WorldPride in Sydney drew in a whopping half a million people over three weeks, marking a major milestone for LGBTQ+ visibility in Australia. The event attracted unprecedented corporate interest in the LGBTQ+ community, as brands seek to engage with this community and demonstrate their commitment to inclusion.
In recent years, visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in marketing and the media has increased thanks to big changes in acceptance and understanding. In the past, brands have shied away from showing LGBTQ+ people in advertising, because the subject was seen as controversial or a sensitive issue. This year we’re seeing many brands becoming bolder and ensuring that they are championing and emotionally connecting to the community, as shown in the ModiBodi All-gender collection campaign.
However, despite increased visibility of the queer community, as brands vie for the pink dollar, many are still struggling to navigate the line between genuine corporate allyship, and surface level “rainbow washing” that fails to authentically represent the full spectrum of queer identities. In fact, VisualGPS Research by iStock reveals that only 4 in 10 Aussies feel accurately represented, and the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in Australian media often leans into outdated stereotypes.
Looking at the most popular imagery used to represent the LGBTQ+ community over the past 12 months, 70% of people showcased are white, young and in a romantic relationship, while the remaining 30% focuses on Mardi Gras and Pride. What’s more, is that a third of Australian consumers feel that gay men are still portrayed predominantly as “feminine” or lesbian women are portrayed as “masculine”.
Consumers can tell when visuals are tokenizing certain identities, as 79% expect companies to not just show people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, but to capture true lifestyles and cultures. Consumers take note of inclusive advertisements and are more likely to consider or purchase a product after seeing an ad that represents diversity accurately. Getting representation right is worth the effort.
There is an opportunity for this community to be embraced all year round and with a diversified representation. So, how can brands truly begin addressing these observations to create meaningful connections with their audience by authentically visualizing the LGBTQ+ community in Australia? How can brands visually support the validation of the full spectrum of gender expressions?
The key to cut through the noise and impact your audience is to celebrate diverse lifestyle choices, be inclusive of LGBTQ+ people at every intersection of identity and showcase a more comprehensive and authentic visual representation of this community. It is critical to always check back in with yourself about whether you are unconsciously choosing stereotypical representations of the community.
When choosing visuals of the LGBTQ+ community in Australia, ask yourself:
- Moving beyond Pride, are you showing LGBTQ+ individuals living fulfilling, positive lives, and having shared experiences both within and outside of their communities?
- Are you using real LGBTQ+ models to represent the community in your visuals? Are you including LGBTQ+ people across intersections of identity, including race/ethnicity (such as Black, mixed-race, and Indigenous people), social class, and disability? Are you showing non-partnered LGBTQ+ people living full lives?
- Are you giving space to various expressions of “gender”?
- Are you representing members of the trans community in your visuals?
- Are you showing people who may not identify with a binary definition of gender?
- Are you positively representing LGBTQ+ people over 40? Over 50? Over 60? As the first major global event to hit Australian shores since Covid, Sydney WorldPride has created a historic moment for LGBTQIA+ visibility in Australia. To lead with impactful visual storytelling, it’s up to brands and the creative community to ensure that this visibility extends beyond the Mardi Gras season and into everyday life, with authentic representation and celebration of the full spectrum of gender expressions.