This PRIDE month, we applaud these 10 influencers, who advance the LGBTQ story.
From gay adoption bans in a variety of states to legislation allowing doctors to deny care to LGBTQ+ people to the removal of rights for transgender troops in the military, it may feel like there’s a swell of opposition against anyone who identifies as or aligns him- or herself with the LGBTQ+ community.
Tucked amidst the negativity are shiny beacons of rainbow-emanating hope, good news and headlines of courage, support, and advocacy.
These include state anti-LGBTQ+ bills failing in legislatures, growing support from Muslim and Mormon communities and overall religious groups, increasing support for same-sex marriage in all states, the first LGBTQ+ Senate leader in California “herstory,” reduction in new HIV diagnoses among GBT men in New York, and even the successful and empowering relaunch of Queer Eye on Netflix.
Behind the stories are the writers, editors, and influencers who craft them. These journalists work hard, gathering ideas, digging up leads, checking facts, contacting sources, and constructing multimedia to deliver results to readers like you.
Here’s a list of journalists and influencers, who have inspired and continue to inspire members of Cision Pulse, our LGBTQ+ employee resource group:
1. Danica Roem (@pwcdanica)
Roem made history last November as the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature, beating out the incumbent who billed himself in 2006 as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Roem won her seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates on a platform that included a thorough knowledge of the issues that she says she got from her time covering them as reporter with the Gainesville Times and Prince William Times. While Roem seems now to be the subject of news coverage, her journalism career unabashedly helped fuel her entrance into the political sphere, where she can influence change at the state level.
Where you can hear her speak: Democratic National Committee’s 19th annual LGBTQ Gala
2. Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ)
Jonathan Capehart is a busy man. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist serves on The Washington Post’s editorial board, writes for the PostPartisan blog, guest hosts “Midday on WNYC” on New York Public Radio, and — oh yeah — regularly serves as an MSNBC contributor. Capehart also hosts a podcast called “Cape Up,” where he interviews people such as John Lewis about the death of Martin Luther King or Bryan Stevenson on the pervasion of racial terrorism in the US, with a fairly regular cadence of content focused on challenges that African Americans face in this country. Capehart doesn’t regularly write about being openly gay, but it affects the opinions he shares with millions of readers with access to his work.
What you should read: Barbara Bush, a baby and breaking a shameful silence on AIDS
3. Trish Bendix (@trishbendix)
Trish Bendix is the managing editor of INTO, Grindr’s 15-month-old digital magazine for queer news and culture. Bendix is expanding on the experience she gained leading LBT pop-culture site AfterEllen and magazine GO to push her new publication into the forefront of news-hungry LGBTQ+ readers. In addition to running the show and adding funny video content, Bendix creates relevant content for her own site and covers diverse topics, including Sierra Dowd, a queer woman of color who created clothing brand to support sexual assault survivors and Top 10 Films of 2017. Occasionally, she also graces the pages of other sites and magazines.
What you should read: The Fight Over Leslie Feinberg’s ‘Stone Butch Blues’
4. Tiq Milan (@TheMrMilan)
On the heels of his keynote speech at the 11th annual Capital Trans Pride celebration in Washington, D.C., last month, we want to highlight the work of Tiq Milan, a trans man, LGBTQ+ advocate, journalist, and national GLAAD spokesperson. Milan and his wife, Kim Katrin Milan, frequently work together to break stereotypes, advocating for LGBTQ+ issues. Their recent TED Talk called A queer vision of love and marriage aims to challenge people to view love from a position of inclusivity and understanding for the LGBTQ+ community. His articles and commentaries appear in HuffPost (Black Love is For ALL Black People), NBC News (‘Queen Sugar’ Actor Brian Michael Smith Comes Out As Transgender), and BET.com, among others.
What you should read: His New York Times op-ed as part of the “Transgender Today” series
5. Liz Highleyman (@lizatblackrose)
Given HIV’s disproportionate infection rate in men who have sex with men globally, Liz Highleyman’s coverage of HIV and hepatitis C treatment updates, conferences, and other key health-related topics is especially imperative for the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to working as editor-in-chief at HIVandHepatitis.com, Highleyman’s work appears on POZ, AIDSmap.com, and The Bay Area Reporter. After covering HIV for more than two decades, Highleyman’s expansive knowledge and detailed focus on the subject is huge with educating people, during a massive push to end new AIDS epidemic by 2030.
