Writing and commissioning opinion pieces

This section covers opinion pieces on culture/arts, advocacy, policy, politics, education, healthcare, human rights, etc. 

The first thing a commissioning editor should consider is: who is writing the piece? Is the person eligible to write the piece? These are some of the questions the editor must seek answers to before a piece is commissioned: 

  • Are they queer identified?
  • Do they have subject matter expertise?
  • What is their track record on writing about LGBTQIA+ people?
  • What is their track record on writing about human rights in general?

If they are queer identified: 

  • What is their community involvement? What is their work at the grassroots?
  • Are they professionally qualified to write/talk about the subject? For instance, if they are talking about mental health from an expert’s point of view, are they a psychiatrist/psychologist/counsellor/therapist?

Note: If their opinion sounds controversial, get a second opinion from a trusted expert source. Example — if they are promoting something like self harm, or a controversial therapy, then get a second opinion on whether this is prudent to publish. 

  • Are they taking a problematic position in terms of supremacy w.r.t. caste, class, gender, sexuality, race, religion, language etc? Just because someone is queer, does not mean they are not privileged in other ways, and does not mean they cannot hold problematic/fascist views.

Example: A brahmin trans woman expressed support for building the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and has taken problematic stands on issues of religion frequently. 

Another example: An upper caste trans woman blamed working class trans women for spoiling the community’s name.

  • Understand that one queer person cannot be the self proclaimed representative of all queer communities/persons. So while editing, be measured when such claims are made.
  • LGBTQIA+ people can also be bigoted towards fellow LGBTQIA+ persons, or towards other identities in the umbrella. Don’t give a platform for bigotry. 

If they are NOT queer identified:

  • Are they taking a stand on lived experiences of queer persons? If yes, don’t take the piece.
  • If they’re a subject matter expert: are they sticking to the subject matter, or going into issues that are best commented upon by queer persons?

Example: If a lawyer is writing about same gender marriage, are they sticking to case law, constitutional definitions etc, or are they commenting on societal aspects of the issue? The former is ok, the latter not. 

  • If they are a subject matter expert, but are taking a stand that is seemingly controversial or problematic, get a second opinion from a trusted community source.

Example: If a mental health professional is batting for conversion therapy, make sure the piece is run by someone in the community before you take a call. 

  • Are they a person who routinely takes up spaces which are meant for queer persons? Check out their prior credentials, including their public social media activity, and if they centre themselves in narratives about queer persons, this is a red flag. It amounts to appropriation of identity, and responsible media should not give space for it.
  • Do not take pieces that are bigoted towards, or belittle a community inside the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, while claiming to be in support of another community inside the umbrella.

Example: A career feminist (subject matter expert) may write a piece supporting cisgender lesbians while dog whistling about how trans women are dangerous. Such feminists are known as TERFs — Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Don’t take such pieces without consultation from a trusted source within the community. 

  • If a person claims to be an activist working for queer communities/persons, and is pitching a piece that could directly help give credibility to themselves or their organisations (NGOs) — ensure that you do a background check on the person before publishing them.

Example: If a cis person running an NGO says they are running a helpline for queer persons, speak to community members in the city/state where they operate to check whether the helpline is genuine, and is not a scam for funding. 

In general: 

  • If you’re a commissioning editor for opinion pieces, apply the same standards you would for issues around cisgender women, their rights and violence against them, to opinion pieces on LGBTQIA+ communities. For instance, if you will not platform a person accused in #MeToo, use the same standards to not platform someone who has been accused of homophobia/transphobia/queerphobia.
  • If the opinion piece is based on statements/comments made by someone else, then have they taken the entire statement/comment into account, or are they criticising something piecemeal? Is the comment taken out of context? Apply regular editorial standards when it comes to LGBTQIA+ issues as well.
  • Does the piece reveal personal identities of people that are being commented on, for statements made in private, without a public record? Use your discretion in accepting or rejecting such pieces.
  • Is the piece going to do harm to LGBTQIA+ persons/communities? If yes, don’t publish it.