An essay donated by "RHC"
Ethical aspects of photos
of GLBT persons & couples
I read your essay about the publishing of a photo of a lesbian
couple with great interest. My congregation in Texas had a similar issue when
we began an ad campaign. The paper, following your thinking, chose not to
publish an actual gay couple, but used models instead.
First some background. We are a very liberal congregations. After integrating
in the 60's we began to welcome gay members. Many of my religious education
teachers were gay. We suffered death from HIV/AIDS early on. For many years we
had a gay minister.
A few years ago when we wanted to advertise ourselves, we hired the local paper
to help us set up the campaign. One thing we wanted to do above all was show
that we welcomed all people using real members. This worked well until we
wanted to show gay men. We had many willing members, but the newspapers decided
to use models. To add insult to injury, the models were those that pushed the
stereo types of gay men as buff men, not the diverse shapes and size that
categorized the gay men of our congregation. Since a particular billboard was
on display near our church, these models became known as the "gay.com guys." To
make matters worse, while most of our ads were set with children to emphasize
the family focus of our church, these men were without children, even though we
have many gay couples with children.
This is my opinion on the matter: In most cases, editorial decisions are made on
the basis of the comfort level of the customers rather than any consideration
oft the persons involved. In an ad campaign, real lesbians were acceptable in
the same way that lesbians are acceptable in straight pornography, but gay men
had to be reduced to a characture. The argument, as is often made, is that we
should not "out" people. I never understood this as it seems like if we take a
picture of a straight couple, might they have issues as well? Might they be
cheating on their significant other? Might they be from a Christian or Muslim
home that does not want them to hang out with persons of the opposite sex?
Might the person be in high school instead of college-aged (it is hard to tell)
and be somewhere that they should not be? And, if indeed the persons are over
18, are they not responsible for their behavior in public?
Further, this appears to be the same logic that we once applied to all women.
Women had to be controlled, guided, and protected for their own safety. They
had to told what to wear. Only out during the day, or with their husband. They
were incapable of making their own decisions or protecting themselves. This
was, as we found out in Houston in 1977, because they were never allowed to gain
the experience that would teach them.
Just so you know, I am not heartless or without experience. I have met kids who
have been thrown out of their house. Since a kid is dependent on the parent,
and since some parents are stupid, it seems that kids should try to follow their
parents wishes. On the other hands, I have worked with kids enough to know this
will not happen, and even straight kids get kicked out of the house and even
choose to fail out of school to pursue a romantic relationship that seems
absolutely critical at the moment. Kids sometimes make choices that are
probably unwise, and there is only so much we can do to protect them. I have
also been around when picture were taken that could be detrimental, and have
seen those pictures not used when the person involved asked it not be used.
In an ideal world, no picture would be printed without the consent of all the
people involved. This would make the world so much better as we would not have
to deal with the excessive number of Spears and Hilton and Timberlake pictures
that clogs otherwise useful media with drivel. Because we do not live in a
perfect world, there has to be some personal responsibility combined with a
minimum level of discretion. Otherwise, where would be? No beach or festival
pictures because the semi-clad participants never intended their semi-clad
bodies to be plastered on the front page? That would seem quite boring.
Initial posting: 2009-OCT-04
Latest update: 2009-OCT-04