Thomas Roth, President of Community Marketing & Insights, speaking about the LGBT segment at the Multi Cultural Health Conference. Orientation about the LGBT market and research, best practices, case study about Johnson & Johnson’s successful LGBT campaign.
In this short but sweet interview, Paul Collanton, founder of the Gay Ambition blog, discusses past LGBT market trends and future perspectives with Community Marketing & Insights founder and President Thomas Roth and Senior Research Director David Paisley. The interview took place at the conclusion of CMI’s 14th Annual LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Conference, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Same-Sex Wedding Study:
Insights into the diversity of wedding planning and traditions
November 12, 2013
In the past year, the number of states with marriage equality has increased from 6 to 14, with Hawaii, Illinois and others soon to follow. And of course the June, 2013 United States Supreme Court decision gutted “DOMA” and established federal marriage recognition for same-sex couples. There is a great deal of marriage equality momentum, and all this wonderful news has a big impact on the LGBT community, the wedding industry and the travel industry.
To date, most of the research reported on same-sex marriage didn’t actually ask same-sex couples about their wedding experiences, both in the past and their plans in the future. Community Marketing & Insights and the Gay Wedding Institute partnered to talk to almost one thousand same-sex couples, both those already married and those now engaged. Combining the knowledge of an LGBT research organization with a wedding planning company, we produced this study to answer the burning questions about what really happens during the planning of a same-sex wedding. We asked about which traditions were followed (or not), where couples found their team of wedding vendors, the size of their wedding party, honeymoons, and much more.
This is the widest-reaching wedding study ever conducted of same-sex couples, and the results reflect the diversity of the LGBT community – from those who eloped at City Hall to those who had a more formal celebration.
What we learned is fascinating. By and large, same-sex couples are quite non-traditional in their wedding planning. Of course this should not surprise anyone. The LGBT community does not come from a tradition of marriage, which allows us to write our own rules for celebrations. Also, traditional gender roles of marriage planning are turned upside down when couples are of the same sex.
One thing we learned is that gay men and lesbians plan ceremonies very differently. In every category tested, female same-sex couples were more likely to participate in “wedding ceremony traditions” than male same-sex couples. For example 66% of women purchase engagement rings vs. 19% of men. Also, female same-sex couples are far more likely to follow wedding traditions such as having rehearsal dinners or first dances at the reception. And most interestingly, lesbians spend 15% more on their ceremonies than gay men. We also learned that female same-sex couples have more support from their parents–both emotional support and financial support.
Another thing we learned is that economic impact of same-sex weddings started slowly. Again, this is no surprise. When marriage equality was achieved state by state, there was a rush of same-sex couples to City Hall, leading to hastily planned weddings (which means less spending). But as marriage equality becomes more standard across the United States, same-couples will have more time to plan their weddings and receptions. When the study looked at economic impact, we found that those now engaged plan to spend far more on their weddings than same-sex couples had spent in the past. And most importantly, those who get legally married spent three times more than those who obtained a civil union or domestic partnership. 76% of couples receiving a civil union or domestic partnership did not have a traditional wedding with ceremony and reception. This may mean that states that do not offer legal marriage receive less of an economic impact. We see this today on the East Coast as couples from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are traveling to states such as New York or Massachusetts, or to Washington, DC to get married and receive federal recognition.
Same-sex couples hold their ceremonies in a wide variety of locations, especially restaurants, hotels and event function spaces, but no type of space dominates over others. The economic impact is quite widespread across the community.
However only 22% of same-sex couples used a religious leader as their officiant, and only 12% of same-sex marriages were held in religious spaces. This suggests that religious organizations could do a better job outreaching to same-sex couples who might not yet feel welcome (even though many denominations are very welcoming to same-sex couples).
The study results are fascinating for all, whether in the wedding or travel industries, or not. You can request a complimentary copy of the report at http://gaymarketresearch.com
7th Annual LGBT Community Survey® report on 30,000 LGBT citizens indicates similarities and differences among the L, the G, the B and the T.
Community Market & Insights (CMI) has released its 2013 LGBT Community Survey report. Over 30,000 people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities participated, representing more than 100 countries. More than 180 LGBT media, events and organizations worldwide partnered with CMI in this year’s study.
By attracting large numbers of respondents, CMI is able to look at the many segments within LGBT. Obviously the media consumption, purchasing patterns and motivations of a 25 year old single gay man living in New York City are completely different than those of a lesbian couple in their 60’s living in Sedona, Arizona. The study helps organizations understand how the LGBT community sometimes responds as one voice, or when demographic differences such as gender, age, and geographic residence are far more important.
A sample of key findings for LGBTs living in the United States
In our annual write-in brand recall section:
- Starbucks has moved to the number one position of brands perceived as most supportive of the LGBT community.
- JCPenney, Target, Apple and Amazon round out the top five.
- 75% of LGBTs are actively boycotting Chick-fil-A.
- The term “LGBT” has strengthened its lead as the preferred term to describe the community. “GLBT” is continuing to lose favor (even among gay men). Bisexual men and women and the transgender community strongly prefer the term LGBT.
- The LGBT community demonstrates strong support of the performing arts, with over 60% having purchased tickets in the past 12 months.
