There are effective, inspiring ideas I've developed—for corporate social media strategy, for on-stage presentation coaching, for the creation of memorable events—that have nothing to do with my sexual orientation.
And yet they're all ideas I very likely would never have formulated if I wasn't gay.
I'm in a business that profits from the direct alchemy between lateral thinking and practical application, and yet—as ever increasing, ever louder voices will all attest—it's not a business where LGBTQ+ perspectives are always welcome. And my identity in queer culture gives me a different, informed angle on everything in my life, from real estate opportunities to financial investments to music events. It's a shame I'm not invited to share those perspectives, because—in terms that will perk up most people's ears—it's lost money.
Part of the problem—across my history in agencyland—is that I'm usually asked to share my full, queer self to address a problem pertaining to queer people, or to help brands that have failed to connect with queer people. And that's fine, because we're in the business of solving problems. Please let me be a voice in how a brand is looking to address an injustice against LGBTQ+ communities. Please let me be a voice in how my own company creates a culture inclusive of my orientation.
But also: Please don't only welcome me to express my gayness to help you fix imbalances in privilege where you hold the privilege. Please recognize that heteronormative perspective has been heavily present at every meeting you've ever attended. And please, don't expect me to check my queerness at the door just because the brief doesn't mention Pride.
That scenario is the very picture of the problem: seldom are LGBTQ+ folks explicitly included as an audience in marketing briefs. So, when LGBTQ+ ad talent tries to include queer ideas or on-screen representation without an LGBTQ+ or Pride objective, those ideas are dismissed as a force-fit. That said, even when the brief overtly or subtly excludes LGBTQ+ communities, it's important that queer perspectives and ideas are included in the creative process.
The question I've posed to LGBTQ+ voices across the industry is: How can queer viewpoints impact and improve the creative process on "non-LGBTQ+" briefs and creative opportunities? And the answer is: The impact is varied and powerful and demonstrates why a unique outlook, emboldened by inclusion, will always be an advantage.
LGBTQ+ Ideas Break Barriers in Cultural Understanding: "Queerness is a culture creator. If we look at queerness as simply same-sex couples—which it's often relegated to in creative briefs—we lose sight of opportunities to tap into contemporary culture in a way that's relevant, breaks status quos, and expand the on-screen representation of humans past their gender or sexual identity. No matter what audience you're representing, the boldest brands are shattering stereotypes, and the culture of the LGBTQ+ community holds the key to some of the most creative and compelling ways to do just that." —Kaitlyn Barclay (She/Her), CEO & co-founder, Scout Lab
LGBTQ+ Ideas Prevent Unnecessary Audience Fragmentation: "Queer people are ‘everyday consumers' just like straight people. So, when we, as advertisers, are working on non-LGBTQ+-specific briefs, we should consider the queer community as part of a general audience. That's just one reason why it's valuable to have queer perspectives on creative teams. We approach everything we do with an innately queer lens all year round and on every brief, ensuring that our creative messaging isn't necessarily pointedly queer but 'queer encompassing,' meaning the work considers, resonates with, and doesn't exclude queer people. In doing that, our creative opportunities only grow." —Amy Virginia Buchanan (She/They), strategy director, McCann N.Y.
LGBTQ+ Ideas Capture the Personal Nuances: "It's the simple truth that we might see things that others miss. Without a queer perspective in the room, there is a greater chance that there will be a miss around sensitivity to diversity and the LGBTQ+ audience specifically. And while of course we should try to feature the LGBTQ+ community, this doesn't mean you need to highlight LGBTQ+ people in your work or try to force fit; it means you are at the very least caring for how you present your brand in a welcoming and inclusive way." —David Azulay (He/Him), EVP, client lead and global co-chair of OPEN Pride (LGBTQ+ ERG), Omnicom
LGBTQ+ Ideas Are Built to Open Doors: "Powerful entertainment and advertising mirrors how we're experiencing the world and reflects back to us joy, imagination, pain and reality—if the people telling those stories are not equally represented, we'll continue getting a one-sided point-of-view. We have a responsibility to actively stand against one-sided conversations. When queer employees are asked to contribute from the project's inception—and the creative leaders in the room help fight for those voices—you can see visual distinction in the work. It's a multiplicative effect, too, because that work creates greater opportunities, and that person can help open doors for other marginalized voices and talent." —Chase Maszle (he/him), digital producer, PRISM Lead (LGBTQI+ ERG), The Martin Agency