Sunday, July 17, 2011

In the News

I was in the land of limited interwebs last week (aka SC) working on my house there, so I didn't get to post. I also didn't get to see the emails warning me of an article coming out in the Estonian press about me until after the fact.

When I did hear, it was days later, after a friend had forwarded the English translation of the article to my wife, who forwarded it to me (thank goodness for smart phones). I then managed to find it online in Estonian with my somewhat limited smartphone internet.

I am a bit weirded out about it.

This is not even close to the first time I have been in the press. I have been a gay rights activist for more than half of my life (bonus points for you if you don't speculate on how long that has been). I attended the first gay pride march in SC. In fact, I attended the meeting where the idea for it was born the year before it happened. I attended THE gay pride march in DC, the one where they estimate we had more than a million marchers. The one that marched to the Capital, because it was a protest, not just a party (which is not to say I don't love our party pride marches, just that they are different). Since joining the State Department, I have been active in GLIFAA, serving on the board and even as president.

All of that has meant I have been in the news a lot...I've been in the Post, The Times, CNN. Plus local outlets. I was on tv in Charleston, SC when I organized a Queer Nation sit in at a local Cracker Barrell.

I am not afraid of being in the media.

But this feels different.

I am not something special in Estonia (in fact, I am not even IN Estonia yet!). This is a normal rotation of a new diplomat in to replace the one who has been there for years. The only time that is news worthy, at least to me, is when it is the Ambassador. Which I clearly am not.

I am there as part of the US mission. My message is the message of the mission. My goals are the goals of the mission. Am I still an activist? Yes. Do I think that can be meshed with the goals of the mission? I certain hope seems to be currently.

What I think happened is this: an ordinary email was sent to the press, who have to deal with the PAO, letting them know the current PAO was leaving and I was coming in. To my knowledge, only one outlet responded, demanding my email immediately so they could do a story immediately. But of course, the embassy didn't give it, and didn't think it was appropriate to comment on me since I am not in country and the person I am replacing still is.

I agree comepletely.

But I was a reporter once, so here is my guess as to what happened on the media side. They got the email and thought, wonder who this new person is. So they googled my name. What? She's gay? AND and American Indian? Well that is different! Let's do a story! And let's do it now so we beat the larger paper!

Getting no comment from the embassy, they essentially went with all of the information on my bio. The bio for pride month.

So it should be no surprise that the headline read something along the lines of "Gay American Indian coming to be US Embassy Press Attache." (This is not the headline they used in the embassy's English summary...they wrote "Embassy welcomes new press attache.")

Guess I won't be needing to come out to my contacts there. Neither will my wife, who is also mentioned in the article.

I do understand why they did the article, but I still wish they hadn't. At least before I got there.

1 comment:

jc said...

Welcome to life as a PAO in a country which considers the American Embassy to be important (that is - many of them).

I once got a banner headline for not commenting on something. (I've subsequently learned to say nothing in long paragraphs.)