This Pride Month, the Pulitzer Center hosted a webinar to discuss reporting on global LGBTQ+ communities. Despite major progress for the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world, acceptance of queer and transgender people in society remains sharply divided and influenced by regional culture.
Pulitzer Center grantees Don Kevin Hapal, Mahmoud Hassino, Ankur Paliwal, and Ester Pinheiro shared their experiences reporting in the Philippines, Turkey, India, and Brazil, respectively. Although many countries no longer have legislation criminalizing homosexuality, public understanding and opinion of LGBTQ+ people still varies.
“We know that court judgements don’t change cultures,” Paliwal said. “They don't reach a lot of people, and they don't change mindsets, which is why stories like these are needed and they are needed in different languages. They need to be accessible.”
Each of the panelists shared insights into cultural perceptions and treatments of the LGBTQ+ community in their countries, sharing their approaches and practices to build trust and prioritize the safety of their sources.
“One thing we did to support [the sources] was make it very clear from the beginning what the aim of this project was,” Pinheiro said. “[We were] being very transparent with them on how the questions would be going, what kind of level of narratives that were going to share, and making sure that they were comfortable talking about their experiences.”
The grantees also spoke to the importance of diversifying media coverage of LGBTQ+ people. While it is important to report on challenges and issues, positive stories about queer communities and inclusion of LGBTQ+ voices in other beats assist in shifting public narratives.
“I think one problem is that a lot of people who are not LGBTQ+ find it hard to relate to our struggles because they live in very different realities,” Hapal said. “They may not even read our stories if they're all about the struggles and sad realities. So I think, even slowly, if they're seeing us in broader topics, this helps humanize us and hopefully help them have more empathy towards us as fellow, complex human beings.”
Learn more about the panelists:
- Don Kevin Hapal is a journalist specializing in propaganda and disinformation research. His Pulitzer Center-supported project, PRIDE and Prejudice: Lies Hound the Philippines’ Queer Anti-Discrimination Bill, applied data forensics to investigate disinformation around legal protection against the abuse and discrimination of the Filipino queer community. He has written extensively about state-sponsored propaganda, disinformation, and red-tagging, the malicious blacklisting of individuals or organizations as communists or terrorists.
- Presented by Mahmoud Hassino, the I Am Not Your Refugee podcast series looks at refugee-led projects, including an LGBTQ+ refugee network in Turkey. Hassino set up Syria’s first LGBTQ+ magazine, Mawaleh, and presented and produced a podcast series before he was forced to leave in 2011.
- Ankur Paliwal’s project, Queer Lives in India, tells stories of the LGBTQ+ community living in a deeply homophobic and transphobic culture. Paliwal is an independent science journalist who has reported from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Germany, and the United States for Scientific American, Nautilus, GQ, PBS, and several Indian news publications.
- Ester Pinheiro is a Brazilian journalist; her Pulitzer Center-supported project, Beyond the Land of "Cordiality," highlights transgender and queer people living in Brazil, the country with the largest number of murdered trans people. Pinheiro produces the podcast Feminismos del Sur, which deepens and echoes the voices of women in Latin America.
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