Bringing LGBTQI+ voices into the light
Life can be challenging for those marginalised by society because they don’t fit into traditional norms of gender and sexuality. But a group of inspiring UTS journalism students are working to give a voice to the queer community and tell its untold stories.
QueerSay is an online media platform created by UTS students Matthew Hodges, Eilidh Mellis and Grace Back on a vision to tell the untold stories of the queer community with journalistic rigour and human compassion – and without judgement.
The forum was developed as part of the students’ first-year journalism group project. The three students designed and built the multimedia site from scratch, and work to uncover the people and their stories, dig deep into the scientific research and paint a uniquely honest and compelling picture through the written word, video, audio and photography.
Describing its remit as news “for every letter in LGBTQI+”, QueerSay is intent on giving a voice to the incredible diversity in the queer community and creating a unique nexus for exploration and celebration of individual difference and the collective experience. Its journalistic approach focuses on covering the politics, exposing the injustices and capturing the experiences of the queer community that so often fly under the radar – or are sorely misrepresented – by mainstream media.
Social media is an important aspect of the project, with QueerSay actively sharing and reaching out to mobile audiences everywhere via social media. In addition to Hodges, Mellis and Back’s exceptional journalistic input, it also welcomes stories and contributions from the community. Its creators aim to create a safe space for LGBTQI+ people to be heard, in turn encouraging those interviewed to feel comfortable to share their experiences more openly and completely.
The idea was developed by Hodges and coincided with Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite and the surrounding controversy, supportive lobbying and discriminatory discourse. While much of society has now come to celebrate certain segments of the queer community, others remain marginalised and violated on a daily basis in a culture built on institutionally enforced binary gender models. As a journalist, he and his colleagues were driven to ask the question ‘why?’, to share the struggles of individuals and the ways in which these difficulties are thrust upon them and give them a space to openly live their truth.
“We wanted to share the struggles of these individuals, and how it comes from above and around them,” Hodges explains.
“We also wanted to showcase the strength and flair of these people, who have carved out their own unique existence to live their truth – from genderless fashion to outdoor art. Sharing this truth with a wider audience so we can all know about these injustices is crucial in order to make change.”
QueerSay brings a human face to a diversity of issues – from intersex people assigned a gender without a voice or choice and to fashion students taking gender-neutral clothing mainstream to the challenges of intellectually disabled LGBTQI+ people in navigating health issues such as HIV.
Along with a growing and loyal queer audience base, QueerSay simultaneously takes its readers to light, entertaining places and the dark depths of humanity. It has become a powerful forum for the broader community to engage with stories on a more human level, empowering greater empathy and understanding of the injustices in order to change them.
The group were recognised with a Commendation in the Ally Award celebrating and supporting sexual and gender diversity at the UTS Human Rights Awards in 2018 for their transformative work.