Two weeks ago, a contingent from the Independent made our first visit to the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association’s annual conference, which was held in Philadelphia the weekend after Labor Day.
We were mostly there to make connections with reporters, editors, and journalism schools, because our most pressing need right now is to hire more people. And find them places to live.
I was struck by the fact that, no matter what the panel was titled, the conversation turned almost immediately to the assaults on transgender people that are playing out in states across the country.
A panel about health-care access focused on Republican Party efforts to make gender-affirming care for young people illegal in 20 states. Many of those laws are tied up in court, but in both Texas and Missouri, transgender people who were already receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy are now seeing that health care canceled, resulting in what transgender epidemiologist Elle Lett called “forced de-transitioning.”
A session with gay religious leaders included discussion of a “Great Migration” of transgender people to cities like Rochester, Minn., where the Mayo Clinic is located.
And a panel about new laws restricting drag performances explained that the right-wing legal movement is hoping to use “obscenity” — which gets a long-established exception to the First Amendment — as an avenue to classify any and all expressions of LGBTQ identity as inherently sexual communication that “grooms” young people to be gay.
A sense of alarm was pervasive. And yet LGBTQ people have fought and won many such battles before. So experienced is this community with the struggle to exist that one panel focused on the need to write stories about the rest of gay life — those human joys and hardships that are far removed from politics.
Listening to gay journalists from St. Louis, Mo. and Mobile, Ala. discuss these subjects brought home to me, yet again, what an outlier Provincetown is. Our state senator, our state representative, our entire select board — oh, and the governor — are gay. Many wealthy arts patrons are gay. So are many low-income seniors. Whether we are writing about schools or evictions, Masonic halls or Catholic churches, a large number of the voices in this newspaper’s stories are gay.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges to report on. It’s not easy to find gender-affirming care on Cape Cod. Mental health care is hard to come by here, and addiction afflicts the gay and straight communities alike. Too many people die young, too many are forced to move away, and too many of those who remain are struggling. We can’t relax into our good fortune.
I left the conference knowing there’s more work to do. And I’m still looking for a few more new colleagues.