LGBTQ+ Visibility Now

Trends / Realness
Flashpop
1145099279
Tristen Norman
Jun 18, 2021
Pop culture has always played an instrumental role in advancing LGBTQ+ representation and it seems in the last year, things have exploded in a meaningful way. Scripted shows like Twenties, Pose and the L Word Generation Q+ to reality television series like Legendary and Rupaul’s Drag Race to documentaries about our history like PRIDE or challenging the representation of the trans community in Disclosure. It would seem we’re not just moving into more numerous LGBTQ+ depictions but also, moving beyond a single avatar for the queer community into representations that are increasingly intersectional.

Yet, what appears as a revolution in one form of media belies the stark reality of LGBTQ+ representation in another. For marketing and advertising – one of the most ubiquitous and far‑reaching vehicles for visual storytelling – LGBTQ+ representation remains nominal.
For marketing and advertising – one of the most ubiquitous and far‑reaching vehicles for visual storytelling – LGBTQ+ representation remains nominal.
In 2020, the Geena Davis Institute analyzed the Cannes Lion festival submissions from 2006‑2019 and found that only 1.8% of characters in ads were LGBTQ+. Similarly, as a provider of creative imagery to the biggest brands in the world, we found that less than 1% of visuals downloaded last year feature LGBTQ+ stories or people.

This level of LGBTQ+ invisibility in advertising is startling. Brands play an instrumental role in moving narratives forward and are perceived as having an outsized responsibility to be inclusive. In fact, we’ve learned from our recent wave of Visual GPS research that in areas of the world where there is more LGBTQ+ visibility in media, there appears to be a correlating decrease in discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
The question is: where do brands start?

Visibility is only half the work. As we bring more of the LGBTQ+ community to the center of visual storytelling, we need to also ensure we’re avoiding stereotypical, one‑dimensional depictions. There are LGBTQ+ people of every racial or ethnic background, of every age, ability, class, body shape or size, religious affiliation or culture. It’s also a community representative not just of diverse sexual orientations, but also different gender identities and expressions. Each of these intersections of identity, shape and influence your realities as an LGBTQ+ person on a multitude of fronts and can even compound your experiences of discrimination.
Visibility is only half the work. We need to also ensure we’re avoiding stereotypical, one‑dimensional depictions.
What we’ve learned in our work is that discrimination shapes experience and experiences drive the culture around us which informs media and its representations. When communities experience bias, prejudice or even violence based on certain aspects of their identity, this same bias may show up in culture, and in turn, depictions in media. It isn’t just about the fact of representation, it’s the how. Because the power of an authentic image is in its ability to not only represent people authentically, but also promote greater acceptance and understanding.

There’s no shortage of work to be done. Brands have a huge part to play in improving the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in marketing and advertising. But you don't have to do it alone or without support. We've created our LGBTQ+ Guidebook for Inclusive Visual Storytelling to provide clear guidance to brands, agencies and all creatives, in their aims to bring the LGBTQ+ community to the center of marketing and advertising, inclusively and authentically. The time for LGBTQ+ visibility in advertising is now. Will you join us?
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