By Anna-Liza Badaloo
For CWA Canada
As a BIPOC member of the LGBTQAI2S+ community, I know the struggles that come with these intersecting identities all too well.
Intersectionality recognizes that we all have multiple identities which overlap and accumulate to create complex layers of discrimination.
Pride organizations are ramping up their intersectional programming this year to feature diverse stories from the community. It’s time for media to stop focussing on stories from white, cis, gay males and diversify the conversation.
I sat down virtually with Pride organizers from across Canada to find out why intersectional media coverage is vital during Pride Month, and how media can raise awareness of important issues currently facing the queer community.
Why intersectional media coverage is important right now
By forming diverse advisory groups and engaging in community consultation, Pride organizations are working hard to ensure their programming reflects the communities they serve. Queer performers are raising awareness of how queerness intersects with race, class, ability, size, age, religion and immigration status.
But you wouldn’t know it based on mainstream media coverage.
As Sherwin Modeste, Executive Director of Pride Toronto notes, “The days of Pride being a white, gay, male event are no longer. Look at the history of Pride — it speaks to a whole level of intersectionality that we often don’t talk about. Trans women of colour did so much work at the beginning.”
“Media likes to cover loud and colourful things like drag,” explains Andrea Arnot, Executive Director of the Vancouver Pride Society. “Media needs to look at what it means to have intersecting identities. What does it mean for performers? We need more nuanced coverage.”
“It’s one thing to talk about intersectionality,” says Sandy Duperval, spokesperson for Fierté Montréal. “But to connect with someone who tells you their story, and who introduces you to not just the word, but the reality, changes everything.”
How media can change the Pride Month narrative
Nuanced, intersectional stories of the queer community are out there, waiting for mainstream media to pay attention. Pride organizers shared their tips to help media find, prioritize and amplify these diverse voices.
Showcase queer community diversity
Nothing replaces community representation. After decades of majority white, gay, male party-focussed Pride coverage, media can do better.
“Young folks coming up need to see themselves in everything that we do. The media plays a very important role in setting the tone of these conversations,” notes Sherwin. “Too often, community members are not reflected positively, or not reflected at all in media stories. If they don’t see themselves, they won’t feel welcome.”
Every year during Pride Month, the same people tend to be interviewed. Diversify your source list by taking deep dives into Pride programming to identify intersectional performers and community members. Don’t hesitate to tell Pride media contacts that you’re interested in highlighting intersectionality at Pride – they will gladly connect you with appropriate contacts.
Reveal the human stories behind intersectionality
There is no one story that can encompass the full scope of intersectionality in the queer community.
As Sandy points out, “If I read an article or watch an interview, I want to be introduced to another human being – not just a hot topic. I want to know that the people who need it the most are getting the exposure, that their stories are being told and not swept under the rug.”
The personal stories of Pride organizers provide powerful examples.
“Coming out as a Black woman of Haitian descent from a very religious background, my intersectionality made it much harder for me to grow as a person,” shares Sandy. “I’m not less Black for being a lesbian. I’m not less of a lesbian for being Black. But growing up, I didn’t know how to be one without pushing away from the other.”
“What if I spoke about my journey of coming from Grenada, establishing myself in Canada, and living in the closet for many years?” wonders Sherwin. “Now I lead one of the largest Pride festivals in the world. Others can look at me, and think ‘I can do it too!’”
Media needs to interview a wide range of queer community members and take a humanistic approach.
Raise awareness of intersectional queer community issues
Last week a gay man was brutally attacked while relaxing at a Toronto beach. Queer folks aren’t as safe as mainstream media would have us think. How can media use our privilege to speak truth to power?
“Media needs to take the time to understand the diverse struggles in our community,” says Sherwin. For example, a piece on how COVID affects the queer community could contrast the experiences of a white transman born in Canada with a lesbian, BIPOC newcomer.
“If I’m Muslim and queer, I’m not just a queer who faces homophobia,” explains Sandy. “I’m also a religious person who faces Islamophobia. The more we speak about their stories, we start building safe space.”
As media, we sometimes forget the power we have to effect positive social change. What will your Pride coverage look like this year? Will you focus on superficial glamour? Or will you amplify queer, intersectional voices that are often unheard or actively silenced?
(Anna-Liza Badaloo is a freelance writer, knowledge translator and education disruptor exploring the connections between health equity, integrative health and planetary health. Anna-Liza is a member of the Canadian Freelance Guild.)