Popular Blog Run by Recent Northwestern Grad ‘Revolves Around LGBT News’

On the homepage of her blog, Camille Beredjick gets right to the point: “I’m gay, and my life revolves around LGBT news. So does this blog.”

Beredjick’s blog, GayWrites, is a vibrant daily news and commentary forum on Tumblr boasting more than 50,000 followers. It is devoted to covering, in her words, “the huge variety of issues that affect LGBT communities — there’s so much more to it than marriage!” 

Recent posts have covered a variety of topics, including Major League Baseball’s anti-discrimination policy, the opening of an LGBT visitors center in Seattle, the killing of a gay-rights activist in Cameroon, a victorious employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender woman, a study confirming a “vast majority of bisexuals are closeted” and instructions on how to become “a gay male feminist.”

1In general, GayWrites appears to be built atop a trio of attributes that Beredjick (pictured left), a recent graduate of Northwestern University, also uses to describes herself – “pro-knowledge, pro-equality and anti-hate.”

What was Beredjick’s motivation for launching the site more than three years ago?

“Frustration, mostly,” she said. “I started the blog at the end of my freshman year of college (spring 2010), after I first started getting involved with LGBTQ activism and when I realized how many stories needed to be told. In journalism classes and in my own media consumption, I found that LGBTQ-related coverage mostly focused on marriage equality, which is a valid cause, but only a fraction of the greater array of issues that affect LGBTQ people. The more I learned about these issues, the more I wanted to talk about them, and blogging seemed like a productive way to do that.”

In a recent interview about her blog’s success, Beredjick shared some of the productive lessons she has personally learned while running GayWrites. She also gave her take on some current big LGBTQ issues tied to students and higher education and discussed her recent coverage of the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

You mention on the About page of the blog that you often learn a lot yourself from the posts and comments. What’s an example of an insight or bit of news you’ve learned through GayWrites?

GayWrites is hosted on Tumblr, and in the last three years I’ve found that Tumblr users are some of the most intelligent, informed and passionate people out there. I follow the comment threads that surface on every post, and readers are quick to point out when I miss a certain way of looking at an issue, or when I accidentally use language that comes across as exclusionary.

An example of that is my coverage of transgender issues. I didn’t consider myself very knowledgeable about trans issues when I started blogging, but I have some outspoken followers who point out when I post something that doesn’t properly include trans people in the conversation. There’s a wealth of compelling, educational information on Tumblr if you know where to look. Participating in that has taught me the importance of seeking out stories about communities that don’t get the representation they should — in the media and also in political and social spheres.

What do you bring to the blog and topic area as a college student and younger activist that an older individual or more experienced journalist cannot replicate?

Stories are best told by the people who are living them. Young people play a huge role in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, and because I’m part of that, I think it’s my right and responsibility to tell that story.

That said, I’ve been very lucky to have access to all kinds of support and resources growing up that not every young LGBTQ person has, and that’s something I have to keep in check, too. In terms of journalism, I think it’s all about knowing how people my age get their news. Personally, I get just as much news from Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook as I do from print newspapers and magazines.

GayWrites can be informative to anyone, but it uses a model that caters to a younger reader: shorter stories that get right to the point, lots of links, a social media component and a “newsfeed” format of delivery — so you don’t have to visit my URL directly to read my posts.

As someone who gets most of their news from social media and the Web, what’s your take on how the mainstream media cover LGBTQ issues and the modern movement?

Personally, I think mainstream media has really stepped up their game in the last couple of years. Marriage equality has transformed from being an LGBTQ issue to a national news story, and mainstream media has recently been doing much more to cover it thoroughly. Consequently, that has inspired some publications to start looking at other aspects of LGBTQ life more closely — things like trans issues, homelessness, bullying and suicide, and other stories that deserve way more attention than they get.

That being said, LGBTQ people are still vastly underrepresented in the media, and the coverage that does exist is overly focused on the single issue of marriage equality, even though there’s so much else to talk about. So overall, there’s always more work to do, but I do think the media’s done a pretty good job lately of catching up.

“Like I do with most other issues, I’ve been trying to take the ‘here’s what you need to know, here’s why it matters’ approach. When it comes to court cases, it’s easy to get caught up in legal jargon and lose sight of what’s really at stake.”

Earlier this summer, at the height of the Supreme Court DOMA frenzy, you were posting seemingly nonstop. Knowing the world press was also reporting on it inside out, how did you approach it and determine how best to chime in?

Like I do with most other issues, I’ve been trying to take the “here’s what you need to know, here’s why it matters” approach. When it comes to court cases, it’s easy to get caught up in legal jargon and lose sight of what’s really at stake. In terms of the logistics of something like a Supreme Court decision, I try to identify the most important information and break it down without dumbing it down.

Above all, though, I try to focus on the people whose lives are changing as a result of the DOMA decision — the binational couples who are finally able to get documentation, for example, or the military families who will be given equal benefits. While it’s important to understand the legal workings behind a decision like this, it’s more important to recognize how that decision will affect real people.

You mention the huge role young people are playing in the modern LGBTQ movement. Against that backdrop, what are some of the principal LGBTQ issues tied to college, education or young people that students need to be aware of or should learn more about?

There are tons of ways in which schools and colleges could be more LGBTQ-inclusive. Every university in the country should have an LGBTQ resource center or something similar. Colleges should be more receptive to the needs of transgender students, like facilitating the name-change process and including transition costs in university healthcare plans.

Schools need explicit anti-bullying and anti-discrimination measures in place to protect students and faculty, and campus officials should be ready to respond to incidents like hate crimes. Schools should offer suicide prevention training for students and faculty and actively promote safe spaces on campus. And that’s only the beginning. Many schools lack these services not because they’re intentionally ignoring their LGBTQ students, but because administrators just don’t realize there’s a need for them. That’s where students need to join the conversation with school officials and make those needs known.

What is a post or series of posts you have published since starting the blog that elicited especially immense interest or debate? And what have they meant to you?

On certain nationally recognized days of LGBTQ solidarity, like the Day of Silence or National Coming Out Day, I try to post a personal anecdote that reflects why those days are so important. Those posts tend to generate the most conversation and inspire people to share their own stories, and it’s always very emotional for me to connect with people that way.

Big news days — like the DOMA decision, all the marriage equality victories, etc. — have the same effect because I’m usually crying with joy at my computer, and it’s great to hear from people who are reacting the same way.

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