By Jillian Page
LGBT Perspectives editor
QUEBEC — It’s progress for the United States, I suppose: “U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Eric Fanning to become the next secretary of the Army, the White House said on Friday, paving the way for the first openly gay leader of a military service branch in U.S. history,” Reuters reports.
Reuters went with the sex orientation angle in both its lede and its headline, and devoted the latter half of the article to LGBT reaction.
It’s questionable, though, whether Reuters should have played up the sexual orientation angle as the main focus of their report. On the one hand, yes, gay people are still struggling for equal civil rights in the United States, so the nomination is a step forward for LGBT people.
But on the other hand, if Mr. Fanning was a heterosexual person, you can be sure Reuters wouldn’t have focused on that angle.
In fact, Mr. Fanning’s sexuality is irrelevant to his role as Army secretary. And the average American probably couldn’t care less about his sexual orientation and views the news as “too much information.”
And that is exactly what the LGBT movement is striving for: Our sexuality and/or gender identity should not be the focus of news reports unless those articles are specifically about LGBT events and such. We just want to be accepted for who were are, with no fuss. We want to be treated equally in every respect.
Canadian media outlets got that message a long time ago, perhaps when same-sex marriage became the law of the land. If Mr. Fanning were a Canadian nominated for some post in the government, the media in Canada would not be mentioning his sexual orientation, even in passing.
So, some might argue that the Reuters report on Mr. Fanning is discriminatory, even if it isn’t homophobic. Reuters made an issue of his sexual orientation and perhaps unwittingly may have stoked the fires of some outspoken right-wing fundamentalists who will now decry the appointment.
It’s irresponsible journalism, and something many media outlets are guilty of in the United States. They are not treating gay people equally. By playing up the gay sexual orientation of people, they are fanning the flames of controversy — and surely they must be aware of that.
U.S. media have a long way to go in reporting on LGBT people. They could learn a lot from Canada, where LGBT people are given the same respect heterosexual people receive.
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey