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New Research from GLAAD and Getty Images shows that visual representation of the LGBTQ+ community remains low and stereotypical, globally and in the U.S.

June 2, 2021 • Company News

— Getty Images research reveals that only 21% of people globally see LGBTQ+ people represented regularly, and when they do, the representations remain narrow and stereotypical.

— Getty Images research shows that LGBTQ+ people in countries with less LGBTQ+ representation state greater experience with LGBTQ+ discrimination.

— GLAAD and Getty Images launch LGBTQ+ Guidebook to support brands and businesses as they endeavor to be more inclusive in their visual choices.

New York — June 2, 2021: Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications, in partnership with GLAAD, the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization, today announced the latest initiative in their exclusive partnership that aims to increase visibility while also challenging harmful, cliched visual stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community. The new guidance is a direct response to recent research from Getty Images demonstrating that overall LGBTQ+ visual representation remains low and stereotypical. 

“While we know that increased representation positively impacts increased acceptance, our research has also shown that LGBTQ+ individuals remain grossly underrepresented in media,” said Tristen Norman, Head of Creative Insights for the Americas at Getty Images and iStock. “And even when this community is represented, businesses and media rely too heavily upon stereotypical, inauthentic imagery.”

Getty Images’ 2021 Visual GPS survey found that only one-fifth of global Visual GPS respondents stated seeing LGBTQ+ people represented regularly or frequently in visuals, and said that when they do, it is often narrow and stereotypical. In the U.S., that number is somewhat higher, sitting at one-fourth. Global respondents stated that:

— 30% of such visuals depict gay men as ‘feminine’

— 29% of such visuals depict LGBTQ+ people carrying the rainbow flag in some capacity

— 29% of such visuals depict lesbian women as ‘masculine’

— 28% of such visuals depict gay men as ‘flamboyant’

That reliance has left some advertisers feeling hesitant when it comes to proactively depicting the LGBTQ+ community in their campaigns and communications, especially outside of Pride month. Earlier this month, GLAAD and Procter & Gamble launched “The Visibility Project,” a new GLAAD program dedicated to growing the quality, quantity, and diversity of LGBTQ images in advertising. P&G and GLAAD also announced findings from a recent study of marketing and advertising executives in which nearly 81% of advertisers agreed that an “inauthentic execution of LGBTQ people would lead to a larger backlash than not including them at all” and nearly 80% of advertisers agreed that it is “difficult to adequately represent the LGBTQ community because the community is complicated and has many nuances.”

“The guidance we’ve created with Getty Images seeks to give brands and businesses of all sizes the confidence they need to depict the LGBTQ+ community in inclusive, authentic and thoughtful ways, without fear of backlash or fear of ‘getting it wrong’,” said Nick Adams, Director of Transgender Representation at GLAAD. “Instead of shying away from depictions or relying on stereotypes, we’ve created guidance on how to authentically represent the LGBTQ+ community in ways that will create lasting connections. Increasing representation of LGBTQ+ people in your communications demonstrates your intentional emphasis around diversity and makes a public commitment of your support for this community.”

“Furthermore, our research suggests that LGBTQ+ people in countries with less LGBTQ+ representation in the visuals that surround them, including media and advertising, actually report experiencing more anti-LGBTQ discrimination and bias — for example, in Germany, where representation is lower, discrimination is higher, as opposed to in the U.S. Which is to say that authentic imagery which accurately and positively captures the nuances of this diverse community is not only needed, but can have a positive impact globally,” Norman said.

In fact, two-thirds of U.S. Visual GPS respondents stated that it’s important to them that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds. “To create real change for LGBTQ+ representation, we need the advertising and media industry to act. Creatives and marketing professionals have the opportunity to not just encourage the creation of this kind of imagery, but also to choose to use it,” Norman said.

Launching today, the LGBTQ+ Guidebook for Inclusive Visual Storytelling gives brands and businesses practical recommendations for confidently making more inclusive visual choices when depicting the broader LGBTQ+ community. Created as part of an ongoing collaboration with GLAAD, this guidance follows the December 2020 release of the Getty Images and GLAAD Transgender Guidelines which were designed to support Getty Images and iStock photographers and videographers in their efforts to better represent the diversity of the transgender community, addressing terminology, clichés to avoid, and how to create a safe and welcoming set.

To browse a collection of images and videos curated with GLAAD and to view the LGBTQ+ Guidebook, head to www.gettyimages.com/lgbtqguide.

Image credit: Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

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