We've noticed a growing trend on our social media pages when we post articles about LGBTQ+ people, especially when we include their sexuality or gender in the headline.
"Why mention lesbian, that's her business," someone commented on a story about Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who represented E. Jean Carroll in her lawsuit against Donald Trump.
"Don't understand why 'gay' had to be mentioned?" said another reader on a story about Good Morning America co-anchor Gio Benitez. "[Would] you do the same when a straight person is promoted?"
"Why does it matter his sexual orientation? He was just an amazing singer," someone remarked about pop icon George Michael.
In response to the news that Marbella FC goalkeeper Alberto Lejárraga came out as gay, one commenter said, "Cool. Fifth tier team though." (Okay, that one was funny.)
To address these concerns, we'd like to take a moment to explain why it's important and newsworthy to acknowledge LGBTQ+ public figures.
The Advocate is an LGBTQ+ publication
First of all, this is what we do here at The Advocate. Since its founding in 1967, this publication has been dedicated to covering members of the LGBTQ+ community and making their voices and stories heard.
When a queer person makes history, sets a milestone, or contributes to society in a meaningful way, we want to celebrate them and show our support, and highlight role models for the next generation. And when a notable queer person does something wrong, we want to hold them accountable.
Representation is important
These days, LGBTQ+ celebrities are common enough that it may not seem like a big deal anymore. But while it's nice to imagine a future where labels aren't important and everyone is treated equally, one glance at the headlines shows that anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is alive and well in today's world.
As long as this discrimination continues, it will be a risky and courageous move for someone to be out and proud as a public figure. Any time an athlete comes out, they're putting their reputation on the line to make their sport feel safer and more welcoming for other queer athletes. For The Advocate, stories like this will always be worth covering.
Readers want to stay informed
As a publication focused on LGBTQ+ people, we have a responsibility to be accurate and up-to-date in our coverage of notable or historic figures, including how they identify within the community.
For example, many people assume that Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury was gay, but he was actually bisexual. By mentioning this fact in our articles about him, we can keep our readers informed, raise awareness, and avoid bisexual erasure.
Gender or sexual identity are relevant to the story
A person's gender or sexuality could be a key factor in a news story, particularly when it comes to crime and law enforcement. A business being vandalized takes on a whole new meaning when the owners and/or clientele are LGBTQ+. In a political climate where queer people are frequently targeted and demonized, these incidents need to be examined closely.
In the case of Roberta Kaplan, her experience as a lesbian informs her work as a lawyer and a champion of LGBTQ+ and women's rights. This includes representing lesbian widow Edie Windsor in the case that led the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the main portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
It's important to honor a person's identity and pronouns, especially in cases when internet trolls like to harass the person by intentionally misgendering them. If a public figure shares their sexual or gender identity with the world, we're proud to respect that in our coverage — and push back on anyone who denies them that respect.
Christine Linnell is the social media manager for equalpride, the owner and publisher of The Advocate.