NAHJ conference emphasizes LGBTQ+ programming amid hostile Florida political climate

The Freedom Tower is a national historic landmark that served as a Cuban assistance center from 1962 to 1974 to help hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees in Miami, Fla., on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. AMMY SANCHEZ/LATINO REPORTER

Members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Miami this week said holding the organization’s marquee event in the Sunshine State was the right call — despite an unprecedented deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that have been proposed and passed by the Florida legislature.

The Latino journalism organization packed its schedule full of speakers and events specifically addressing the LGBTQ+ community, a decision that President Yvette Cabrera said was made to tackle those issues head-on.

“The best thing we felt we could do as a journalism organization is while we’re at the conference tackle and address these issues whether it’s through workshops or plenary sessions.” Cabrera said in a news conference on Tuesday. ” As part of the strategic plan we created different committees including an advisory committee on LGBTQIA+ issues.”

Since the beginning of this year, the Republican-led Florida legislature has proposed at least 10 bills, with four becoming law, that target the LGBTQIA+ community. This includes one that restricts educators from providing any instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity in Pre-K through 8th grade and an extreme ban on gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth.

Across the country, states have introduced nearly 500 bills that range from preventing trans students from participating in sports to limiting the ability to update gender information on IDs and records, according to a tally by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The way I see it is you can’t run from adversity,” said Eric Duran, a senior social video producer for Yahoo who lives in Florida and identified himself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “I think NAHJ being here is not necessarily a political statement (but) a statement that we’re not running just because of something the governor said. … I’m happy to see a lot of discussions here at NAHJ about LGBTQ issues.”

NAHJ’s decision to keep the convention in Miami was based on contractual commitments made years ago, but in a press conference this week, Cabrera said keeping the event in Florida was also the right thing to do regardless.

Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo
(From left to right) Marilyn Garateix, national financial officer, Yaneth Guillen, interim chief operations officer, Yvette Cabrera, national president, Nancy San Martin, convention co-chair, and Tony Dandrades, convention co-chair, during an NAHJ news conference with the Latino Reporter on May 25, 2023. FABIANNA RINCÓN/LATINO REPORTER

A month before the conference and nearly seven years after one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history at Pulse — a gay night club in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others, most of whom identified as LGBTQ+ and Latino — NAHJ officials put out a news release acknowledging member’s concerns about the location of the conference.

In response to comments from members that they didn’t feel represented or embraced by the organization, NAHJ general at-large officer Luis Joel Méndez and Region 1 Director David Cordero Mercado revived the LGBTQIA+ Committee committee last November.

The task force also partnered with the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Journalists (NLGJA) and Tapiz Media Group, which has been contracted by NAHJ to handle the organization’s communications, to create a stylebook guide on the terminology that reporters should and shouldn’t use as they report on LGBTQ+ communities. There will be 250 physical copies of the style book in Spanish given out to members at the convention on Friday and Saturday during panels. It will also be available online on Saturday.

This year, there are also three back to back panels covering LGBTQ+ topics, including the rise of anti-Latino and anti-trans hate and how coverage of traumatic anti-LGBTQ+ violence can impact mental wellness. On Friday evening, there will also be a “Unity Coalition” meet and greet with the NAHJ task force and reporters who cover issues facing the LGBTQ+ community where Michael Gongora, a Miami Beach commissioner, will talk about the state of related issues in Florida.

Other efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community include designating a gender-inclusive bathroom at the conference hotel and setting up donation boxes for clothes and shoes for unhoused LGBTQ+ youth in Miami through the thrift organization Out of the Closet.

Next for the task force is to work on implementing LGBTQ+ priorities within the NAHJ’s five-year plan, which includes creating more programs and opportunities for members at all career stages and offer leadership development to newsroom members to promote better treatment and inclusion for LGBTQ+ people.

“We have been going through a lot: Supreme Court decisions, legislations, bills and other things, not just in Florida, but in all of the U.S,” said Méndez González. “We want it to be a safe place for our members, where we can embrace our diversity and our stories. Latinos and LGBTQ+ people, we are all the same and we share the same fight, so we should all be together.”

Itzel Anahi Girón contributed to this report. 

Gisselle Medina is currently pursuing a master’s degree at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism working to hone in their skills in investigative and multimedia journalism. They aspire to produce interactive stories that reflect our dynamic world. Reach them at fiercewriter [at] Berkeley [dot] edu or on @GisselleeMedina.

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