‘Obama nominates first openly gay Army secretary’: A discriminatory headline

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.

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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3 thoughts on “‘Obama nominates first openly gay Army secretary’: A discriminatory headline”

  1. I’m of two minds here. Yes, his sexual orientation is not relevant to the appointment. But on the other hand, just a few years ago there was the DADT policy in the US armed forces. One could also read the Reuters article as demonstrating how far we’ve come since then; the article needs to be taken in context.

    The article itself didn’t make a big deal of his sexual orientation; it spent far more ink discussing the change in military policy as well as the fact that there’s still some distance to go for full equality. So I think we should cut the headline writer a little slack.

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    1. It’s not just the headline. The article leads with his sexual orientation — it makes a big deal out of it. Then later, the second half talks about it and the reaction by LGBT people. As Steve so wisely said: ” …. when sexual orientation (and race, religion or other phobic descriptions) is not worth even a line in the news, let alone the main point of the feature, then equality is real.”

      The media in the United States have yet to give LGBT people full equality.

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  2. I agree that when sexual orientation (and race, religion or other phobic descriptions) is not worth even a line in the news, let alone the main point of the feature, then equality is real.

    But, while I applaud the appointment, Fanning will never get past the homophobic senate approval. But, who knows, the Senate Armed Services committee, which has to pass recommendations on the appointment to the Senate, is chaired by John McClain. Sen. McLain is probably one of the few “good guys” left in the Republican party. (though, he did support California Prop 8).

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