This is a guest post kindly written by Alexis from Social Media for Humans.
How many times have you been scrolling through social media, seen an advert on TV, or walked past a flyer and consciously thought about the representation in it?
If you’re straight, cisgender, allosexual or any other flavour of “not Queer” it’s likely not often. That’s what I find when I speak to straight friends – they simply don’t understand why representation is important because they never have to think about it.
As a Queer woman, I think about it a lot. When I see a Queer character appear on a show I love, when an ad features two women clearly in a relationship, or when someone chooses to use gender-neutral language to talk about partners. In those moments I get a clear signal that I’m seen and welcome, and it’s these small things that businesses can easily forget in the daily slog.
The great news is that including these small signals that let Queer people know that we’re welcome in your business is more a case of habit than of wildly difficult tasks, so here’s a few ways you can amend your current workflows to build inclusivity into your business.
Change your language
The language you use is a big way that many LGBTQIA+ people judge whether a business is genuinely supportive or just pinkwashing.
Little tweaks like ditching “husband or wife” for “spouse(s) or partner(s)” turns a phrase that excludes into a warm welcome for people of any sexuality, gender, or relationship set-up.
Another small change is a simple switch of “he or she” to “they,” which both saves on characters and lets the Queer community know that they’re safe with you.
When it comes to marketing your products or services, avoid conflating them with specific groups of people. For example, if your product gives eyelashes some va-va-voom and but your copy talks only about women, you’re missing out not only on all the Queer men and non-binary people, but on the many straight cis men who enjoy make-up and also have eyelashes!
Use more diverse images
Whether you’re looking for Valentine’s day images, romantic holidays or just “love,” stock photo sites are awash with happy, straight, white couples. Finding some stock photo sites that include a diverse range of people and focus on underrepresented groups or hiring a Queer photographer to take a selection of photos for you to use makes it easy to spot that you’re inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Finding a go-to stock photo site that you know has a diverse selection of images or creating your own by simply having a folder of photos that fit your brand and have a variety of people in them will make image hunting much easier. Remember to include any attribution information or usage rights with any photos you save from stock photo sites –copyright still exists on the internet!
Work with Queer influencers
When planning influencer campaigns, include Queer influencers – and not just during Pride!
LGBTQIA+ influencers aren’t just great for your new, rainbow themed product or your Pride promotion, they should be a part of every influencers campaign you run. Queer people aren’t only interested in Queer things, we have hobbies and jobs and lives too, so sell us your non-Queer things and pay the LGBTQ+ influencers you use the same as every other.
Moderate your comments sections
Even when your content is very clearly inclusive, if your comments section is a free for all filled with hate speech and hot takes many Queer people won’t feel safe engaging with you.
Using the safety options that social platforms provide to block certain words and phrases can save you time but ensuring someone is checking in regularly with the comments and deleting, blocking or educating accordingly is still important.
Have a policy on what speech is allowed in your comments and what isn’t, and how you engage with difficult comments that you are allowing. Whether you’re a one-person band or a whole team, a written policy ensures that your responses to comments are consistent and in line with your brand values.
Practice using your pronouns
Beyond adding your pronouns to your social media bios and email signature, get into the habit of introducing yourself with your pronouns in meetings, during interviews, and any other time you’re introducing yourself.
This simple act can make others feel safe to share their own pronouns and helps to embed it as a standard practice.
It’s important not to push others to share their pronouns, even if you do. For trans or gender non-conforming it can be scary, and sometimes dangerous, to out themselves, and for cis people who just don’t want to, forcing the issue rarely leads to more acceptance. Lead by example but let others do what they are comfortable with.
Accept that you’re only human.
There are many in the LGBTQIA+ community who can’t, or choose not to, keep up with the ongoing discussions around language and current issues, don’t expect yourself to know everything.
You will make mistakes. You will use the wrong words. You will forget to say your pronouns. What matters is how you respond to these natural human oops moments. Work on being honest about your mistakes and practice taking feedback so when someone lets you know that you messed up, you can respond with a simple “thanks for letting me know, I’ll change that and learn from it” instead of feeling defensive.
Remember that, ultimately, being inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people makes you more inclusive of all people. There are many cisgender, heterosexual, and allosexual people who also aren’t represented by the stereotypes around their gender or sexuality – let’s make sure that everyone feels supported and included in business and in life.
Alexis is a social media guide and founder of Social Media for Humans, a movement changing the way social media works from the inside. She busts myths and provides an honest, jargon-free explanation of algorithms and strategy to help business owners and individuals use social media effectively, ethically and in a way that’s sustainable for both the human running the business and the planet.
Outside of trying to ruin Zuck’s master plan, she enjoys walking, dog agility with TiLi, her Bichon Frise, and playing chess.