Daniel Hernandez—the 20-year-old intern in the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who is credited with helping save her life after an assassination attempt that left six people dead and 14 people wounded—is a gay Latino.
LGBT bloggers and LGBT media seem to not only be mentioning Hernandez’s sexual orientation, but celebrating it. And I get it. From an activist perspective, it certainly helps LGBT civil rights to uphold one of our own as a national hero.
In the mainstream media, however, it seems that coverage of Hernandez’s sexual orientation is spotty at best. Many outlets haven’t mentioned it. And so we’re back to the “Is it relevant?” question.
Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon makes an excellent case for why she believes both his sexual orientation and his ethnicity matter:
So why should the sexual orientation of this eminently competent, compassionate person keep coming up in this tale? Why is his ethnicity, and the fact that he grew up speaking Spanish and attending dual language schools, of any consequence? Hernandez never asked to be the face of a movement. He doesn’t represent any one group any more than Jared Lee Loughner is your typical white guy. And that’s exactly why it matters …
It’s still far too easy for a small-minded yahoo to champion discrimination based on orientation and race, and it’s just as easy for another small-minded yahoo somewhere else to believe the red states are indeed “meccas of racism and bigotry.” If any good can come out of something as unfathomably horrible as Saturday’s mass shooting, let it be that it shakes up a few preconceptions. That it shows the world that a hero can be gay or straight, can speak English or Spanish or both, and that stupid laws can exist in places full of good people.
So it may matter that people know Hernandez is a gay Latino, but do mainstream media have an obligation to report he’s a gay Latino? I was hoping someone like Rachel Maddow could help answer that question—and she did:
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Not once did Maddow ask Hernandez about his sexual orientation. She either ran out of time or forgot to ask (both unlikely) or she didn’t think it was relevant.
Perhaps as an openly lesbian pundit interviewing an openly gay guest on a liberal-leaning TV show, Maddow assumed her audience already knew Hernandez was gay.
Perhaps she was applying the “Is it relevant?” test rigorously, which led her to conclude his sexual orientation (or his ethnicity or his hair color) did not matter when it came to her asking him to tell us the details of his heroic story.
Perhaps we’re reaching a place in journalism where asking about sexual orientation is becoming commonplace to the point that not asking the question has less to do with homophobia and more to do with a standard journalists apply to everything else.
Even if we’re not reaching that place, my sense is that homophobia is not the main reason for the seeming lack of coverage in the mainstream media that Hernandez is gay. What we have here is the outcome of plain ole journalism done mainstream style.