On the heels of the recent anti-sodomy law strike-down in Belize, the US Embassy on Thursday engaged the local reporters at a workshop that included representatives of the US state department, the US Embassy in Bridgetown, and Slate magazine. The half-day event saw only seven seated media personnel, most of them from the STAR. Other media entities popped in and out for photo ops and recordings did not to stick around.
Mark Stern, an award-winning journalist at the US-based Slate magazine, spoke about his magazine’s coverage of matters related to the rights of LGBTI, same-sex marriages and trans-genders. He underscored the need for sensitivity when reporting issues affecting the LGBTI community.
Although same sex marriage and sodomy are illegal in Saint Lucia, the journalist explained that reporting on the “antiquated law” would nevertheless require some level of journalistic integrity. Several words and terminologies, often used in a colloquial sense, he noted, might not have a place in the media. “For example, instead of saying ‘sodomy’ or ‘buggery,’ use the term ‘same-sex intimacy.’ ”
Stern reiterated that some words are offensive to the LGBTI community; among them “shemale,” “dyke” and “tranny.” The distinction within the LGBTI community was another focal point of the workshop. Stern explained that although the LGBTI is a community, it is made up of several sexual minorities. To understand the difference is important when reporting on issues surrounding the minority group. Transgender Identifiers was one section the workshop host made reference too, he said.
It is the journalist’s responsibility to refrain to refrain from “perpetuating incoherent or misleading information in regards to the LGBTI community,” Stern asserted. Repeating uncritically common claims by opponents of the LGBTI rights should be avoided. The session ended on a high note, with the media specialist from the US Embassy Ayesha Lett and Jeff Barrus, Deputy Public Affairs officer from the US State department, thanking the handful of reporters at the workshop.
Before heading out, the visitors met for an hour-long exchange with the STAR publisher at the newspaper’s headquarters personal visit at the newspaper headquarters. He had not attended the workshop.