Most people believe the modern-day LGBTQ movement began in the United States in the 1960s. Some point to 1965 and Philadelphia while others unequivocally lay claim to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. Others look to political accomplishments in San Francisco of the mid-1970s as the true beginning of the movement.
Take your pick. Ultimately they’re all part of the same movement and began around the mid-20th century mark.
While instances of organizations and efforts by LGBTQ individuals and groups date back to 1924 in the United States, no such efforts were covered by the media of the day as they were by the second half of the 20th century.
Since the late ’60s and early ’70s, mainstream media has been there all along, covering it sometimes objectively, sometimes as friends, and others as foe.
In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declared that same-sex attraction was not a mental illness. Later in the same decade Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma turned anti-LGBTQ activist, tried to rally the nation against us, insisting we were a danger to children but instead ended up with a pie in her face and a lost contract to promote Florida orange juice. The mainstream media was there, covering every juicy, messy moment.
By the 1980s, a time when most households had cable television, we saw the advent of 24-hour news networks, the full-blown arrival of the then-deadly HIV/AIDS pandemic, and a stall-out on the LGBTQ rights movement that wouldn’t fully resume until the turn of the 21st century.
But have no doubt, mainstream media remained right by our side, covering the over half a million deaths that occurred during the next two decades and anything related to our community that was even the least bit controversial (or enough to draw in viewers); from anti-LGBTQ political campaigns and haters hell-bent on pushing us back into the closet to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and scantily clad twink boys dancing on floats during Pride parades.
As we continued to inch forward toward the new century, changes in mainstream media were at a fevered pitch. Television and radio networks, no longer bound by the Fairness Doctrine abolished during the Reagan administration, were now allowed to run amok. Conservatives felt they were being besmirched by the truth, so they created their own network to be “fair and balanced.”
Ironically, multiple Fox “News” shows have never proved themselves to be anything more than talking mouthpieces for the far-right wing of the Republican Party to fire off fantastical and unfounded fodder at anyone who would listen.
Other changes were apparent as we drew closer to the turn of the 21st century: new medications were made available to people with HIV and even full-blown AIDS that brought them back to health and gave them the opportunity to live a long and full life.
New technology exploded, bringing LGBTQ communities from around the globe closer together, more than ever before, via the internet.
In 2003 states that still had sodomy laws, which made sexual activity between adults of the same gender illegal, were overturned by the Lawrence v. Texas case.
In a landmark event, the United States elected its first Black president in the year 2008. Barack Obama, along with his Vice President Joe Biden, set in motion many of the freedoms the LGBTQ community enjoys today.
By 2015, as Obama and Biden were nearing the end of their second terms, LGBTQ communities across the country celebrated while marriage equality finally became the law of the land.
All of that was a media field day that lasted for decades. And same-sex marriage, finally recognized as legal, truly was a cause for celebration.
But suddenly there was no longer any major queer controversy for the media to pay attention to. No felonious sodomy charges. HIV was largely contained and controlled by medication. And now, same-sex couples could get married and divorced just like their heterosexual counterparts. What was there to report on?
It didn’t take long for Donald and Melania Trump to come gliding down an escalator and stir things up again. Let’s face it, the next four years were hell. Not just for LGBTQ people but for everyone that was kind, forward-thinking, and a sensible progressive.
And what about the mainstream media? Long since split into the two camps, left-wing mainstream media told the truth, no holds barred, good and bad for both parties. The right-wing influenced shows only wanted to talk about the best of their own party, covering up or at times even boldly, straight out lying in an effort to advance their cause.
After accomplishing what seems like quite a bit in a short amount of time, scant media attention was paid to the LGBTQ community during the Trump era, save for his ignorant and hate-filled, pandering to his voter base move of requiring all transgender people serving in the military to step down, unless they were going to serve in their position in the gender they were designated at birth. The media paid attention to that one.
Now we’re three years into a presidency that has seen the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had previously allowed women the right to make their own decisions regarding pregnancy termination.
In a victory for the president and the trans community, all trans individuals who were removed from military service were allowed to return to their previous positions if they desired to do so.
Most recently came the passing of the marriage protection act, which requires all states across the country to continue to recognize same-sex marriage, even if they have an antiquated ban remaining on their state constitution, should the Supreme Court of the United States attempt to try and overturn marriage equality.
Now and for the past few years, the trans community and the drag community have become the primary target of the super right wing. Drag queen story hours and transgender men and women using restrooms are hot-button topics for a small set of extremely loud Trump-influenced politicians and their followers.
The media has stuck their toes in the water, but they haven’t jumped in for a full-bodied swim on either topic. Why?
In recent testimony during the January 6 investigation hearings, it was revealed that most of the reporters and anchors who worked for networks supporting the far right did not believe what they were reporting on January 6, or practically the entire period Trump occupied the White House.
If they didn’t believe their Republican overlords then, why should they believe them now and repeat the same mistake twice? Especially when networks like Fox have instructed their employees to dial back the Trump-supportive rhetoric.
While mainstream left media is lightly covering state legislative actions made against trans youth and drag queens, neither side of the media is covering LGBTQ issues with the verve they once did.
Perhaps that’s because mainstream media sees it as less significant than they did previously, or because they want to draw less negative attention to a marginalized group of people.
Whatever the case, it places the responsibility squarely back in the hands of the LGBTQ media.
It remains our job to bring you as much pertinent information as possible from the local, national, and global community so that we all stay informed, and prepared for whatever Republican-sponsored legislation (over 120 bills have already been introduced nationwide so far this year) or extreme right-wing threat may come our way in the war they are waging against us once again.