Queer Representation in Print and Digital News Media

The reporting of LGBTQ people in the Indian media has evolved over the last two decades, slowly but steadily, just alongside the progression of the LGBTQ movement in India. So, when we talk about the print media, there is no one answer. There have been both good and bad, sensitive and insensitive, portrayals of LGBTQ people in the media.

In 2013, right after the Supreme Court of India’s judgement that re-criminalized same-sex intercourse throughout the country by re-instating IPC Sec 377, This section of the Indian Penal Court criminalises “acts against the order of nature.” This time around, there was a lot of focus on the LGBTQ community and the issues surrounding it. From panel discussions on television channels to newspaper articles, much of the coverage was sympathetic and sensitive to LGBTQ issues.

News publications covered a wide range of topics, including pride marches, workplace policies, sexual harassment, and corrective rapes. While there was content reported by international publications, there were also Indian digital online magazines like Gaylaxy and Gaysi that were putting out content and conversations around LGBTQ issues.

With the increased amount of coverage, there were several complaints by LGBTQ community members about some bad reporting. A Marathi local newspaper, Lokmat, has carried a series of homophobic articles. While TV9, a local news channel in Hyderabad, conducted a “sting” operation to “expose” the “underground gay culture” in the city. The reporters of the channel accessed the phone numbers of gay men from dating websites, contacted them, and broadcast the conversations on TV. Several unfortunate men in the city were “outed” on TV by these reporters.

This insensitive and homophobic representation of LGBTQ people by the media does lead to further harassment of the community members. Predominantly, the LGBTQ coverage is done by urban English-media. This results in creating the stereotype that homosexuality is an “urban lifestyle choice.” From all this, it is clear that there is a dire need for engaging and educating the local media, not just the urban English-language media.

Along with an order from the Madras High Court in February 2022, a Tamil glossary of “LGBTQIA+ terms” was made by queer communities and individual volunteers. This is an effort to ensure that the digital and print media, the press, and society at large address LGBTQIA+ people in a more dignified and respectable manner.

The court order said “the whole purpose of creating this glossary is to use the appropriate words, terms, and expressions while addressing the people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community and such usage should not continue to derogate them in any manner. Hence, I decided to give preference to the alternative glossary submitted to me by the members and stakeholders of the LGBTQ+ community. The team that created that glossary hopes that the central government, national media, and other stakeholders will start using this preferred glossary while writing and reporting about the LBGTQ community.