Culture Hack

More than just viewing parties: Can brands support queer spaces authentically?

It’s hard not to feel the dissonance of Ru Paul’s Drag Race being in its 15th season on MTV while at least 14 States are passing laws banning drag shows. Beyoncé’s queer-inspired Renaissance dominating the charts and awards circuits while Pride flags are being set alight in the heart of Soho. Queer and trans identities are increasingly mainstream and increasingly marginalized.

So with this increasing bifurcation, what does it mean for a brand to engage and support LGBTQ audiences in 2023?

For as much as LGBTQ inclusion in advertising can often be considered pinkwashing or a commercialization of Pride, seizing a moment instead of seizing opportunities to power a movement, it’s worth noting there are many parts of the world where it results in death threats and families having to flee their homes. Acknowledging the platform of advertising to show authentic, intersectional representations of LGBTQ audiences is certainly a start. 

But in a world where 1/3 of Gen Z see their online selves as their most authentic self-expression, community queerness and its spaces have never felt so important. Supporting them is one of the most authentic ways a brand can show up for consumers The LGBTQ rights movement began in a gay bar after all. 

In many neighborhoods and cities across the country, the gay bar may be the only public LGBTQ anything, and their number is in terminal decline across the United States, especially lesbian bars and bars serving queer people of color.

The ‘Drag Race effect’ has shown the power of these spaces in building community, invigorating local drag and the local bar scene through viewing parties. Without appropriating or exploiting queer culture for the sake of rainbow-washing, brands have an incredible opportunity to support and give back to these spaces that are quite literally under attack and make them a cultural focal point for the next generations.

Match tips… donate to prizes… amplify the people and their stories… center the spaces and their heritage. Stand for keeping these spaces quite literally safe and inclusive.

And with that, I hope to see you all for RPDR Season 15 at your friendly neighborhood queer bar…

-Ed Hunt