From the melodramatic depictions in the pictorials of the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1856 for homosexuality and ‘gross indecency’ to the present day, LGBTIQ people and the mainstream media have had a fraught relationship.
The sensational and sensationalist coverage of the gay liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was a low point in this relationship, no less notably in Australia.
The June 26, 1978 arrest of LGBTIQ activists and allies at a protest and vigil for the Stonewall Riots saw the names and addresses of these people published in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. While it was common practice for NSW’s newspaper of record to the details of people before the courts and was not an outwardly homophobic act, it involuntarily outed many people. This resulted in dismissals from employment, loss of leases and business and rejection by families.
In recent years, coverage of LGBTIQ people and issues has become more common, particularly with the debate around marriage rights for same-sex couples and rights for trans, and gender diverse and non-conforming people.
While many mainstream outlets have been talking of a ‘transgender tipping point’, the relationship between the community and the press has become no less fraught.
A Courier-Mail front page in 2014 with the headline ‘Monster chef and the she male’, the Daily Telegraph’s 2015 coverage of Wear It Purple Day celebrations at Burwood Girls’ High School, and the coverage of the Safe Schools LGBTIQ anti-bullying program, have been notable examples where coverage of the queer community and issues has relied on prejudice, stereotypes and insensitive language.