- Nearly half of all gay/bi men and lesbian/bi women surveyed make financial contributions to a charity or non-profit at least annually, while those in the transgender community are more likely (54%) than LGBs to perform volunteer work.
- Lesbian and bisexual women are far more likely (44%) to purchase spa services than gay and bisexual men (32%).
- Lesbians consume beer on similar levels as gay men, but are far less likely to drink spirits. 59% of gay men under age 30 have consumed a spirits drink in the past week. Community members identifying as transgender drink far less alcohol than those who identify as a gay man or lesbian. Canadian LGBTs drink more wine than USA LGBTs.
- Facebook is a dominant media force within the LGBT community. However, LGBT-specific websites are showing notable growth in LGBT readership.
- During the past week, 42% of lesbian/bi women “liked” a business on Facebook, 28% of gay/bi men “checked in” at a business to get deals or discounts and 17% of lesbian/bi women purchased a deal from Groupon, Living Social, etc.
- 56% of lesbians watched an NFL game on television in the past year, compared to 40% of gay men. Lesbians widely support the WNBA with 34% watching a game on television and 12% attending a game.
The first two reports derived from the 7th Annual LGBT Community Survey include a United States overview and a comparative study between United States and Canadian LGBT consumers. These and other reports are available for download at no cost at www.communitymarketinginc.com. CMI has been producing these studies to help support the work of LGBT community media and organizations for nearly two decades.
Obtain a free copy with this link.
LGBT Community Survey is a registered trademark of Community Marketing, Inc.
Civil Liberties Through Economic Empowerment
When I was offered the chance to speak here today in front of you about gay tourism, all I could think of was the major economic opportunities and trade benefits this idea could bring about for the LGBTQ community, thereby opening the gates to economic empowerment.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, today I would like to present my ideas on the topic; Civil Liberties Through Economic Empowerment. Through my talk today, I would like to present one idea as to how I think, and history stands as evidence, that major and long lasting social changes for any minority community can come mainly through economic empowerment.
The same idea gives me the belief that it is important to be financially independent and empowered for the LGBTQ community to fully materialize their goal of not just mainstreaming and tolerance, but heart felt acceptance and much desired and deserved respect. I think economic growth of and from the community will be one of the major ways we will be able to win our rightful position within our societies.
I would like to make my case based on the following two observations:-
- My own life; and
- Economic self-interest that manifests itself in trade can do wonders; it almost motivates the traders to look beyond, and sometimes even understand, the differences in each other’s accidental identities of religion, ethnicity, and language and in our case it would be sexuality.
So, I’ll start with my story first. Even though I am firm believer in democracy and freedom I am not going to be apologetic about the family and wealth I was born in. Born in a family like mine, we were never raised and educated to find jobs. We were just expected to look after our heritage property and maintain our farms and recently also fight the court cases we were born out of internecine feuds. The twist came in my life when I decided to come out as a homosexual individual, well that’s what I was called in the Media. Rajpipla na Rajkumar Samlaingik che, said one of the newspapers. When I came out in 2006, I in no time realized that I was India’s first openly gay royal. I have never regretted it, but now when I look back at the incidents I realize, I had no clue of the consequences. Suddenly what struck me after being dis-inherited publicly was that I had to get a job. But what job could I possibly do? I was already running my NGO, Lakshya Trust. But for those who know anything about running an NGO, they know it doesn’t give you money enough to go back to your princely ways of living. After a period of uncertainty and confusion I decided that I had to concentrate on what I had and start utilising the resources I was left with.
After a time, I was sure that I could get financially independent on my own so that gave me a lot of confidence. Belief in myself became my most valued and useful currency. When my parents realized that they can’t legally dis-inherit me from my ancestral wealth, freezing it for the time being was the second best option available to them. I don’t blame them; they were under pressure from the members of other and our own royal families. Since by now, I already had a financial plan for myself, the hurt caused by my family’s treatment of me was largely just emotional. I just felt unpleasant because I was being discriminated because of my sexual orientation. Yes, if I was dependent on my family fortunes then I would have had the other reason to worry. Even though my title has taken me to places So for me my economic empowerment actually helped me in my “coming out” process. Even though today my family issues, largely speaking, have been resolved and I have access to the ancestral wealth, I have decided to be on my own as far as my finances are concerned. I can utilize my wealth the way I want rather than being alleged by the royal house of mis-appropriation of their wealth.
I make my living as an organic farmer and live my life on my terms. 75% of my income goes to charity for funding my organisation, Lakshya Trust which works mainly for HIV prevention amongst the MSM and TG population and especially for gay rights and our empowerment. I always advice my gay friends who don’t want to succumb to marriage pressure that they should 1st become financially self-reliant. Most of us, who don’t want to get married to women, get pressurised since we live with our parents and depend on them for a living. We become victims of emotional blackmail from parents if we are in the joint family business. Even for attending today’s Symposium, I had to request the organisers to sponsor my trip and they have been kind enough to do so. Every penny earned by me is valued since I have put an effort for it and I would like to utilize it on charity for the gay population through Lakshya. I can fight for gay empowerment merely because I am economically empowered.
