Are you using Stereotypes in your (LGBT) Gay Marketing Efforts? If so, stop! Skip to the content

Are you stereotyping your LGBT customers?

This is part 2 of the 7 part series titled: “The 7 Deadly Sins of Ineffective LGBT Communications.” In part 1 I introduced you to the concept that I believe 98% of miscommunication blunders occur for one of 7 reasons, which I’ve dubbed the 7 deadly sins.

I will continue to start off each blog post saying this – I honestly believe that most people are coming from a place of good intention and aren’t waking up wondering who they can offend and how during their day. Gay marketing and outreach within the LGBT community requires an authentic approach and you must be paying attention to what you are and are not saying in your communications and marketing efforts.

As a refresher – here are the 7 Deadly Sins again: 1. Assumptions 2. Stereotypes 3. Inappropriate Questions 4. Mannerisms 5. Insinuations 6. Implications 7. Assertions

What is a stereotype?

I first want to define what a stereotype is and then get into some examples and explain why using stereotypes are bad for your gay marketing efforts. According to Wikipedia they define a stereotype as –

“A stereotype is a thought that may be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.”

When it comes to effective gay marketing and authentically reaching the LGBT community you must steer clear of stereotyping. I am not going to sit here and try to tell you that these stereotypes don’t exist because it’s not true. All stereotypes have an origin somewhere – however, it is your responsibility as the business owner/decision maker not to perpetuate stereotypes that are damaging to the LGBT community. Trust me, this will not fare well for your gay marketing efforts.

Stereotypes are bad. Period.

If we look back at the history of LGBT people in advertising it hasn’t been a pretty road. Every possible stereotype has been played out and has damaged the image of the community over time. Often the LGBT person seeing the advertising portrayed cannot relate to it in any way and therefore makes it completely ineffective {Tweet it out}. There are common themes that have occurred for years in mainstream television that have touched upon every member of LGBT community. Some examples include:

  • L: Lesbians are hot and here for male fantasies. Or lesbians are overweight, wear flannels and want to be men.
  • G: Gay men are only white and never wear shirts.
  • B: Bisexual people are opportunistic sex fiends.
  • T: Transgender people like to surprise and confuse people. She’s really a he and he’s really a she – surprise!
  • Lastly, there have been straight men finding themselves in precarious positions with other straight men. Think Super Bowl Snickers commercials. You can watch one here.

What you can learn from their mistakes

If you have any advertising currently that perpetuates any of the stereotypes noted above, get rid of it immediately! Put yourself into the shoes of any LGBT person for just a moment to understand how poor of a message these stereotypes communicate. Do you really think lesbians want to see themselves on TV portrayed as sex objects for the benefit of men? Do you think portraying gay men as only white, shirtless and in shape is going to resonate with the population of gay men who don’t fall into one of those categories? Of course this won’t work.

The point is to stay away from stereotypes by being inclusive. Don’t use ‘hot straight women’ to play lesbians or stereotype by using ‘flannel wearing fat lesbians’ in your marketing materials. Just be real. And I’ll be honest with you – this is not easy to do. No matter what type of LGBT person you use or don’t use in your marketing there will be a handful of people who won’t be happy about it. It’s the nature of the beast and if it is something you know getting into this, you will be just fine.

For example, the Disney Channel introduced a lesbian family on the show Good Luck Charlie. I happen to enjoy that show because I have two kids who are young enough that we watch it together as a family. I was perfectly content with the depiction of the lesbians on the show because they fit into the quirkiness of the show in general. However, for people who have never seen the show and were only tuning it to see the lesbians, some were upset. They were upset because they were feminine, skinny, blond and white. What stereotypical media says is that these kinds of lesbians are a rarity when that is simply not true. This is one of the problems with stereotyping. I know many lesbians who fit that description in addition to just as many lesbians who don’t. This is why we cannot rely on previous media to portray what ‘gay’ looks like in a good fashion.

Each individual business is unique. You should portray what being LGBT means to your business the best way that you can. If you have employees who are LGBT, get their thoughts, get their opinions, and use their knowledge to your advantage. Chances are they will be happy to share their thoughts and be thrilled that you thought to ask them.

Just remember that LGBT people come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of interests just like any other person. People are people and shouldn’t be judged based on a percentage of stereotypes that exist. This goes for all marginalized groups. On a similar note I encourage you to check out my blog post on LGBT stock photography that outlines some of the challenges in getting it right without stereotyping. You can read it by clicking here.

So, as we go through this 7 part series together I know some of you are going to be guilty of having said or done some of these things. I also know that some of you are going to be questioning whether or not people really say or do these things. Either way, you are in a safe space here. I am not writing this to make you feel bad about how you may have handled a situation in the past, but rather I’m here to educate you on how to use this information for the betterment of your business and the LGBT customers and clients that you serve.

I look forward to you coming back discussing Deadly Sin #3Inappropriate Questions. This will be a fun one, I promise!

Can you think of other stereotypes that I didn’t list here? If yes, leave a comment below! There is a great chance I will use your comment in a future blog post.

Shorten your learning curve and get the book, The 7 Mistakes Preventing You From Selling to the $830 Billion LGBT Market, today!

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published nearly 200 books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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