LGBTQ Olympians in Rio are battling more than just general homophobia in sports: They’re also battling leering exposés about their sex lives written by straight journalists with nothing better to do than to go on Grindr and attempt to out them for clicks.
By now you’ve heard of the misguided Daily Beast article written by London Editor Nico Hines, but you can’t read it because it’s gone. In "A Note From the Editors" that replaces it, the Daily Beast reminds readers how “unprecedented” removing the article is, and that they strive to be “a proudly, steadfastly supportive voice for LGBT people all over the world.” Unfortunately, Nico Hines' article missed the mark by a long shot, and so does the digital media outlet's apology.
Hines was roundly criticized by prominent LGBTQ people for his article, but there’s a larger issue at hand here. He didn't just decide to write a story about going on Grindr as a straight guy and post the finished result online in a vacuum -- it likely had to go through at least one other person during the process. When multiple people in the newsroom failed to understand how misguided this article was, the problem goes way beyond a single writer’s bad judgment and -- according to multiple critics -- homophobia.
Organizations like The Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA) journalists -- which called Hines' original article "unethical" and "extremely careless" -- exist, because the worst quality for a newsroom is a lack of diversity. When a story is published that serves no purpose other than to turn gay sexuality into a joke, it reinforces the need for LGBTQ voices in the newsroom and organizations such as NLGJA.
I'd like to think more LGBTQ voices in the newsroom would have prevented Hines’ article from being published in the first place and avoided putting Olympians from homophobic countries in potentially dangerous situations.
Diverse voices in the newsroom are also needed, for example, in case someone needs to remind a producer (as I have in the past) that transgender people should be referred to as just that, “transgender people,” not “transgenders.” Having a seat at the table, in short, can help ensure our community is covered fairly and accurately.
LGBTQ people are a minority that continuously battle the perception that our sexuality is somehow wrong, bad, deviant or unnatural. Lest we forget, it’s this idea that can still get you killed in the U.S. and beyond simply for being gay.
Articles like Hines' reinforce this perception, and it's especially disappointing that this piece came from a source like the Daily Beast, which has done very good work in the past when it comes to covering LGBTQ issues. After this total failure, a clear message needs to be sent to other writers that gay sexuality isn’t a joke, up for debate or an easy go-to punchline to cover up their lack of imagination.
In their editor's note, The Daily Beast states they strive to be a place that prides themselves on “standing up to bullies and bigots.” Perhaps next time, they should make sure they’re not publishing articles by them.