The subject of this study is media construction of
homosexuality. The author looks into the media representations of
homosexuals and related discourse on homosexuality in the print
media in Slovenia in the period 1970-2000. The author places these
media texts into their historical context and presents an overview
of the history of gay and lesbian movement in Slovenia.
Media representations of homosexuality are divided into five basic
categories: stereotyping, medicalization, sexualization, secrecy
and normalization. Stereotyping primarily relies on rigid gender
schemas exploited by the media to present gays as effeminate
and lesbians as masculine, drawing on the analogy with their
social roles which thus appear as natural rather than socially
constructed. Medicalization of homosexuality is a continuation
of the psychiatric discourse on same-sex orientation from the
end of the 19th century. In media representations it is manifested
as a search for the causes of homosexuality (the implied question
is “what went wrong and led to homosexuality?”) and the consigning
of homosexuality to the medical and psychiatric spheres (homosexuality
as a disease or a disorder). Sexualization, the third component
of the media discourse, is manifested as a reduction of homosexuality
solely to sexuality and sex (since sexualization frequently occurs
in graphic images, the author uses Barthes’ model to explain
the difference between the connotative and denotative levels).
The veil of secrecy implied by media representations makes homosexuality
appear as something concealed and related to shame and regret.
Normalization, the last component of media representations, is
characteristic primarily of the late 1990s when previous images
of homosexuals as criminals, psychiatric patients and the like,
were surpassed. However, this change in attitude is only apparent,
since the kind of normalization found in media representations
is actually a heterosexual normalization. Media representations
of normal homosexuality are representations tailored to the perception
of heterosexuals in such a way that they do not threaten their world.
Homosexuality is acceptable only when depoliticized.
The author concludes that in the period 1970-2000 media reporting
on homosexuality was generally sympathetic or neutral. Yet this
general positive trend within media representations nevertheless
contains ingredients that enable the perpetuation of the negative
attitude of public opinion towards this phenomenon. The author
argues that it is precisely the five most frequent components
of media representations mentioned above that are responsible
for the gap between politically correct media representations
and negative public opinion. Homosexuality still causes uncertainty
and uneasiness, so the media usually resort to highly stereotyped
images which easily tally with the readers’ representations
of homosexuality without upsetting them.