After a campaign launched by a lesbian couple, Highlights magazine, one of the oldest and largest children’s magazine publishers in the U.S., began including same-sex parents in several of its publications. Images of two-mom and two-dad families appeared in the February issue of Highlights (its magazine for 6-to-12-year-olds), and in the March issues of Hello (for children from birth to age 2), and High Five (for 2-to-6-year-olds).
The action was spurred by a social media campaign beginning last October, when mom Kara Desiderio wrote to express disappointment that her daughter didn’t see two-mom families like hers in Hello. Her spouse, Kristina Wertz (director of engagement at Funders for LGBTQ Issues), then posted on Highlights’ Facebook page noting the need to reflect the diversity of the world and saying she hopes Highlights “embraces that diversity.”
Highlights’ initial response on Facebook was reluctant, explaining, “We understand your wish to see your family’s situation represented in Hello. For much of our readership, the topic of same-sex families is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject with their children, even the very little ones. We believe that parents know best when their family is ready to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families.”
Highlights added, “We will continue to think deeply about inclusion—specifically, how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience.”
This led to hundreds of further comments on Highlights’ Facebook page urging the publisher to include representation of LGBT families. A grassroots #HighlightLGBTFamilies hashtag campaign on Twitter also took off.
Highlights eventually issued a statement saying it now sees “we can be more reflective of all kinds of families” and demonstrated this in the February and March issues.
Afterward, the right-wing group One Million Moms, a project of the American Family Association, launched a campaign urging people to cancel their subscriptions. (AFA has been classified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.) When asked if the criticism from the right made the magazine rethink its decision, Highlights’ PR department reiterated a commitment “to depicting diversity of all kinds in our publications.”
As for additional LGBT representation, the PR department said it was against policy to share specific plans for editorial content, but “Highlights is committed to publishing content that allows every child to see themselves on our magazine pages or in our apps…. We are very much committed to being inclusive and are proud of that commitment as we believe that it’s an important step in helping children learn and understand the value
Still, Highlights is playing catch-up to competitor Cricket Media, another children’s magazine powerhouse, that has for several years included LGBT people in many of its titles. Stephanie Hoaglund of Cricket’s media relations department said via email that Cicada, its teen magazine, “continually strives to represent teens in LGBT and other underrepresented groups.” Other examples of LGBT inclusion have appeared in the company’s Cricket and Muse magazines, both for 9-to-14-year-olds.
While Cricket Media has published little LGBT content for younger ages, Jestine Ware, associate editor of its Spider magazine for 6-to-9-year-olds, affirmed via email she has a few items scheduled for next spring, and said, “I’m very interested in including content that includes LGBTQAI+ families in an organic way.”