It’s the perpetual question: how do you reach the queer community? And how do you do it in an impactful, thoughtful and inclusive way? The short answer to the first question seems to be “yes.” And with Pride around the corner and hopefully more in-person events this year, the conversation will again be happening about the relationship between marketing and our diverse, demanding community. Let’s tackle the second question!
For years, we have been asking for more – more diversity, more nuance, more 365 days-a-year marketing and not just Pride month rainbow-washing. It looks like we are getting there. This week millions of eyeballs will be on the Super Bowl. Last year, queer icons Billie Jean King, RuPaul, Lil Nas X and Dan Levy all appeared in commercials that ran on CBS during Super Bowl LV. It doesn’t get bigger than that. 
The truth is we still have progress to make, but there is a much bigger base to build on, one that has come only in the past few years. Being trapped inside more than usual with COVID has all of us in front of our screens more than ever. Due to this, I cannot help but notice that every time I am watching something – anything – there we are, LGBTQ+ folks represented, included, even centered in marketing, everything from cars to banking services. Even the ads for things more traditionally targeting us, like HIV pharma companies and travel are reaching far beyond the cis gay white men we were used to seeing. Women, trans and non-binary, BIPOC folx, queer youth and more are front and center.
I recently had to do a double take, seeing a Chase Bank commercial with a lesbian couple and their baby, setting up a college fund. I could not help but smile knowingly watching an adorable Hilton ad with a gay couple trying to get their sleeping toddler in their room without waking them. And I cheered, seeing a Lexus commercial with trans actor and activist MJ Rodriguez behind the wheel. And while the first time I saw it was while watching POSE, where MJ played a lead role, it was also in rotation in primetime, reaching a much larger audience.
So, it seems we have finally reached the point where marketers are breaking out of “June only” and realizing that we’re queer all year. Also, that we’re not a monolith of cis gender gay white men between the ages of 25-40. We know the larger world knows that and I imagine companies are paying attention to media visibility trends, a growing body of data that truly represents us and shows a generation of LGBTQ+ people coming out younger and identifying in more fluid and fierce ways and importantly, listening to their employees who are LGBTQ+ and allies.
We’re at a real crossroads, especially with the coming year of midterm elections, local and state battles attacking critical race theory and the rights of schools to even talk about LGBTQ issues or the existence of LGBTQ families or youth, never mind be included in the curriculum. Book bans. Anti-trans trans laws already passing at the state level. And of course, the on-going battle for federal protections for LGBTQ+ people, as half the states in this country STILL do not have anti-discrimination laws in place.  Recently 500+ business released a public statement in support of the Equality Act, but the business community can be doing so much more. 
It’s often hard as queer people to hold this juxtaposition and not feel frustrated, but the truth is we all have a role to play in making a difference. With some of the harsh realities we face in politics in our day-to-day lives those in a position of power – like businesses, must think about the role that representation and support can play in the lives of LGBTQ people. It goes without saying that inclusion and explicit support of the LGBTQ+ community are smart business decisions and the right thing to do. 
As we continue to make progress, I hope we can all get more creative. Take the example of companies like TD bank, that invest in true partnerships with LGBTQ+ organizations and businesses year-round. They engage employees in making sure they are walking the walk internally and externally and land firmly on the right side of history. For many LGBTQ+ people, our lives depend on it.

About the Author

Cathy Renna is a veteran in the communications industry, and currently serves as the Principal of Target Cue and the Communications Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Since her time at GLAAD in the 1990’s and early aughts, Cathy has executed her particular expertise in crisis and strategic communications, playing a central role in shaping nearly all major issues affecting the LGBTQ community, from the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 to the fight for marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. She most recently worked with the team that coordinated historic coverage for WorldPride/Stonewall 50, working with NYC Pride. After leaving her position at GLAAD as National News Media Director, Cathy joined Fenton Communications, where she served as its New York office Media Director from 2004 to 2006. She went on to found Renna Communications and co-found Target Cue that same year. In her over 25 years of media relations and activism experience, Cathy has garnered placements in every major online and broadcast outlet in the country, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press, and the Washington Post. She is a sought after spokesperson for LGBTQ issues, and has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. Cathy currently resides in Montclair, New Jersey. She can be reached at or 917-722-7862.

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