Dig Deeper at Pride Celebrations

Story Ideas Beyond the Flashy Parade
By Randy Dotinga

Gay pride celebrations come to U.S. cities every summer, and journalists start thinking about how to cover the various parades and festivals. The drag queens and brigades of lesbian motorcyclists make flashy pictures, and they are easy to find. But dig a little deeper: You'll find plenty of informative stories by spending more time exploring your local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Here are some topical ideas and issues to consider, ones that look beyond the entertainment facets of the annual Pride gatherings:

Nonprofit support organizations usually have booths at Pride events. Find out the suicide rate among gay teens and why it is disproportionately high. Explore why domestic violence is as big a problem in the LGBT community as it is in the heterosexual community. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been with us more than 20 years, find out how it still affects your readers/viewers.

Talk with the churches that have entries in Pride parades and booths at Pride events. Why do they support Pride, and how do they relate to their LGBT parishioners? How do they balance gay pride and their faith?

Talk to parents who are there to support their LGBT children. Groups such as PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) usually have parade entries and booths and often get the loudest cheers from attendees.

Talk with someone who is experiencing his or her first Pride event (they're easier to find than you think). They come in all ages, and each has an interesting story to tell. What was life like before they decided to come out, and why did they decide to do it now? How has it changed their lives?

The community is not immune to prejudice in its own ranks. Talk with LGBT people of color about the double jeopardy of gay racism. Ask a mixed-race couple about the challenges they face in the gay community.

Ask a transgender person about the challenges and prejudices he or she faces — even among the LGBT community.

Explore the history of Pride events in your community. How have they grown over the years? How have the messages of the events changed?

Check out the hate crime situation in your community. Do your local and state law enforcement agencies track incidents and hate crimes against LGBT people? Do officers believe all the incidents are being reported and listed as hate crimes when appropriate? Why or why not? On the flip side, some cities have gay and lesbian law enforcement organizations that take part in the march. Find out what it's like to be an openly gay cop.

Many schools have gay-straight alliances, and some will be at Pride. Do young people feel differently than older people about these events? Do younger people question whether Pride is even necessary anymore?

How big a boon is gay pride to the businesses in your community? In some cities, the parade is one of the largest public events of the year. Are hundreds or thousands of people flocking to hotels, bars and tourist attractions?

Use Pride as an avenue into an exploration of AIDS and gay health issues. The media pays little attention to other health issues besides AIDS that face the LGBT community, such as higher rates of breast cancer among lesbians and skyrocketing rates of syphilis among gay men. How is the LGBT community coping with these challenges? How will they work to combat sexually transmitted diseases during Pride itself?

Talk to the owner of an LGBT business to find out what extra challenges or opportunities he or she faces. Talk to local businesses about whether they offer domestic partner benefits and follow up with Pride attendees to find out what the benefits mean to them and their partners.

Pride is a good time to review whether your city includes sexual orientation in its discrimination legislation.

There are hundreds of other great stories out there during Pride month. The local parade is the obvious hook. By digging deeper, journalists present a more accurate, complete report of what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in America.