British Journalist Darren Nathan talks diversity & visibility in LGBTQI media

“Most discrimination comes from a place of ignorance and lack of knowledge. As hard as it is sometimes you just have to educate people instead of getting angry”, said Darren Nathan as he spoke to Queer Talk about hate crimes, authentic visibility, and myths associated with gender queer and transgender people.

The London based LGBTQI journalist identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them. Having worked with several popular LGBTQI publications such as Attitude Magazine, Gay Star News, LGBT+ history month magazine and Pink News, they have formed a deep understanding of the industry and its significant diversity issues.

It is their personal experience whilst working on field that led them to come up with an independent project focussing on the lack of intersectionality in LGBT+ media in the UK. Through ‘Me in Media‘, Darren brought forward stories about and by queer people who have become a minority within the minority of the LGBT+ community.

Discussing how sparse the opportunities are for non-binary and transgender people in the media sector, they said, “I don’t really think that LGBTQIA+ media has a lot of opportunities for the whole community so although I can see that it is getting better the industry is often stuck 50 years in the past.”

Much of this lack of diversity is also reflecting in the media coverage according to Darren. A 2017 survey by All About Trans suggested that 48.5% of transgender people in the UK thought media coverage of trans people was negative.

Source: Pink News

Talking about common mistakes reporters make whilst covering stories relating to transgender people, Darren said, “They don’t ask them or use them in their stories. As a non-cis identifying person I can be very obvious when a cis white person is writing an article on a trans/non-binary person. The most common thing is the pronouns and the misuse of them. There are enough trans writers out there that don’t get opportunities because lots of the media is run by cis white people who never give up their space or platform for authentic voices.”

In terms of newsroom culture, Darren confesses to having been subjected to discrimination. They said, “There have been a few publications that I have worked at where I have felt that my identity (non-binary and queer) hasn’t really fit in with that publication’s brand or who they thought their audience was and then because of that been pushed to the side. “

Much of their activism has been towards increasing more visibility towards gender queer persons and that hasn’t always met with positive responses in the LGBTQI publications.

“A lot of my activism comes from a queer point of view and looks at the minorities within the minorities, there are some publications that aren’t really interested in that as they want to write for the cis white gay male.”

Not just the media industry but even the film and TV industry has failed to produce authentic non-binary and transgender characters. A 2012 report by GLAAD suggested that nearly 21% of the transgender characters included in a TV show would be cast as villains and nearly 20% as sex workers.

Source: Twitter

As of 2018 though, television shows such as Emmerdale, Transparent, and Pose are changing the narrative of LGBTQI characters. The recent casting of popular actress Scarlett Johansson in the role of a transgender man received massive backlash online which further led the actress to opt out of the project.

Supporting the argument, Darren states that it is more authentic when trans actors get to play trans characters on-screen. They said, “There has been a show called Pose which focuses on transgender characters in the 80s and uses trans actors and actresses — that’s key! So often shows don’t use trans actors to play trans role, and of course that not the only role trans actors can play but why not create an authentic representation if you can.”

“Much like the media in general, common mistakes that screenwriters make is a representation of what they think trans people are which is usually washed with an air of cis-genderedness. There’s hardly any representation of trans-masculine people or trans people who don’t pass as easily,” they added.

The harm that ill-representation by the media publications and entertainment mediums presents is that it subtly promotes transphobia. A lack of open dialogue is resulting in rising cases of hate crimes against transgender people in the UK. More than a third of the transgender people in the UK have been victims of hate crime as reported by LGBT charity Stonewall last year.

Busting the myths that ill-representation creates around transgender people, Darren signs off saying, “They’re not trying to rape people in toilets. That it’s not a choice. That trans people are people.”


Originally published at queerartists.wordpress.com on August 5, 2018.