Second point I want to make today is this, we need to understand a very crucial aspect of economic growth, the one of social power which comes with and as a consequence of economic growth, makes people want to know more about you and understand you better. This wish and desire to understand each other’s motivations, intentions and frame of references in order to do business with each other is very crucial, and we are in dire need of it. It will help clarify some of the myths which come as a part and parcel of anything “new and alien.” This will increase our visibility. I always think if we are not visible whose rights are we fighting for.
Look around you the way humans engage in economic trade with each other. No matter how much money has been demonised, misunderstood and irrationally pursued, it still has the power to give people that required nudge to get over the bump of prejudice. People are more willing to set aside their differences which are caused due to their frame of references with which they view the world. Suddenly, the possible problems due to people’s accidental identities like religion, caste, sex or sexuality don’t matter so much.
So I conclude that efforts like these are of utmost importance to us as a community. I see gay tourism not only creating making a statement about the significance of our place in the mainstream society, but also creating safe spaces for the community members to be themselves and that too not only in places like Mumbai, but also in smaller cities like Udaipur, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Pune and the like.
Before I go, I just want to say that all of this would be possible only if we as individuals of the LGBTQ community have a belief in our abilities to deal with life, thereby exuding high self-esteem.
Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) has been assisting a variety of companies reach the LGBT communities for nearly 20 years. Through the years we have witnessed some incredible success stories. The common traits of these companies were a goal of building a relationship with the LGBT community first and taking a multi-year perspective.
Starting to outreach to the LGBT community? CMI offers practical advice on the first steps in developing an LGBT outreach program, diversity training and more. Please read and let us know how we can help your organization. Of course, every business and industry segment is different. The marketing needs of an insurance company are very different than those of a hotel chain. Some of these guidelines may apply more than others; it’s up to you to interpret these points for your own situation. It is also assumed that before you start marketing, your company’s “house is in order.” The very first step for any company is to assure their personnel policies are LGBT-friendly, diversity training is in place, and the commitment to serve the LGBT community exits on all levels from owners, to management and line staff. [See previous blog for some tips.]
- Slow Down and Start Planning: Some of the biggest mistakes we have seen stem from over-enthusiasm! It is fine to take as long as you need for research, training, planning and implementation. If this process takes many months, that is fine. Prematurely stepping into the LGBT market before you are ready will result in poor performance, and in some cases a negative first impression. Companies that jump in too fast often are discouraged, and leave the market for years.
- Tracking: Another early decision to make is the importance of tracking and ROI (Return on Investment). All companies say ROI is important, but few are developing effective tracking mechanisms for the LGBT community. Some companies are comfortable with just the perceived increase in LGBT customers. Others require complicated tracking mechanisms. Determine how you will gauge and evaluate your success before you start, and gear your marketing efforts to reaching those numbers. Your marketing plan must lead to what your company will recognize as success.
- Community Involvement: One of the most common mistakes made by a company entering the LGBT market is placing a couple of full-page ads in a gay newspaper or magazine, and then wondering why the “phones don’t ring.” During the first year, advertising should be secondary to community involvement. Get out there. Sponsor and/or attend community events, talk to people, and understand the community and their response to your company before starting your advertising campaign. Some of the most successful companies in the LGBT market are those that develop a community partnership approach first – and traditional advertising second. Also, the benefits of sponsoring certain events and organizations can prove to be very effective “advertising” choices.
- Determine Who is Your Customer: Unless you have a massive budget, or your product has very broad appeal, stop thinking in terms of marketing to the entire LGBT community. Instead, decide which “segments” of the many LGBT communities are right for your product or service. That segment might be geographical, lifestyle, gender, age, relationship status or more, all within LGBT. Few companies have the resources to market to the broad community, so targeting your efforts will produce a better ROI.
- Your Website is Very Important: The LGBT community is very connected to the Internet. Care needs to be taken with how your company presents itself on the Internet. What message are you portraying, if you create a dedicated gay and lesbian display ad, which then directs customers to an “overtly heterosexual” website (or Facebook page, etc.)? Or maybe you present a “weak” gay microsite compared to your mainstream site. Display ads may generate interest in your service or product, but your website needs to complete the deal. Developing a dedicated, positive presence on the Internet should be your first marketing priority.
- Get Listed: Once your Internet site is acceptable, get listed. One of the most cost-effective advertising strategies is to be listed on all the sites where gays and lesbians are likely to research their travel. Many of these listing sites are free or very low cost. Similarly, get connected via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to drive awareness.
- Think Like Your Customer: After you determine who and where your most-likely LGBT customers are, start thinking like your customer. Which Internet sites do they frequent? What print media do they read? Which community organizations are important to them? The LGBT media is becoming increasingly stratified. This is a positive for marketers, because we can create far more custom messages in well-matched media. Save money by advertising where your LGBT customer is most ready to receive your message.
- Fulfill the Promise: One of the biggest mistakes that marketers can make is being over-optimistic on projections. Start slow, and be realistic in the number of anticipated sales. Establish and communicate realistic expectations, and build every year.
