LGBT Program Director Consults on Historic National Geographic Issue

By Patrick Bohn, January 27, 2017

LGBT Program Director Consults on Historic National Geographic Issue

A screening of the National Geographic documentary “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1 p.m. in Textor Hall Room 101. 

This January, National Geographic magazine published a historic issue focusing on “the shifting landscape of gender.” Luca Maurer, program director of the Ithaca College Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services, was an integral part of that issue, helping the editors come up with definitions for many of the terms used in the issue.

The partnership began in the fall of 2016, when the issue was being prepared for publication. “They were going to be using a lot of terms in graphics and captions,” Maurer said. “And because there’s still a lot of discrimination out there, it was critical that they had the most accurate information regarding terminology.”

Although many of the terms in the issue’s glossary were based on “The Teaching Transgender Toolkit: A Facilitator’s Guide to Increasing Knowledge, Decreasing Prejudice & Building Skills,” a book Maurer wrote with Eli R. Green of Widener University, there were still times that a back-and-forth was needed.

“The editors would mention a term they wanted to use, and Eli and I would ask them why they chose that specific word,” Maurer said. “Then we’d suggest a term they might use instead. It was an interesting partnership, because obviously, they’re the experts in publishing and journalism, and they understand their readers, but Eli and I are the gender experts. That made it critical for us to communicate clearly.”

The issue has been one of the magazine’s best-sellers, and, not surprisingly, resulted in a significant dialogue among readers. It was here too that Maurer’s expertise was required. “Helping the editors craft responses to the readers’ questions was really meaningful,” he said. “This is a conversation that’s going on in this country right now, and it’s important to work together to bring that conversation forward in a factual way. My goal is to help provide the tools necessary so everyone can be treated with dignity and respect, and that’s what we were doing here.”

An overwhelming majority of the feedback to the issue has been positive, and Maurer is proud of the impact it’s having. “This topic brings up complicated feelings for some people, and that can be a good thing,” he said. “I’m very pleased that this issue is helpful to people, and it was a great honor to work on it. It’s why I do the work that I do.”