“Where’s my Daddy?”
Not the question we were expecting our 2-year-old to ask, just a week into starting nursery. After considering our previously agreed response of, “You don’t have a Daddy, you have a Donor” we agreed to just go with, “You have 2 Mummies”. The whole donor chat seemed a little advanced ahead of mastering phonics.
What followed was a realisation that as much as we could prepare our daughter for the real world and its questions, the world was not best equipped to support her.
Familiar classics in the book corner do not depict any other family set ups. Animal families are often referred to as Mummy Horsey, Daddy Horsey, and Baby Horsey. And then, of course, there’s the mainstream children’s shows that breach all sorts of stereotypes.
All of this feeds into what society considers to be normal. And when you’re tiny, this is expressed in unfiltered playground questions.
A lot for any child to digest in their first week at nursery.
Now you could say our experience is reflective of our environment. Or you could put it on the Montessori for not being inclusive. Both of which have their part to play. However, for us it begs a bigger question—
How can we hope to normalise same-sex families when the conversation is so one-sided?
In 2015, there were 152,000 same-sex couple families living in the UK, and in 2019 there were 232,000, an increase of 53.2 percent.
Sophie Sanders from the Office of National Statistics told the BBC that the huge increase in same-sex who reported living together as a family was partly due to legislation, such as equal marriage, but also down to people feeling more comfortable disclosing that they are part of a same-sex family.
That’s a lot of playground-questioning.
Other than requesting more inclusive literature that introduces all iterations of the modern family set-up and arming teachers with the preferred response when asked, we in the advertising and media industry can do a lot more to normalise same-sex families.
Our LGBTQ+ community doesn’t need an additional or exceptional storyline to be authentic. We are just getting on with life
Let’s start with the fact that we as LGBTQ+ people are nothing special
That’s right. We are just regular people who have babies, drive cars, wear perfume, work out, drink whisky, go on holiday, wear fast fashion, buy furniture, and do DIY.
Like I said, nothing special.
So why, when we are, if we are, portrayed in advertising are we made to stand out? To be alternative? Or worse still, stereotyped?
Normal isn’t special. Normal doesn’t stand out. Or make a statement. Or be considered brave.
Normal isn’t questioned.
Our LGBTQ+ community doesn’t need an additional or exceptional storyline to be authentic. We are just getting on with life.
Like Netflix’s recent Heartstopper, an authentic portrayal of teenage love that managed to strike the right balance between two boys’ first love and all the hormones that come with it, without shying away from the challenges still faced by our community. A simple storyline that was allowed to play out without too much drama.
Finally, authentic representation is right there in the mainstream for all to see. And clearly, they did see as it was trending at No.1 most watched and received a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, together with write-ups in The Guardian, et al. Heart-stopping in itself.
So, how can we in the industry play our part in shaping the conversation?
Collaborate with our community to ensure our portrayal is authentic. Whether that be at the brief stage with strategy, at the conception stage with creative, or at the production stage with directors, producers, and casting agents.
Consider whether your brand is best placed to be depicting LGBTQ+ lives in the first place. Rationale, relevancy, and authenticity should all be considered. You don’t want to be going all-out to be genuine unless your brand also walks the walk.
If you’re part of our wonderful LGBTQ+ community, use your voice to challenge campaigns that do not depict us authentically. YOU are the ones best placed to do this, after all.
And finally, remember there’s nothing special about being normal.
If you get it right, it means that we’re another step closer to Mama Horsey, Mummy Horsey, and Baby Horsey*, and just maybe a few less questions in the playground.
*Other families available on request.
Original here: Creative Brief