- Media Buys: Purchasing LGBT media can be complicated. There are hundreds of national, regional and activity-based/special interest print and Internet media. There are a few large-circulation magazines, but most of the print publications are small circulation and off the radar of most traditional ad agencies. For many, developing an LGBT media plan can feel overwhelming. Community Marketing, Inc. evaluates media on a number of levels. For example, for print publications, we are looking at the number of magazines published as well as their distribution method. Is it mailed to paid subscribers, handed out free in the neighborhoods, or is the distribution plan undefined? We are looking at the cost per impression, the quality of the distribution and the match between readership and advertiser. When you start to look at these criteria and build a spreadsheet of probable media effectiveness, you will find that the true cost per quality impression varies widely in the LGBT media. Also, subscribe to LGBT print magazines and regularly visit LGBT websites. Pay attention to the messages, ads and images that grab your attention. Continually monitor your competition.
- Barter: Most companies have a product that is highly desirable to the LGBT media and non-profits. Barter is a great way to extend your budget. But don’t expect to be able to barter your entire media plan. Media companies need to pay the rent and salaries too. Part cash / part barter offers often work for everyone.
- Breaking Even the First Year is Success: Say your company budgets $10,000 for the LGBT market for year one. And at the end of the year, if you can show $10,000 in net profit from your initiatives, you have been successful. No market can be won in day or a year. The first year is about breaking even, learning, and growing the business in the years to come. Companies that enter the LGBT market expecting short-term profit are almost always disappointed.
- Empower: Let your LGBT employees and customers become your ambassadors. Often your LGBT employees, even those without marketing backgrounds, can be your best sales people. They are proud of their company’s support for the community and want to tell the world. Train them on the marketing talking points, and let them spread the all-important word of mouth. Same with your LGBT customers. Get involved, for example by letting them know you would consider making a donation to an organization that is important to them. You might consider giving incentives to your best customers for referrals to other LGBT customers.
Marketing to the gay and lesbian community can feel overwhelming at first. Sometimes it helps for your company or agency to get some short-term or long-term advice. Advice can come from outside consulting groups, your own employees, and from gay and lesbian consumers themselves through focus group and survey research.
Community Marketing’s clients often tell us that their involvement in the gay and lesbian community has been a lot of fun. Many tell us the lessons learned from being involved in the LGBT market have been invaluable to expanding other markets.
The final piece of advice is to have fun with the LGBT market. If you are not having fun, what’s the point?
For more information about Community Marketing’s Media Management, Sales and Consulting Services, contact David Paisley at 415/437-3800
Every company should develop a Diversity Training Program for employees. Training should occur as part of the employee’s orientation, and follow-up training should occur throughout employment. In addition, more specific training should be provided for employees most likely to interact with customers, such as cashiers, front desk staff, telephone receptionists, etc.
Many CMI clients ask us if they need to create an LGBT diversity training program that is separate from their other diversity trainings. Our perspective is that in most cases, it is more effective to incorporate LGBT concerns into your overall diversity approach. The goal of diversity training should never be to single out any one group or individual because of their differences. The goal ought to be creating an atmosphere where all employees and customers are treated with dignity and respect.
To develop an inclusive corporate culture means looking at the big picture. The training should address ethnic, religious, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious and other differences. In addition, topics such as geographical and personal appearance differences should be addressed. Also in this world of potential liability, local, state and federal laws need to be reviewed. When LGBT sensitivity training exists in a vacuum, separate from the broader concerns, employees will rightfully ask why one group is being treated differently than others. That is not to say specific LGBT sessions cannot exist, but it needs to exist in a context of inclusiveness.
Another common question is “Should we hire a consultant?” Perhaps yes, if to give you advice and perspective, but we feel it is much more powerful when the HR manager or other management is capable and confident to speak about these concerns. It shows true commitment from upper management to diversity.
For some companies, this may seem overwhelming. Remember that every diversity program needs to start somewhere. If you do not already have a program in place, start small and build as you gain more experience. The overall message is that all customers should be made to feel welcome. Period! If you are starting from scratch, this overview will give you a practical place to develop an employee training program.
A Few Terms
LGBT refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Sometimes you might see LGBTQQ (adding queer and questioning). Remember that the LGBT community is made up of many sub-segments, just like every other group of people. The practical needs of a single gay man may be very different than a lesbian couple, or a queer 22 year old, or a transgender woman. Again, the goal is to make all customers feel welcome.
Personnel Policies – Getting Your House in Order
For a company to effectively outreach to the gay and lesbian community, it must first make sure that their own house is in order. This includes LGBT non-discrimination policies in hiring, domestic partner benefit equality, diversity training for staff, appropriate resource information available for gay and lesbian customers (as applicable) and an overall welcoming atmosphere. Many small companies may not take the time to publish their personnel policies. We suggest that even small companies develop a manual with information and policies about employment. It helps protect everyone.
The Case for LGBT Outreach
Many employees may wonder why your company is outreaching to the LGBT market. In some cases, employees may have strong religious or cultural beliefs that initially make it difficult for them to understand or support your outreach intentions. Or alternatively, a common question might be, “Why are we outreaching to the LGBT market and not the women’s market, religious market, Latino market or many others?” This is a fair question.
First, we must separate outreach plans from diversity plans. If a company outreaches to the gay market or not, it is important that the company has diversity training in place that is inclusive of LGBT issues.
The reality is that between 5 to 7% of the population identifies as gay or lesbian. In North America alone, that’s around 25 million people. Already, the company is serving gay and lesbian customers, even without an outreach effort. All customers must be treated equally, so LGBT diversity must be included in your employee orientations.
