June 2019 will see the LGBTQIA community celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall Riots. The riots were exactly that, a community's struggle against widespread human rights abuse that led to the modern version of LGBTQIA rights that we still fight for. It also gave birth to ‘Pride' and all it represents across the world. New York will play host to World Pride to commemorate the Stonewall Riots and all that has been achieved since then.
It is no secret that the Dorothy Dollar has clout, it has cultural influence and economic muscle. Support of LGBTQIA employees is also a given in most Western based organizations. The run up to Pride is always a busy time for agencies that understand the nuances of the communities and how they intersect with mainstream culture. However every year, those that don't understand the nuances engage in crass and obvious marketing, which ranges from dull to offensive.
To date, I've worked with a range of brands (including Equinox, W Hotels, Coach, PlayStation and Adidas) on their approach to Pride and the LGBTQIA community in general ( gays exist when its not Pride too!) Here are some of the perspectives I give to clients when planning campaigns:
1. The LGBTQIA Community is not one cohesive group - It is quite literally made up of all colors of the rainbow - with different considerations, histories, journeys and intersections - there is a tendency to lead with Gay Men as they are often more apparent in 'mainstream gay culture' that is not the case in reality.
2. Pro-Nouns matter - Respect the trans community and those that are gender non binary - in many cases, if unsure, just strip away gender altogether - from bathrooms at events to inviting community members by just using a person's name (misuse of gender can be traumatic and insulting).
3. Stonewall was a political act - Identifying as LGBTQIA is still a political act and people are still dying brutally with regularity - don't co-opt gay symbols without a clear audit of their meaning - many people have bled and died under these symbols and some should always be sacrosanct.
4. Cast and collaborate correctly - Lazy gay brand marketing is always apparent from the casting - don't whitewash the culture - respect, honor and celebrate diversity in age, color and body - if you don't understand this intersectionality then ask relevant people/organizations - there is a whole cultural context that is rich for POC.
5. Understand Global differences - Contemporary LGTBTQIA culture tends to be seen via the lens of permissive coastal American culture - if your campaign is global acknowledge the differences in societal view points, legal rights ( in over 70 countries its still illegal to be LGBTQIA) and consider what this means for you as an organization.
6. Go Grassroots - Another way to spot lazy gay marketing is to see which charities organizations support - there is a plethora of grassroots local organizations that are at the front line and in real need of support - check them out, don't just pick the easy, organized charities and organizations - check where your money will actually be spent AND ensure donations are effective - I always make sure that my clients are making a substantial difference as consumers will see through misuse of charitable organizations for promotion.
7. Allies are important - There is a lot of debate around how allies figure into campaigns, my personal belief is that we strive to gain RESPECT. No LGBTQIA person exists in isolation of the rest of society. There are many facets to the gay experience and I believe that, in order for society to change as a whole we need to equally target and affect the straight demographic. There is a myriad of organizations that I feel are vitally important to garner this support, organizations such as PFLAG. My approach is to engage the LGBTQIA community both front and behind the camera and to ensure we utilize allies in whatever way is relevant, particularly in terms of exposure and access.
8. Trans Lives Matter - Make sure you acknowledge, support and work with the Trans community - the community has its own specific joys and creativity, its own struggles and intersectionality. This is not just about inclusion but also the fact that the Trans community are at the vanguard often of what is happening in the wider community - they led the stonewall riots.
9. Pay what’s due - As with any community there are huge differences in economic status - if you're a global corporation or any brand working on Pride campaigns don't expect the gay community to work for free to support the marketing of your products under the guise of the Pride movement.
10. Live what you Preach - Without exception, companies need to practice what they preach across the entire company and support the plethora of issues that face the LGBTQIA community - Respect starts at home.
Rana Reeves is the founder of RanaVerse.