We are so glad to finally be seeing more LGBT families in marketing campaigns, in books, and in a variety of other mediums. An additional advantage to this type of progressive representation is that it sets a higher bar for all of the companies who are slow to embrace same-sex families.
Recently a tried and true children’s classic, Highlights magazine, faced an avalanche of criticism for their lack of LGBT inclusion.
Parents Kristina Wertz and Kara Desiderio contacted their daughter’s beloved magazine to voice concerns that her type of family wasn’t seen anywhere in the pages of the publication. However, Highlight’s customer service ignored their complaint, and so the couple took their plight to the company’s Facebook page.
“My partner emailed you about the lack representation of LGBT families in Hello magazine last month and we have not received a response,” Wertz wrote. “Our one year old daughter loves Highlights! She carries her magazines all over the house and we read them countless times a day. One of the reasons we appreciate Hello is the diversity represented – families of all races, interracial families, and grandparents. We are consistently disappointed, however, in the complete lack of same-sex parents in Hello magazine. I think a lot about the things that create culture – the subtle and not so subtle messages that our kids get about how the world works. Since becoming a parent, I feel keenly aware of the messages kids’ books send to tiny minds. There is a deep need for books that positively reflect back the diversity of the world around us and I hope that Highlights embraces that diversity because we would love to keep it in our little one’s life as she grows.”
The response from Highlights came quickly but was wholly unsatisfactory:
“Hi Kristina, thanks for your message!
We understand your wish to see your family’s situation represented in Highlights Hello. For much of our readership, the topic of same-sex families is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject with their children, even the very little ones. We believe that parents know best when their family is ready to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families.
Please be assured that it is very important to us that every child see his or her ‘face’ in the pages of our magazines at some point—that every child feels that Highlights is truly for them. We will continue to think deeply about inclusion —specifically, how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience. Your note is a good reminder of how important it is.”
Many devoted Highlights readers were less than pleased with this response and many voiced their dissatisfaction with how these issues are being handled (or not handled at all).
Anthony Martinez, communications director for Family Equality Council, said: “It is painful to look at the statements that were issued by Highlights, especially the one that calls LGBTQ families a ‘situation.’ It is obvious that the staff is in need of education, and we hope that they will take our invitation to work with our organizations towards educating their staff and developing age-appropriate content.”
Upon further reflection and in an effort to stop the backlash, Highlights’ editors issued another statement:
“In the last several days, Highlights for Children has received many comments and questions about representing LGBTQ families in our magazines. In our initial response, our words weren’t reflective of our values, intentions or our position, and we apologize. We want to assure you that we have read every message and are listening carefully.
For those of you who know us—who read Highlights magazine as a child or have given it to a child—you know we have a long history of promoting inclusion and sensitivity. How to do this better and in a way that resonates with today’s kids is an ongoing dialogue in our editorial meetings—and has been for 70 years. Our mission never changes: To help kids become their best selves—curious, creative, confident, and caring. But we are constantly evolving. It may seem to some that we are evolving too slowly.
We want to reiterate that we believe all families matter. We know that there are many ways to build a family, and that love is the essential ‘ingredient.’ This conversation has helped us see that we can be more reflective of all kinds of families in our publications. We are committed to doing so as we plan future issues.
As difficult as these past few days have been, we are always grateful for reader feedback.”
It seems like Highlights still has a long (very long) way to go if they really want to call themselves an inclusive publication. They are not there yet, and their thinking isn’t even there yet, unfortunately. However, we certainly hope that this outcry from their readers will spur some progress.