Outreach plans are different. They are based on business interests. Most companies have multiple segmented outreach plans. LGBT may be one of them, but others should exist based on the specific company, and their likely customers. Outreach plans could involve a geographic location, it could include pet-owners, African Americans, religious groups, women, sports fans or other appropriately targeted population segments. A company must choose which segments that make the most sense for their product.
The case for outreaching to the LGBT market will be different for every company. For many, it is because it is a community that contains a high number of DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids) and this company attracts both gay and straight DINKS, or perhaps studies have shown that your geographic region has a high proportion of LGBT residents or visitors. It just depends. If your company is developing an LGBT outreach plan, it is important that you communicate this to your employees. All employees must understand that professional actions and personal beliefs are separate. In this company, all people are to be treated with respect. A customer’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not change that basic rule.
Some employees might ask why the company is not targeting another segment. Often this question is based on their own personal interests. The answer may well be that you already are targeting this group. Or the answer might be “that is another great idea, can you stop by my office and lets explore that idea together.” Empowering employees to outreach to their peers is always cost-effective marketing.
Gay-Friendly Space and Gay-Safe Space
When providing LGBT diversity information, Community Marketing’s research shows this is one of the most important parts of the diversity message. The reality is that most gays and lesbians have experienced verbal, emotional or physical assault because of their sexual orientation at various times in their life. This may have occurred in schools, family, at work, on city streets and/or from their governments. Your company should be viewed as a place that a person does not need to worry about discrimination (or even verbal or physical assault) from staff or customers.
How would your company respond to a staff person making a racially charged comment? The same employee discipline should be expected for inappropriate gay jokes or slurs. Many staff live in environments where “verbal gay bashing” is an acceptable norm. Sometimes this slips out in inappropriate ways. Since gay jokes are “acceptable” in some crowds, two employees might tell a joke or make a comment overheard by a gay customer or employee. Gay people hear these disparaging jokes all the time in their day-to-day life. This behavior can never be tolerated in the work environment and this must be communicated to staff upon orientation. But this statement does not live in vacuum. Racial jokes are never acceptable, jokes about a person’s weight or age are never acceptable. The diversity message is always delivered in the larger context.
Of course, you cannot control the behavior of every customer. If a customer is acting abusive to another customer, regardless of the reason, refer to your protocol in dealing with these situations. If a customer is being abusive simply because of another customer’s sexual or gender orientation, this should be considered unacceptable. Follow your protocols for unruly customers. They are probably problem customers on many fronts.
Be careful of your language. Employees can use “gay-offending” language without even knowing it. However, for the most part gays and lesbians will overlook “language errors” as long as the employee’s attitude and tone are welcoming. In general, terms like gay, lesbian, partners, sexual orientation and LGBT are preferred. Conversely, words such as lifestyle, sexual choice, and sexual preference could get you in trouble. For example, science clearly has demonstrated that a person’s sexual orientation is not a “choice.” The term “sexual preference” is often used by anti-gay groups for political gain. If two men present themselves as “domestic partners”, don’t call the other person a “friend”, use the term “partner.” Sensitivity training should cover these language subtleties.
Of course, in a professional setting, slang words like queer, fag, sister, homo, etc. are not acceptable when interacting with a customer. Sometimes these words can be used socially within the LGBT community itself. All employees must use the same protocols on language for all customers – gay or straight.
Gay-Friendly Means Following Your Policies and Procedures
Don’t let closed-minded customers pull your staff down the “I don’t want my children to see this,” scenario. Anti-gay groups use children to charge anti-gay issues, and gays (and most progressive people) do not see a problem with children observing same-gender couples showing basic affection. Also, more and more gays and lesbians are raising children. This makes some people angry and they are offended by seeing same sex couples care for children. For staff to get involved in these discussions about children (unless there is a policy around children that relates to this situation), they will only make everyone upset.
Conclusion: Diversity Training and the LGBT Community
For some companies, diversity training can be a multi-day affair, for others it is a 30-minute orientation segment. Some hire outside consultants, others have inside staff with more specific training or experience. Of course, the more diversity training the better. More realistically, different staff positions have different diversity training needs. All of the above information should be covered in training and every employee should know the diversity policies of the company.
For yet more information and suggestions, we suggest you become involved with Out & Equal, an organization that deals with LGBT in the workplace issues, at www.outandequal.org. Also refer to the Society for Human Resources Management at www.shrm.org.
“This is the future of the gay and lesbian movement. This has heat!” said George Bakan, the editor-in-chief of the Seattle Gay News. He was referring to a six-week forum, my first fledgling effort at organizing community events. I was more than a little surprised. After all, in the late 90’s, we were only seeing tepid efforts at including the T (transgender people) within gay and lesbian community. Why would the editor of one of the oldest gay publications in the U.S. say this?
The foundation of gay and lesbian communities is one based on sexuality and understandably so. Gay and lesbian are terms identifying a certain kind of sexual orientation. While we recognize that there are different types of lesbians – lipstick, androgynous, butch, femme, professional, softball – and types of gay men – bears, jocks, twinks, circuit, drag queens – we have not spent a lot of time looking at these differences within the context of gender. Simply put, these varying types of gays and lesbians are actually exhibiting different manifestations of gender expression. Previously, there was no need to look outside of the sexuality framework as long as we collectively agreed that lesbians and gays were either all women OR all men.
