By Lisa Cumming 

A new course, Queer Media, offered by the Ryerson School of Journalism for the first time this past semester, is attracting interest from news media across the country.

The course – to help inform the next generation of journalists and to transform newsrooms –  has been written about by the Torontoist and University Affairs.

Andrea Houston, who developed and taught the course, says she started off by focusing on LGBTQ history.

“When I asked questions like, “Who’s heard of Stonewall” or “Who’s heard of the bathhouse raids,” very few hands went up,” said Houston, a journalist who has covered a range of issues affecting LGBTQ people at local, provincial, national and international levels.

“You can’t teach the big queer concepts if you don’t have a groundwork of history already laid out. You need to understand how social movements have impacted queer people and how queer people have impacted social movements.”

Guest lecturers for the semester included Kamoga Hassan, a Ugandan filmmaker, who showed his film about homophobia in East Africa. Houston also invited El-Farouk Khaki, co-founder of Unity Mosque, the first LGBTQ mosque for the queer-Muslim community in Canada, to speak.

“There’s just not enough time in the three-hour lecture we have every week to cover all the grounds,” said Houston, who describes her students as “sponges” soaking up the information. “But it’s great, they’re loving it. I’m loving all the questions they’re asking.”

Houston says she’s been impressed by some of the curricula in Ontario high schools, but queer history has a place for university undergrads as well.

Associate Professor Anne McNeilly suggested developing such a course to the School of Journalism’s program committee in spring 2015. Traditionally, it has not been a well-studied area in journalism, she said.

Even in The Canadian Press Stylebook, LGBTQ issues are not really addressed. They’re sort of squeezed in there, added McNeilly. And the issues surrounding the correct use of pronouns are only just being addressed now.

According to McNeilly, once courses are proposed to faculty by the program committee, they can take about a year to be developed.

“The course is very well subscribed,” McNeilly said. “It’s been very successful.”

Queer Media is available to journalism students as well as those taking News Studies courses for non-journalism students.