October is LGBTQ+ History Month–an annual, month-long celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history, as well as acknowledging the strides of the gay rights and related civil rights movements.
Although there is still work to be done concerning media representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in society, there are a number of LGBTQ+ identifying people who are incredibly influential in the field of multimedia communications and journalism.
Let’s take a moment to recognize and appreciate some of these figures:
Shilts was the first openly-gay reporter for the San Francisco Chronical in the early 1980’s. He also wrote for The Advocate, a bi-monthly LGBTQ+ interest magazine. Shilts spent most of his career covering the AIDS epidemic…an epidemic that took his own life in addition to the lives of over half a million U.S. citizens. He conducted hard-hitting and critical coverage of lawmakers and heath experts who dismissed HIV/AIDS as an insignificant and strictly gay disease. Thanks to the help and dedication of Shilts’s work, much of America’s prejudice, denial, and misunderstanding of HIV/AIDS ended.
Edythe D. Eyde, known famously as her pen name Lisa Ben (a play on words of “lesbian”), created the first lesbian publication in North America called Vice Versa. Vice Versa sought to establish a medium to reflect lesbian emotion, thought, opinions, and material that appealed to LGBTQ+ citizens in the U.S. She was also an established author, songwriter, and a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Although Vice Verca ceased publication after only nine copies (as content addressing homosexuality was deemed obscene), her work is credited with setting a precedent that has dominated lesbian and gay journalism for years to follow.
Alan Bell was the first black publisher of a mainstream gay publication. He also founded the monthly magazine BLK, which centered around the black LGBTQ+ community, an area with minimal coverage at the time. Like Shilts, he was also a prominent advocate for the LGBTQ+ community during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and usually focused on the underrepresented community of black, LGBTQ+ individuals.
Janel Mock is a prominent writer, journalist, editor, television host, director and transgender rights activist. She began working as a staff editor for People magazine post-graduation; she came out publicly as a transgender woman in Marie Claire article in 2011. Mock is an avid advocate for transgender communities of color, and has contributed to outlets such as Elle, The Advocate, and Huffington Post in addition to People and Marie Claire. Her book, Redifining Realness, won a Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association. She was also awarded a spot in Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influencial People of 2018”, and Sylvia Rivera Activist Award, among other accollades.
Thomas Roberts is known famously for being the first openly gay evening nightly news anchor for a network television outlet. Throughout his prestigious career, he anchored for MSNBC, CNN Headline News, CBS News, Way Too Early, Morning Joe, Today and NBC Nightly News. He spoke at the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) in 2006.
To learn more about prominent LGBTQ+ figures in journalism and mass communication, visit https://www.nlgja.org