Then along came those pesky transgender people and the introduction of the concept of gender identity. A person’s gender identity is that individual’s personal sense of being either male, female, both, or neither and does not necessarily align with their biological sex. A transgender person must first find/claim/name their gender identity to then define their sexual orientation. While a transgender person may have an extensive journey to adequately align their outward gender presentation with their internal gender identity, when it comes to their sexual orientation they may ultimately arrive at the same sexual orientation labels as anyone else: lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual. Regardless of gender identity, transgender people still face the same obstacles and discrimination faced by others who also identify as bisexual, lesbian, or gay.
The inclusion of transgender people within gay and lesbian communities (actually the acknowledgement of trans people since they’ve always been there) has generated a lot of resistance due to the fact that it changes the boundaries of both the lesbian and gay worlds. Previously, to define LGB community, we’ve started with an unspoken agreement that there are only men and only women in the world, and never the twain shall meet. Many people within queer community (never mind those outside it) can have trouble differentiating between a person’s gender identity (their innate sense of themselves as either male, female, both or neither) and their sexual orientation (those whom with they form intimate relationships).
Young queer people are moving away from using only sexual orientation labels to describe themselves. Instead they use language like gender fluid or genderqueer to define themselves and also their sexual orientation. Don’t box me in! is the resounding mantra from the younger generations who’ve grown up with greater acceptance surrounding diverse forms of expression and sexualities.
Twelve years ago during that community forum, those of us joining in the discussion surrounding gender identity and our own personal journeys also found that there were other aspects of our identity that factored into our explorations in a profound way. A gender transition did not mean a switch in pronouns alone. It also meant a change in relationship to our race, to our economic class, and even to our age with some people transitioning to a place of greater privilege while others finding increased discrimination. We were inspired to challenge our own assumptions and biases and found a greater kinship with other minority communities even as our own marginalization seemed to increase.
Identifying as a sexual minority (LGB) is often challenging but adding the complexity of a gender transition, whether or not we are a person of color, over 40 or under 21, or part of the working poor can sideline us more even within the already marginalized LGB communities.
Altruism aside, why on earth would anyone spend advertising dollars in an effort to reach transgender populations? Why reach out to one of the smallest and least understood communities?
Let’s consider these things:
- As a culture, we are fascinated with the idea of being magically transported out of our own lives and into the life of someone else of a different age, gender, race or class. From Shakespeare to Disney, there are countless examples of stories where the protagonist changes places with another and the adventures that ensue.
- Ultimately, we can all recognize the limitations placed on us by societal restrictions in relation to our gender, class, race and age and we can and want to imagine a life without those restrictions.
- Because popular culture always looks to fringe communities for new fashion, a different sound, fresh artistic expression, and innovative ideas as a way to gain freedom from such restrictions.
Easing restrictions and allowing more personal freedom is universally appealing. Gender equity for many decades, has been framed in the context of women seeking equality with their male counterparts. Now gender equity is about authenticity and individuality. In an unexpected way, transgender people offer the rest of society the chance to push at the gendered boundaries of their own lives. In a surprising, albeit controversial way, this allows all of us the freedom to pursue the American Dream and a better, richer and fuller life.
There has been recent scuttlebutt over the J Crew mailer ad in which J Crew creative director, Jenna Lyons, delights with son Beckett in his recently painted pink toenails. Some readers were horrified, viewing it as a gender transgression of great magnitude. Fox News pointed to the transgender community. The pink toenail polish on a boy’s toes was nothing short of a big tear in the moral fabric of society. Other responses included Jon Stewart of the Daily Show who threw back “Toemaggedon,” a mocking response to the hysteria about nail polish. This is an example in which a small push against gendered boundaries resulted in an uproar. The discussion on the internet went viral. What advertiser wouldn’t welcome that kind of response?
What was once a begrudging addition to the LGB acronym now represents a reshaping and redefining of not only “queer” community but in how the U.S redefines what is masculine and feminine. Twelve years later, I feel I know exactly what George at the Seattle Gay News was talking about and, indeed, it’s got heat!
Aidan Key, Founder
Commenting on CMI’s 5th Annual LGBT Community Survey:
The findings of the report were very interesting, both in terms of confirming what we know about the lesbian demographic and illuminating the changing aspects of this demographic. For example, it came as no surprise that a significant amount of respondents have a graduate or professional degree, or that a majority of respondents live with a partner or spouse—lesbians are relationship builders and couples create stable and powerful households; it is this lesbian family unit which tends to inform their consumer choices. With the recent New York State marriage legislation, and surely other states to follow, this figure and trend is likely to grow and strengthen.
What did seem to be new data was the results which indicated that the majority and concentration of lesbians occurred in urban and suburban areas, rather than in rural areas. While there has been a negative stereotype of lesbians as social “fringe dwellers” and seekers of separatist or alternative lifestyles, this is only marginally true. Increasingly it seems that lesbians are involved in mainstream lifestyles and pursuits, and not very dissimilar to the majority demographic of which they are part: women. What is interesting is that while lesbians exist as part of mainstream society, they still tend to be attuned to political matters, and their consumer choices are almost always politically informed. This fact makes them a highly selective and loyal consumer group.