What you should read: PrEP use growing in US, but not reaching all those in need
6. Meredith Talusan (@1demerith)
When Conde Nast launched them in October 2017 to cover stories of interest to the queer community, it tapped GLAAD Media Award winner Meredith Talusan to launch the editorial content that would drive engagement. Talusan, a Filipina-American immigrant with albinism, cited the need for more transgender journalists to focus on transgender issues as a major reason for transitioning from writer to editor. She’s already filling the role with great authority in the space, as evidenced by some of her fascinating and wide-ranging articles, including We’ve Always Been Nasty: Why the feminist movement needs trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes.
What you should read: An essay, “Invisible Light Waves” in Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture available here.
7. John Paul Brammer (@jpbrammer)
John Paul Brammer (aka JP Brammer) is a self-described “writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user,” according to his advice column Hola Papi! on INTO. But don’t let the lighthearted fun of columns addressing What To Do When Your Boyfriend Is Jobless And You’re Annoyed and How To Forget About That One Person That Broke Your Heart trick you into thinking it’s all fluff for Brammer. He digs in to GBT news and culture with style and substance, tackling tough subjects on them, including Anti-Gay Hate Crimes in Miami Show Even Pride Isn’t Safe and Pakistan Just Passed Major Legislation Supporting Trans People. His freelance work is all over the place (check out this piece on NBC News about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo).
What you should read: An essay, “Letter to a Sensitive Brown Queer” in How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation available here.
8. Helen Zia (@HZIAAAA)
It’s a good thing Helen Zia decided to switch her interest from attending medical school to becoming a journalist, or we might not have her formidable focus reporting on and trying to correct inequalities for Asian Americans and LGBTQ+ people. Zia is a former executive editor with Ms. Magazine, co-chair emerita for the Women’s Media Center, and likely most known for her coverage of the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit in the early 1980s, culminating in the Oscar-nominated film, Who Killed Vincent Chin? Zia married her partner in 2008, becoming one of the first same-sex couples to be married in the country. While Zia no longer is a practicing journalist, she spends much of her time speaking with students at colleges around the country on her activism and why it’s important to allow the voices of marginalized communities to be heard.
What you should read: Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (2000)
9. Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting)
Another thought leader from The Washington Post (See: Jonathan Capehart) is former journalist Jose Antonio Vargas for his influence and representation of himself as a person of multiple minorities. Vargas is an undocumented, gay American from the Philippines. He also is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for his help in covering the Virginia Tech shooting in 2008, an author, filmmaker, and public speaker. While he may not cover LGBTQ+ news specifically, we value his voice and his presence in the journalist community.
Where you can hear him speak: 2018 American Library Association conference
10. Diana Tourjée (@DianaTourjee)
It may not be a surprise that we include Diana Tourjée, given that she won GLAAD’s Outstanding Digital Journalism award last month for her documentary on Danica Roem’s election to the Virginia House of Delegates. But Tourjée rounds out this list perfectly. Where some might resist being pigeonholed as a trans journalist covering trans issues, Tourjée says she embraces the opportunity to be a voice for the community. In addition to making documentaries and writing for Broadly, a VICE “website and digital video channel devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences,” Tourjée publishes articles on HuffPost, Out Magazine, and elsewhere. She also is working on a book about her grandfather, Jack Doroshow, known in the LGBTQ+ community as Flawless Sabrina, and his investigation into the 1973 Houston mass murders.
What you should read: The Incredible Love Between Jazz Jennings and Her Fiercest Advocate—Her Mom
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Author Alexa Hoffman is PR Newswire’s director of US distribution products, which reaches thousands of outlets as part of the broadest group of US-based journalists, consumers, bloggers and investors in the industry. Follow her at @PRNlgbt, where she co-curates PR Newswire’s Twitter channel dedicated to LGBT news and culture, and connect with her on LinkedIn.