LGBT people failed by selective media response to Orlando

A psychology expert says that some media outlets were unusually slow to report the Orlando shootings, relegating news reports to later time slots, pages within newspapers, or referred to it solely as a terrorist attack, rather than also addressing its anti-LGBT focus. 

Professor Martin Milton
Professor Martin Milton

Professor Martin Milton, a Regent’s University London specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) psychology and psychotherapy, says that certain high profile media in effect minimised coverage of the attack because of its LGBT victims.

Professor Milton said: “While not assuming that all media are culpable, we even had presenters on specific news programmes refusing to recognise the fact that as well as being a terrorist incident, this was a homophobic attack.

“They downplayed this aspect and in some cases made it all but invisible. This is important to recognise because such reporting will have significant psychological outcomes on a long-term basis. 

“The fact that some commentators opted to emphasise gun control and terrorist links before the facts fully emerged undoubtedly adds to the stress and discrimination that LGBT people face.

“It also means that discussion and insight into negative debate and practices around sexual orientation were closed down. This is an all too common practice amongst many mainstream press.”

Professor Milton added that research shows it is common for the LGBT experience to be overlooked as equality is still largely absent in society, and even where progress has been made it remains contested. LGBT people continue to be routinely discriminated against, oppressed and even killed, he said. 

“All the time this happens, we all lose," he continued. Such ‘invisibilising’ means that society is not offered a chance to discuss how discrimination against LGBT people, Muslims, people of colour, women, the disabled and other minorities have psychological similarities.” 

“We all need to call this out. Academic institutions should utilise critical thinking and encourage debate. The media needs to review its practices. Professional bodies must target oppressive structures, and LGBT people need to speak up so that their own voices can be heard.

“By talking we can learn a lot about to how to best respond to the oppression of minorities. There is an onslaught of homonegative and anti-LGBT legislation, particularly in the US, and the debate needs urgent progression.”