A significant amount of survey respondents are attuned to companies’ employment policies, donations to charities, involvement with political causes, and advertising in LGBT media—with a clear majority boycotting a brand or company displaying anti-gay policies.
While lesbians characteristically exhibit a high spend on items such as automobiles, major vacations and technology, the choices surrounding even “disposable income” purchases are likely to reflect political and ideological matters.
Perhaps most crucially in terms of today’s trends, lesbians choose social media as the dominant news source and outlet for social networking, entertainment, and activism. This is to say that their understanding and support of community, their airing of opinions and sentiment, and their critique or recommendation of trends are disseminated rapidly through social media, as lesbians tend to be early and frequent adopters of mobile technology and its tools.
Nevertheless, a significant quantity of survey respondents respect and consult traditional media so that they may make informed choices: LGBT magazines and websites are where lesbians most often interact with advertisers and advertorial.
The survey findings indicate that the lesbian community, from a marketing perspective, is a very stable, lucrative, loyal, and informed market segment.
Merryn Johns, Editor-in-chief
Commenting on CMI’s 5th Annual LGBT Community Survey:
The Latino LGBT community is the second largest sub-group within the larger LGBT community. It is a diverse population, and its uniqueness is important to understand within the context of the survey. The findings of the report confirmed much of what we know about the Latino LGBT demographic, while highlighting its changing aspects. For example, it came as no surprise that a majority of respondents live in some type of “family unit,” either with a partner or boyfriend/girlfriend, parent or siblings or with unrelated friends or roommates. Only 26% reported living alone. In general, Latinos tend to be relationship and family oriented. A family unit in the Latino community may be comprised of an individual and a partner or boyfriend/girlfriend, the immediate or extended family, or in other instances, a family network of close friends. The point here is “family units.” When marketing to the Latino community, it is important to keep this dynamic in mind, because all these situations tend to inform their consumer choices. When entities market to the LGBT Latino community, they tend to reach a larger segment of the population and perhaps, some in the larger Latino community as well.
It was not surprising that the majority of respondents reside in urban areas or big cities, followed by medium sized cities and then suburbs. Latino gay men, transgender persons and lesbians including those who are recent immigrants, typically elect to live in the larger urban areas where opportunities for advancement exists in employment and in their careers. Further, it is likely that large numbers of the respondents were actually born in these urban areas. As of 2007, Latinos became the largest ethnic minority in the United States, surpassing African Americans. We believe that proportionately, LGBT Latinos are also the second largest demographic in the LGBT community. Looking at the zip codes of residence selected, these are quite spread out, with large reports from California and Texas. As a population, just about half (50%) of Latinos reside in either California or Texas, and we believe a disproportionate higher number of Latino gay men and lesbians also reside in these two states. We surmise this because of the tendency of the Latino gay and lesbian community to reside in areas which are welcoming of its way of life, and where significant infrastructure exists within the Latino LGBT community, i.e., organizations, clubs, social groups which tailor services to this community. Tailoring services means delivering programming within a Latino context, including a bi-lingual and bi-cultural approach to reaching them.
The Latino LGBT communities’ purchasing trends are in line with the larger Latino community. As the economy strengthens, they seek to make large purchases in the form of a home or automobile. As they tend to live in family units, home purchase opportunities are favorable. Additionally, they trend towards the use of the smartphones, and Latinos continue to align with the larger LGBT community in their migration towards use of network devices. It should be noted that about 25% still do not use a smartphone, and this may pose a marketing opportunity. Latinos are brand loyal, and those entities that capture this market early will tend to keep these LGBT Latino customers for the long-term.
A majority of Latino survey respondents said that they would tend to purchase brands based on a company’s support of LGBT causes, employment policies and donations to charities. Latinos tend to support corporations and businesses which specifically reach out to them, i.e., support the causes they are involved with or close to. A majority boycotted a brand or company displaying anti-gay policies within the last 12 months.
It was not surprising that use of the term “Queer” was viewed negatively to describe the community. Although perhaps accepted and used more in other LGBT communities, for Latinos the term Queer is viewed as derogatory among many. We do suspect that the younger Latino gay community, especially those who are second and third generation LGBT Latinos would view the term in a less derogatory manner. The use of LGBT and GLBT to describe the community ranked as the primary choice of how the Latino gay and lesbian community wishes to be referred to.
Latinos are using social media as a news source, and as an outlet for social networking and entertainment. These are seen as a way they connect with one another, access news, voice opinions and sentiments, and critique or recommend trends. Applications such as Facebook are especially helpful in communications with family and friends in other countries or “back home.” Latino LGBT persons are using social media to disseminate and receive information and are turning out to be early adopters of mobile technology and its tools.
Still, a significant number of survey respondents use and get information from traditional media as well as LGBT magazines and websites. As a general rule, these specific LGBT Latino friendly venues are where Latinos most often interact with advertisers and read specific LGBT programming editorial in a bilingual/bicultural manner.
Al Ballesteros & Pepe Torres, Publishers
Commenting on CMI’s 5th Annual LGBT Community Survey:
There are a few areas of the data which were particularly interesting as it relates to general perceived presumptions of members of the Black/African Descent LGBT communities as well as the purchasing and marketing.
