There are updates at the bottom of this post as well.
Update: Someone pointed out that this is not the first time Buzzfeed exploited the blind for some dollars. This repulsive article Diminishes an access issue into just a once in a lifetime feel good moment. It treats an access issue as if it is an act of charity.
Because I have images tirned off in firefox, as well, I also did not know that Buzzfeed’s many immages in the below article did not even have alt text so that screen readers could identify the images. In addition to exploiting the blind, they also published an article with inaccessible elements.
I recently finished an email to two departments at Buzzfeed. The two departments I just wrote to were the editorial department and the copyright department. I had to use their contact forms because I didn’t have an email address and I didn’t think twitter would be much help in this case. I did tweet storm a bit this afternoon after I figured out that my words were being used without my permission in a very tone deaf and terrible article appropriating, not only the blind community, but the gay community as well.
Before I link to the article though I’d like to speak to being a singular blind gay man among many in this world. It’s not mainstream yet. We are not a part of the ordinary and conventional lifestyle even though things are getting better on that front.
Let’s speak to being blind first. We’re seen as the lowest functioning facet of society. The worst possible thing an able-bodied person can think of is losing all their vision. I’ve heard people say they would rather be deaf than blind. I’ve heard people say they would rather have lost a limb than lose their eyesight. Being blind is so scary people will do anything possible to keep their remaining vision, even if it means spending all their savings and then some. People would rather risk dying on operating tables than lose all their vision. I know this isn’t everybody but this is the majority.
We’re either the helpless things on planet earth or our disability is morphed into some super power to make it bearable to consume in media. Either we’re stupid or inspiration porn. Either, we’re aliens or superheroes. We’re never human.
It’s a kind of lifestyle nobody knows about. Even other minorities have much more privileges. One example I can think of, out of many, is that Black and brown people have more work opportunities than we do and we will for a very long time. a black person, who’s already discriminated against, will get a job over us.
Why is this important to point out? Because it’s a way to highlight why beating us down after we have worked for over 150 years to make a fraction of perceptions about us broaden is beyond shallow. We work twice as hard to live and to just be human in the eyes of other humans. We have A hard skill set by default. Problem solving, and, still, employers will see that as a weakness.
Now, let’s speak to being gay. Let me illustrate my daily existence, even today, when things are improving. Even though things are improving there’s still a long way to go. Gay people are a walking virus by some, the reason for a dying society by others, and, a threat to beliefs by most. We constantly have to look straight people in the eye and say I love and hurt and feel and wish and grieve just as you do, I just like the same sex.
People still think it’s a choice though. Even if someone says they accept you for who you are they are also constantly wondering when you will come over to the normal side. The side of the holy bible, and the side that God intended. We have to justify our hearts desire every day when straight people don’t. our crushes and loves don’t matter because it’s not real love. It’s a choice.
Straight people don’t have to worry about what other guys will say if they start talking about who they have a crush on. Straight guys don’t have to face the fearful looks when they touch their other straight dude friends. Straight guys don’t have to explain to other straight friends, that, just because they are gay doesn’t mean they’d want to suddenly have sex with all their other straight guy friends. Straight guys don’t have to endure the constant side eye of, why are you doing this sick thing? When they have sex with someone they love and care about.
Like I said, it’s getting better. Gay people are morphing into humans, but that’s a long way off.
I know there are tone deaf people in this world. I get it that not everybody is going to understand blindness or disability but I am utterly appalled that a media organization would take it one step further and humiliate us for advertising dollars.
The corporation, as I mentioned, is Buzzfeed. I read a list today called 11 Gay People Who Are Blind Describe How They Knew They Were Gay archive link. by Ryan Schocket.
The thing that has me so upset, and the thing that caused me to write the below email and tweet about, was the sheer tone of the article. It’s not an article that paints us as humans with flaws and great qualities. It’s not an article that points out the stigmatized history of the blind gay populace. It’s a list of quotes that readers can read without any contents to the completely “alien” sounding things we say in there. To sighted straight people, that’s placing our world up for display so they can gawk at it without context. Not to mention, without my permission, and possibly others.
I can firmly say that, in my case, it was crafted without permission. he didn’t email me, or tweet me, or Skype me, or message me, nothing. I didn’t even know I was in this article until someone pointed me to it.
If I’d have known this random insulting list was going to be published I’d have deleted my reddit comment. I wasn’t contacted for context or comment and now me and others like me have to be the weird things again, the people who don’t like girls and can’t see attraction.
It’s beyond insulting. This writer should be ashamed of their quality. I am not ashamed to say that I hold myself to a higher standard of ethics than this. Others should too. other journalists should be better than this guy.
I am going to make sure I and others like me are treated with a lot more respect. I’m just going to point out a few things this writer missed, because they care about insulting people more than telling their stories.
On reddit’s user agreement it clearly says that the users retain their content rights.
“You retain the rights to your copyrighted content or information that you submit to reddit (“user content”)”
Journalists with more ethical standing would have asked me for comment. In fact, reddit encourages this. On their media help page it says,
Respect the community when sourcing content.
When utilizing Reddit comments in an article, we strongly encourage you to use Reddit comment embeds, which show a comment in context & reflect updates, rather than taking screenshots or copying & pasting content. If you see an interesting story or photo on Reddit, message the Redditor who shared the piece to ask for their permission prior to using it in an article or list, ask how they would like it to be attributed, and provide them a deadline before you move on to another story. Please respect Redditors who may wish to stay anonymous, or to not be featured in an article.
I will be sure to pursue this matter fully. We deserve better, as blind people and as gay men. We deserve respect. What we don’t deserve, is to be used just for advertising dollars and just for advertising clicks and just entertainment. Our achievements are worth more than that.
The email I sent to Buzzfeed is below.
I’d like to do more though. I’m a journalist who would like to take this matter seriously by ensuring your message is properly heard. I’d especially like to hear from the other subjects in this article. I promise that I will craft a better representation.
If you’d like to support me as an independent journalist click here.
Hi my name is Robert Kingett and I am a journalist in Chicago who was recently a subject in the article, eleven gay blind people describe how they knew they were gay. I am bringing this to your attention because I feel, not only is the article incredibly demeaning and mocking, by putting us, as a member of two minorities, into the spotlight for nothing more than entertainment, that my content was used without express written or verbal permission.
My quotes were taken from a message board website called reddit. While reddit is an open platform I was still cited, quoted and used as a subject without my express written or verbal permission. The author of this post did not abide by reddit’s media suggestions where it says to Respect the community when sourcing content. It continues with When utilizing Reddit comments in an article, we strongly encourage you to use Reddit comment embeds, which show a comment in context & reflect updates, rather than taking screenshots or copying & pasting content. If you see an interesting story or photo on Reddit, message the Redditor who shared the piece to ask for their permission prior to using it in an article or list, ask how they would like it to be attributed, and provide them a deadline before you move on to another story. Please respect Redditors who may wish to stay anonymous, or to not be featured in an article.
As a journalist, I am, quite frankly, outraged that two underrepresented communities were taken advantage of in this way. I’d like to know who I can speak with about this incident. Can you give me a name and an email address and a phone number?
I heard back from Buzzfeed. Their response is below.
Thanks so much for writing in! We’d be happy to remove you from the story if you want. Let me know!
I thought that more should have been done. so, I replied with the below email.
I actually demand that you publish an article or a personal essay or a feature written by me and others quoted in that article, about what it is like to be blind and gay and I would like Buzzfeed to pay us for our time and effort, If the other subjects do not want to do their own writing, I’d like for your reporters to work with each of them to craft a better message.