LGBTQ+ Visibility in the Asia-Pacific

Trends / Realness
Yuri Endo
Jun 21, 2023
In the Asia‑Pacific region, the landscape for LGBTQ+ communities is complex and constantly evolving. While significant progress has recently been made, challenges and disparities continue to exist and the role of inclusive visual representation is key.

Getty Images VisualGPS research reveals that over 70% of people in the Asia Pacific region support the freedom of individuals to choose their gender identity, sexual orientation, and express themselves authentically. Furthermore, consumers expect companies to be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion in their advertising and business communication visuals. This shows the importance for brands to promote inclusive visual stories to foster understanding, acceptance, and equality for the LGBTQ+ community, both within the Asia‑Pacific region and globally.  
The Varied Landscape of LGBTQ+ Rights in the Asia‑Pacific
The state of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Asia‑Pacific varies across countries.  Notably, New Zealand achieved a significant milestone in 2013 by being the first country in Asia Pacific to legalise same‑sex marriage.1 In Asia, Taiwan legalized same‑sex marriage in 2019.2 In Thailand, approximately 8% of the population belongs to the LGBTQ+ community, and steps have been taken toward legalizing same‑sex unions.3 These developments highlight the growing momentum for LGBTQ+ rights and equality across Asia‑Pacific.

However, some countries in the Asia‑Pacific still have restrictive laws and social norms that marginalize or criminalize same‑sex relationships, influenced by cultural, religious, and historical factors.4 Transgender individuals in Thailand, in particular, experience higher levels of discrimination and struggle with inaccurate gender documentation.5  In contrast, Taiwan has made remarkable progress in promoting LGBTQ+ rights and equality, particularly in legalizing same‑sex marriage and implementing inclusive policies.6 Additionally, Taiwan has taken significant steps toward recognizing and protecting the rights of transgender individuals. This includes the removal of surgery requirements for gender changes on official documents and the introduction of a third‑gender option.7

Despite these variations, LGBTQ+ individuals face common challenges throughout the region, including discrimination, lack of legal protections, societal stigma, and limited access to healthcare and support services. 
Visibility Gaps in the Asia‑Pacific
The landscape of most used visuals at Getty Images in the Asia‑Pacific indicates a notable disparity in the representation of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Less than 1% of visuals depict LGBTQ+ individuals. When there is representation, it focuses most on Pride parades and romantic scenes. The use of rainbow symbols is even more prevalent in the Asia‑Pacific, surpassing the global average.8 Additionally, the visuals predominantly feature younger, non‑Asian, and Pacific individuals, resulting in a limited representation of other age groups or Asian and Pacific communities. Transgender, gender‑fluid, and non‑binary individuals also face underrepresentation.9

Promoting Inclusive Visual Narratives
Getty Images' VisualGPS research highlights that a majority of Asia‑Pacific consumers have experienced bias across various aspects of their identity and feel that advertising fails to authentically represent themselves and their lifestyles. To address these gaps and meet the needs of diverse audiences, it is crucial for brands and creators to actively depict LGBTQ+ individuals in various scenarios and roles, rather than defaulting to simplified symbols or stereotypical portrayals. Collaborations with LGBTQ+ communities and allies, such as those led by Getty Images art directors Gosling Gao and Arisa Nagai, along with contributing creators Oliver Wu, Bernie_photo, Shih‑wei, staticnak1983, and Erdark, enable the creation of inclusive visuals that resonate with today's diverse audiences.

Here are some examples of recent collaborations in the Asia‑Pacific region:
Education and School Life in Thailand
Art directed by Arisa Nagai, shot by Erdark

Shot in Bangkok, Thailand, this shoot follows real‑life college students studying urban and sustainable green city planning at an architectural school. It places emphasis on sharing real and inclusive stories within the educational sector by showing students who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, individuals with different body shapes and gender expressions to reflect the students population in Thailand. The series provides a glimpse into their daily lives and captures authentic experiences, from arrival at school to engaging with peers, from conducting research in the library to presenting their thesis and graduation celebrations.
Road Trip through Taiwan
Art directed by Gosling Gao, shot by Oliver Wu, bernie_photo and Shih‑wei

This shoot featuring a real gay couple on a road trip through Taiwan addresses the growing need for better representation of the LGBTQ+ community in travel advertising post pandemic. Bringing an intersectional lens, this story also focuses on closing the visibility gap around disability in travel visuals. Our creators captured their journey from captivating locations such as Lukang township in Changhua County to the renowned Sun Moon Lake showing key moments from hotel check‑ins, relaxing in rooms, sharing breakfast and exploring different destinations. By authentically portraying these moments, this series showcases the couple's genuine connection and their shared passion for exploration while offering a more inclusive travel narrative.  
Working in Bangkok's Business Community
Art directed by Arisa Nagai, shot by staticnak1983

Transgender individuals in Thailand face challenges and discrimination in both their work and daily lives. Currently, less than 1% of visuals used by brands from Getty Images in the Asia Pacific feature transgender individuals,10 yet we know demand is growing for more diverse narratives of the transgender community in everyday life, both at home and at work. This series includes a transgender woman who is a real business owner and captures inclusive moments of preparing for the workday, going to the office, leading meetings and engaging in productive discussions. By authentically portraying these interactions, these visuals challenge societal norms, promote inclusivity, and inspire viewers to recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions of transgender individuals in the dynamic business landscape of Thailand. 
Our VisualGPS research reveals that showing visuals of real people living relatable lives has a significant influence on purchasing decisions across the Asia‑Pacific. Getting audience representation right matters and helps brands connect with consumers from all backgrounds. 
[1] Same‑Sex Marriage Around the World  (Pew Research Center)
[2] Taiwan Becomes First in Asia to Legalize Same‑sex Marriage After Historic Bill Passes (Amnesty International)
[3] More Rights for Same‑Sex Couples (The Nation)  
[4] LGBTI rights: Many challenges in Southeast Asia remain, despite victories in Singapore and Vietnam (International Bar Association)  
[5]  “People Can’t Be Fit into Boxes” Thailand’s Need for Legal Gender Recognition (Human Rights Watch)
[6] Taiwan Grants Right of Adoption to Same‑sex Couples in Latest Move Toward Full Equality (CNN)
[7] Taiwan's Decision to Introduce a Third Gender: A Step Forward or a Step Backwards for Gender Equality? (Taiwan Insight)
[8]Getty Images VisualGPS
[9]Getty Images VisualGPS
[10]Getty Images VisualGPS

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