Question number 5 asks, “What type of environment best describes the place in which you live?” It’s interesting to note that overwhelmingly 82.9% of the respondents live in “city” environments. The response here may have correlation with a general perception of greater opportunity, less discrimination and more protections offered in “city” environment versus suburban and/or small town environments. If this assumption is true, marketing to Black/African Descent LGBT communities would need to focus efforts in these environments and embrace the cultures and social norms associated with “city” living.
- Question number 6 asks, “What are the relationships of the people with whom you live?” While 33.6% (242) of the respondents report living alone, 66.4% (480) report living in households with family related characteristics such as marriage, legal partnerships, children and family members. This perspective can be an important tool with respect to understanding the types of consumer products this community may or may not be interested in, and further what marketing designs may be used to reach this community with consumer products.
- Question number 53 directs respondents to, “Please let us know about your purchases over the past year, and planned purchases over the coming year.” Of the responses for this section, a grouping of “communication” related devices (i.e. Desktop Computer, Laptop Computer, Tablet Computer and Smartphones) received the highest response with respect to purchases. This is worth noting, as such technological products have historically not been viewed in general perceptions as important to Black/African Descent communities. In this way, we might begin to understand an emerging trend of technological uses/reliance for these communities with respect to communication and information consumption.
- Question number 21 asks, “How did you first learn about the most recent boycott in which you participated?” Follow up question 22 asks, “How did you pass along the boycott information to others?” The responses garnered by these questions again point to the importance technology plays in the receipt of information and participation in the intersection of social causes and civic responsibility. A clear majority, 24.8% (77) and 53.5% (166) respectively, identified social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. used to participate in social causes and civic responsibility. An assumption here could be made that consumer marketing through these types of social media venues could be effective in reaching Black/African Descent LGBT communities.
- Question number 23 states, “The following terms and images are often used in corporate marketing to describe or refer to the community,” and asks respondents to “Please rate how you feel about each, when you see them used by corporations.” While there has an emerging trend among members across LGBT communities as well as those who are politically active to self-identity with the term Queer, a large proportion, 30.6% (204), of LGBT Black/African Descent respondents view the term negatively. Conversely, most 71% (489) of these respondents view the term LGBT positively when used by corporations marketing product to them. Future research could explore a perspective of other specific targeting such as race alone, or race plus sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Question number 25 asks, “What type of smart phone OS (operating system) is on your personal smart phone?” While 31.7% (229) don’t own a personal smart phone, a clear majority 68.3% (493) do own some type of smart phone device. This response further corresponds with the high number of “communications related” purchases as explored earlier. Again, this notion possibly recognizes the important role such devices can play in reaching this population with consumer marketing campaigns.
- Question number 26 asks, “In the past week, have you used a personal smartphone for any of the following activities?” While most, 85.7% (419), use smartphones for personal communication, when grouping the responses into consumer related uses (i.e. Finding information on local businesses, Manage Banking, Make Purchases) there is an understanding that the Black/African descent LGBT respondents favor the use of Smartphones for consumer-related involvement. As in previous observation, this understanding could possibly lend itself towards increased marketing opportunity through smartphone uses and purchases.
- Question number 32 explores, “When you learn about a news story or event that is relevant to you, how do you typically find out about it?” While there is diversity in the way this community learns about news stories–i.e. Facebook = 51.9% (374); LGBT Press or Website = 45.7% (329); or Search = 32.2% (221)–there is still a reliance on Mainstream Press or Websites to access news stories. While there is a trend towards new technological gadgets and venues, Black/African Descent LGBT communities still find utility in traditional methods of gaining news. This interest could be significant for corporations looking for venues to reach this population.
- Question number 33 explores a related question to number 32, “In the past week, have you read, viewed, or listened to…” The Black/African Descent respondents noted Network/cable television, 57.7% (413), as the leading media they have turned to in the past week for news and information.
With respect to question number 34, “Is there a local LGBT Community Center in your area?” 68.2% or 460 respondents know of the existence of a LGBT community center in their area. However, the lack of participation, financial involvement and advertisement recognition are also high. This may expressed a possible barrier for corporations which adhere to generally accepted marketing techniques that categorize and/or tie consumers to geographic/organizational bases frequented as a means of reaching them.
Lastly, with respect to the demographic footprint for the Black/African Descent LGBT respondents, it is interesting to note the high level of…
- Educational attainment (Some college/34.9%/251, Bachelor’s degree/29.5%/213, Graduate or professional degree/22.0%/159, Doctorate/2.4%/17)
- Income thresholds ($25,000 to under $50,000/23.5%/168, $50,000 to under $75,000/19.0%/136, $75,000 to under $100,000/10.9%/78, $100,000 to under $150,000/8.8%/63, $150,000 to under $250,000/4.6%/33, $250,000 or more/2.4%/17)
- Employment (Employed full-time/53.2%/382, Employed part time/14.3%/103).
These three areas together are important components of financial stability and purchasing measurements used by corporate marketing campaigns to reach consumer populations. In this way, an assumption could be made that signals an economically desirable relationship with Black/African Descent LGBT respondents.
Earl Fawlkes, President/CEO
International Federation of Black Prides