by Fred Kuhr
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Examining LGBT health beyond HIV/AIDS and the crisis of homophobia in the Caribbean were just two of the issues examined during the 12th annual LGBT Media Summit, held on September 8 in Miami Beach, Fla.
The Summit was just one part of the broader annual convention of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, which attracted about 300 journalists and other media professionals to South Beach for three days of networking, professional development, and a little fun in the Florida sun.
About 100 of the convention’s overall attendees took part in the LGBT Media Summit, which targets those working in LGBT media.
While LGBT media professionals are the focus of the one-day event, the Summit’s focus has broadened.
“Though the LGBT Media Summit was originally conceived to be exclusively for members of the LGBT
|LGBT Summit Chair Jason Parsley
of South Florida Gay News
press, over the years it has become an integral part of our three-day NLGJA gathering,” Summit Chair Jason Parsley, executive editor of Wilton Manors-based South Florida Gay News, wrote in his welcoming remarks. “While panels like ‘Beyond HIV & AIDS: Reporting on LGBTQ Health’ and ‘The LGBT Movement in Sports’ are developed to provide journalists working in LGBTQ media ideas and inspiration for future coverage, they also offer journalists working in more traditional outlets a unique perspective on a unique topic.”
At the LGBT health panel, topics ranged from senior housing and other issues related to aging, fitness and nutrition, and mental health.
Panelist Robert Boo, CEO of The Pride Center at Equality Park, talked about how his agency was approached by the City of Wilton Manors to help create housing for LGBT seniors. This came after the 2010 Census, which showed that Wilton Manors is the second gayest city, per capita, in the entire country, said Boo.
“Many older LGBTs don’t have children nor that family support structure, so that isolation starts to set in,” said Boo, whose agency offers a variety of support groups and services, including health care navigation and retirement.
|Dr. Sheryl Mayas of Care Resources
Dr. Sheryl Zayas, medical director for Care Resources, which has four locations in South Florida, said the relationship between her practice and The Pride Center is vital. “We refer people back and forth,” she said, noting that working together gives patients more complete care.
Alvin Tran, a Boston-based health journalist and a doctoral student in public health nutrition and behavioral sciences at Harvard University, has done work on nutrition in the LGBT community.
“Lesbians generally have higher BMIs (body mass indexes) than straight women. There are higher rates of eating disorders among LGBT people,” said Tran, noting that more research is needed. “How do social and living environments affect this? How does your environment affect what you eat and why you eat it? What about stress? There’s a lot of research on HIV, but there are a lot of other health issues in the LGBT community.”
Moderator Andrew Seamen, senior medical journalist with Reuters in New York City, offered a handout of LGBT health reporting resources available at bit.ly/nlgjahealth.
|Claudette de la Haye addressing
homophobia in the Caribbean
As this year’s convention was held in Miami, organizers used the occasion to hold a panel focusing on “Homophobia: A Caribbean Crisis.”
“While HIV/AIDS is a matter of urgency requiring constant vigilance, it is not be the precursor to all conversation about LGBT people in the Caribbean,” Dr. Neil Lowe, a senior AIDS policy advisor based in New York City, told the audience via Skype. “The Caribbean relies heavily on aid from major members of the G20. These G20 countries must keep pressure on those Caribbean nations that maintain their ‘buggery laws,’” using the British/Caribbean term for what North Americans call “sodomy laws.”
In August of this year, the highest court in Belize struck down that country’s sodomy law. “That is the single largest legal drumbeat for attacking this issue in the region. The law does not provide equality for same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships, but it takes away punitive exercises of governments or police against same-sex intimacy,” said Lowe. “We throw money at testing programs, but governments in the British Caribbean need to ensure privacy and safe spaces.”
|NLGJA Executive Director
Caleb Orozco, the leading activist in the fight against Belize’s sodomy law, also joined the panel via Skype.
Moderator Claudette de la Haye, a Detroit-based journalist, made the point about why this information was being presented at a North American journalists conference. After all, how many LGBT people knew about this legal victory in Belize? “It is pivotal to educate the North American LGBT community about what is happening in the Caribbean, and that’s our job as journalists.”
During the conference, NLGJA announced that next year’s convention and LGBT Media Summit will take place in Philadelphia at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, September 7-10, 2017.
“NLGJA is excited to return to the Northeast for our 2017 National Convention after our fabulous 2016 convention in South Beach,” said NLGJA Executive Director Adam K. Pawlus. “Philadelphia has previously been the home of several NLGJA conventions, and we’re already working to pull together terrific, diverse programming for the 2017 convention.”