignorance — that they would like to learn more about LGBTQIA+ issues, and what the correct terms to use are. So we decided to put this guide together as an easy reference tool for journalists and newsrooms who have the right intentions, but need some support.”
Speaking about how the guide came to be, Moulee said, “During the Chennai Queer Literature Festival, 2021, one of the panel discussions was on the depiction of LGBTQIA+ persons in news media. The speakers — Ragamalika Karthikeyan from The News Minute and Ranjitha Gunasekaran from The New Indian Express — spoke about why it’s important for newsrooms to have style guides on how to write about LGBTQIA+ people. Following this discussion, Queer Chennai Chronicles and The News Minute decided to get together to make a media reference guide in English and Tamil, that will help news organisations across the country. We called on queer journalists to volunteer for the same.”
The panel discussion Moulee mentioned was quoted by the Tamil Nadu government in the Madras High Court when Justice Anand Venkatesh was hearing a petition on the need for widespread reforms across sectors when it comes to LGBTQIA+ communities; and Justice Anand Venkatesh asked the government to come up with a glossary of terms in Tamil for the media to use. The Tamil Nadu government did come up with a glossary in February 2022, however, the QCC-TNM Media Reference Guide team, as well as several other Tamil LGBTQIA+ persons, believed that the glossary was problematic in parts, and not representative of the actual terms the LGBTQIA+ communities in Tamil Nadu use for themselves. “We then submitted a glossary together, deriving from the work we had already started doing on the media reference guide, and several other resources. This glossary was preferred over the glossary submitted by the Madras High Court, and the English part of the glossary is part of this guide,” Moulee said.
The guide has been written by QCC, TNM, and several individual contributors. Most contributors to the guide are queer, and many are also journalists. “The guide has been created keeping journalists in mind. This is not an academic document — this is an easy to use reference guide for journalists on the go. We have separate chapters for different ‘beats’ and editorial roles, so that journalists who are usually pressed for time can quickly refer to the section that is relevant to them when they’re working on their stories,” said Ragamalika Karthikeyan (He/She), Editor, Special Projects & Experiments at The News Minute. “We will be releasing the rest of the chapters in the coming months,” she said.
Queer Chennai Chronicles (QCC) is an independent publishing house and literary forum. QCC was started with the aim of highlighting LGBTQIA+ writers, translators and authors, and to make the existing literary space and media reporting queer inclusive. QCC is the organiser of India’s first Queer LitFest, which brings together allies and queer literary personas. QCC also works with various media houses and corporations to create inclusive guidelines on reporting, workplace inclusion strategies and implementation processes.
The News Minute has been at the forefront of reporting sensitively on LGBTQIA+ issues in the country for the past seven years. The organisation has a queer person in an editorial leadership position, and has carefully cultivated best practices for reporting and editing on LGBTQIA+ lives and rights. The editorial team at The News Minute is one of the most diverse in the country, and one of our editorial policies is to platform the voices the society ignores.