Over past couple of weeks, more than one of our celibate LGBT friends has been represented in questionable ways by journalists. At the same time, we were featured in a Washington Post article about LGBT celibates that we were reasonably happy with save a claim that celibate LGBT Christians “find it easier than before to be out of the closet in their traditional churches because they are celibate.” For a while now, we have been thinking that it might be helpful to tell our readers more about our approaches to interactions with journalists. It’s easy for stories to be used as weapons, either against other groups of people (e.g. a celibate’s story being used to bully non-celibate LGBT folks) or against the interviewee (e.g. a celibate’s story being used to argue that there’s actually no such person as a “celibate LGBT Christian”).
Unfortunately, it’s possible for factors beyond the interviewee’s control to yield harmful results. We are not blaming any of our friends for how they have been portrayed recently, and we are not going to name or link the specific articles because in the the interest of fairness we would need to contact their authors for comment, and we aren’t about to open conversation with writers who are only interested in publishing polemics about celibate LGBT Christians. That said, we would like to open today’s Saturday Symposium conversation a bit differently than usual. We’ll offer some of our own thoughts on how we have managed and continue to manage media interactions, and we would like to hear our readers’ thoughts on the questions we ask at the end.
When considering giving an interview to a journalist, we believe it is important to consider this question first: “How could the author’s proposed project further the discussion about celibate LGBT people in the Church?” Every author has an audience. We’re curious how sharing our story with a specific author’s audience might contribute something positive to the broader conversation.
Though journalists with questionable senses of ethics are a dime a dozen and therefore not always possible to identify, we think it’s a good idea to have a response plan in place in the event that the published article, book, or video resource uses our story dishonestly. Having an idea of how one might respond in the immediate and farther down the road when criticisms arise is an essential part of participating in any controversial discussion. We can’t promise that we’ll always do it perfectly, but our general response to any discrepancy between what we said and how it was reported in a given situation is to publish our own statement as quickly as possible afterward. As of now, our own statements of clarification and challenge have been directed toward other bloggers (and one journalist) who have used quotes from our blog out of context and without citation or linking. We have not yet experienced anything similar resulting from an actual interview, but if this were to happen our response would be much the same as the ones we have already needed to publish. It’s very important to us that our story not be used to abuse or bully.
That said, we’ve had many fruitful interactions with journalists in the past as well. There are several writers who have a genuine interest in exploring issues raised by LGBT celibates and introducing their own fan bases to LGBT stories that don’t fit the mold. We believe that the media does play an important role in continuing and broadening conversations that we have been participating in for years on a smaller scale. Beginning and maintaining positive relationships with journalists can be beneficial for all involved: in our experience, writers who have interviewed us in the past often continue interacting with us and raising questions that challenge us in ways that we need to be challenged.
Now, onto our usual set of weekend questions…
This week’s Saturday Symposium question: Where have you seen articles, books, videos, etc. that have contributed positively to existing conversations about LGBT people in the Church? What kinds of media contributions would you like to see on LGBT Christian topics in the future? In your opinion, which topics move conversation along, hold back needed conversation, or even set back a conversation that has already advanced? What roles do journalists, bloggers, church members, and others have in advancing the discussion?
We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a wonderful weekend!
Sarah and Lindsey
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