How Journalists Can Cover LGBTQ Stories Year-Round     

News coverage during Pride Month often focuses on parades, events festooned with rainbow Pride flags, or state and national legal battles over LGBTQ rights. While journalists need to cover the LGBTQ community’s celebrations and challenges, they also should be mindful of how they are representing queer people overall.  

“It doesn’t need to be so doom and gloom or so flamboyant and celebratory,” said Chelsea Stahl, the art director for NBC News and MSNBC Digital. “We can find a middle ground that’s empowering, strengthening and [shows] the community in a light that isn’t othering.”   

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When media representation of LGBTQ people isn’t diverse, it affects how people see and understand the queer community. In fact, two-thirds of non-LGBTQ Americans believe the false claim that everyone in the LGBTQ community shares the same needs and issues, according to GLAAD’s 2023 Accelerating Acceptance survey. Meanwhile, a 2021 Getty Images Visual GPS Study found that only 20% of respondents saw LGBTQ people represented regularly in visuals, and when they did, those images were “often narrow and stereotypical.”  

Stereotypes and treating the LGBTQ community as a monolith can be countered by well-researched, well-reported and nuanced news coverage. GLAAD senior directors Alex Schmider and Meghan Bartley told NBCU Academy that not reporting on LGBTQ people in a variety of settings, contexts and geographies can be detrimental.   

“This limits the scope of awareness that LGBTQ people are part of every community and living their daily lives as most people are,” said Bartley, who oversees agencies, brands and engagement at GLAAD.   

Here is how journalists can cover LGBTQ stories beyond Pride Month.

Cover the full range of queer issues

As the editorial director of NBC Out, Brooke Sopelsa makes sure the LGBTQ vertical’s stories range from pop culture to health to business and more.   

“When we’re covering LGBTQ issues, we’re covering the spectrum of queer issues,” Sopelsa said. “There’s so many different topics that intersect with LGBTQ issues.”  

This range can be seen in Out’s stories, from tracing the evolution of lesbian cinema to reports of unfair treatment of LGBTQ adults by health care providers to the scaling back of Pride apparel in Target.  

“It’s important, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for the broader news reader to see that LGBTQ issues are vast,” Sopelsa said.   

GLAAD also advises journalists to include LGBTQ people in “human stories everyone can relate to, whether they are at” work, school, home or places of faith.  

Hiring LGBTQ journalists can also help diversify coverage — and not just to cover LGBTQ stories. They can add a perspective and ideas for sourcing that non-queer journalists may not consider when approaching a story.  

“Having them tell those stories in new ways that maybe a person outside of that community wouldn’t be able to tell [is] very important to us,” Stahl said.  

Imagery should reflect the story, not stereotypes

Rainbows and Pride flags are often used as visual shorthand for the LGBTQ community. Bartley pointed out that an “unintentional consequence of this is removing humanity and individuality from people directly affected or being referred to and limiting LGBTQ people to their identity or orientation.”  

Stahl agreed that flag imagery can feel “very generic and repetitive.” 

“When we’re talking about trans rights being eliminated across the country, in various ways, it feels tone-deaf to use something like a Pride flag or a trans flag,” she said.  

Sopelsa recommends journalists use specific, intentional imagery that relates to the details of their reporting, rather than the general idea of “the LGBTQ community.”  

GLAAD says journalists should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to imagery:  

  • Are actual LGBTQ people depicted and not just actors or models? 
  • Does the imagery show a breadth of human experience and multidimensional characters? 
  • Do the LGBTQ people reflect various races, ethnicities, ages, shapes and sizes, and disabilities? 

Also, be mindful of these stereotypes and clichés, according to GLAAD:   

  • Gay men as flamboyant or feminine. 
  • LGBTQ people with rainbow flags at parades and protests. 
  • Transgender people only depicted as victims of violence, engaging in protests or receiving treatments in doctor’s offices.   
  • Bisexual people treated as a “minority” in the LGBTQ community. Although bi+ people are underrepresented in the media, bisexual adults make up the largest proportion of the LGBTQ community (4.4.% of U.S. adults and 57.3% of LGBTQ adults, according to Gallup). 
  • LGBTQ identity being dependent on dressing, acting or looking a certain way. 
  • Gender nonconformity or dressing androgynously is not a signifier of LGBTQ identity or orientation.   

Remember LGBTQ stories are everyday human stories

“LGBTQ people don’t appear and disappear each June,” Bartley said. “The community exists year-round and stories about us should not be relegated to one month of the year.”  

Schmider and Bartley offer five factors that can contribute to well-rounded representation of LGBTQ people: displays of empathy and humanity, realistic stories, universal storylines, LGBTQ people doing everyday activities, and LGBTQ people representing diverse backgrounds.   

These stories can be about the importance of representation itself, like showcasing 30 barrier-breaking LGBTQ leaders, or stories that center the acceptance of queer people, like a review of a book about queer spaces. Queer visibility in media is important not just for representation, but for accuracy in showing non-queer people that LGBTQ people exist outside of stereotypes.  

“There’s a lot of different ways of interpreting stories about people that don’t have to be depressing or sad. They can also be empowering,” Stahl said. “The world is changing, and it should change.”  

🏳️‍🌈 Resources for journalists   
Getty and GLAAD’s LGBTQ+ Visual Storytelling Guidebook 
The Trevor Project  
GLAAD Organization Media Guide  
Human Rights Campaign’s Glossary of Terms  
National Center for Transgender Equality’s Tips for Journalists   
NLGJA’s Stylebook on LGBTQ+ Terminology  
Trans Journalists Association’s Stylebook and Coverage Guide    

Clarisa Melendez

Clarisa is a bilingual associate producer based in New York City with NBCU Academy’s content team. She also co-edits The Weekly Rundown newsletter. Previously, she produced for NBC Telemundo Network in Miami.