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GLAAD Media Reference Guide - In Focus: Covering Crime Stories

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Crime stories that involve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people invariably pique media curiosity. However, they too often also garner sensationalistic coverage that focuses on lurid speculation and sexual innuendo.

When a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trandgender person stands accused of a crime, please treat him or her as you would treat any other person who is similarly accused. If you would not report on the sexual orientation of a heterosexual suspect, please apply a consistent standard for LGBT suspects.

It is a false-cause fallacy to imply, suggest or allow others to suggest a causal relationship between sexual orientation and criminal activity. Gay and straight people commit crimes. But to insinuate – either through direct statements or by quoting others – that gay people are more likely to commit crimes because they are gay is blatantly defamatory. This also applies to insinuating that one gay individual's criminal acts are broadly representative of LGBT lives.

Stereotypes perpetuate myths. For example, far-right extremists long have claimed that gay people are sexual predators, substance abusers, and prone to domestic abuse and child molestation. These baseless, defamatory myths only sensationalize crime stories and fuel anti-gay sentiment.

Hasty assumptions can feed rumors about the sexual orientations of any of the involved parties. A criminal's or a victim's sexual orientation is not always obvious – or relevant – based simply on the circumstances of the crime or preliminary investigation reports. If a person's sexual orientation is clearly relevant, please investigate to establish it factually rather than relying on speculation or innuendo.

Level the field on sexual orientation. As a rule, avoid labeling an activity, relationship or emotion "gay," "lesbian" or "bisexual" unless you would call the same activity, relationship or emotion "heterosexual" or "straight" if engaged in by someone of another sexual orientation. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern people's genders and/or sexual orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.


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