June is well underway with rainbow-everything lining streets and businesses. The images of LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities are plentiful during Pride month, but what about the rest of the year?
In an exclusive interview with Getty Images Manager of Creative Insights and Planning Tristen Norman and Gallery Curator Shawn Waldron, we learned about how LGBTQIA+ searches have changed in recent years.
According to Getty Images trend data for the full year of 2018 in comparison with 2017, the term “transgender” is up 73% and “trans” is up 236%. Tristen Norman states:
“This indicates that the public and industry is beginning to expand its understanding of the many aspects of the community beyond just cis gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual men and women.”
We’ve used the original LGBT (and sometimes GLBT) acronym in the past to summarize a diverse community of non-heteronormative persons. Despite toting representation of the four categories, the national conversation has largely excluded the T for transgender when fighting for LGBT rights.
The movement often prioritized cis gay men and women, who are also usually white. Recent awareness of the origins of Pride and the liberation movement at large contradict the stereotypical negative and positive representations of the LGBTQIA+ struggle.
Getty Images’ data highlighted the sustained interest in gender identity which saw a spike in searches relating to gender.
According to the analysis, “transgender” continues to be the number one search of all LGTBQ+ searches and more new search terms are continuing to spike as well including the shorthand “trans,” along with “nonbinary,” “transgender woman,” “transgender man,” “gender fluid,” and “androgynous.”
Another interesting indication, there’s an awareness that the gender binary is something to be challenged for young people as well with the spikes in terms such as “transgender teen,” “transgender child,” and “transgender student.”
The History of the’ T’ in LGBTQIA+
This recent consciousness focus on trans issues at large has been a long time coming. Shawn Waldron shared an important Getty Images photograph depicting STAR, the Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries at Gay Pride Day March 1973.
STAR sought to address the harassment that drag-queens and trans people suffered at the hands of police and their marginalization by the larger Gay Liberation movement.
“Two of New York’s best-known drag queens of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson, founded the Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. The women, regulars at the Stonewall Inn and present when the riots began on June 28, founded the organization as a place of refuge for gay people living on the street but quickly expanded their mission to include fighting for equality and rights for trans people both within the gay liberation movement and society at large…”
“In the explosion of activism following Stonewall, trans people, especially homeless and POC, were quickly marginalized by the mainly white gay and lesbian groups who felt they were a liability.”
Waldron explained that later at the 1973 Street Liberation Day Parade (the Pride Parade’s official name at the time), “Rivera grabbed the mic from Jean O’Leary of the Lesbian Feminist Liberation to voice her frustration with the treatment she and other drag queens had received from supposed comrades and friends. The audience responded negatively and booed Rivera off the stage.”
Despite the important role that trans women of color played in the founding of the modern-day LGBTQIA+ movement, they have “only recently been allowed to assimilate into the broader mainstream movement.”
The Missing Images
These images are essential to the story of LGBTQIA+ liberation.
This is why Waldron feels that the missing archival coverage of subjects such as “Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Brenda Howard, Fred Sargent, and many others that were on the front lines of Stonewall and also at the forefront of the community in the years that followed,” must be recovered.
Waldron also lists the Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN), Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations (ECHO), Daughters of Bilitis, the short-lived Gay Liberation Front” as being essential to the cause and also missing from the archival coverage.
“The selection presents a visual story about events that preceded the uprising, the celebratory events that followed, the politicization of the movement, and the changes that followed.”
Waldron also expressed that representation of the LGBTQIA+ community has changed for the better in comparison to the images from decades past. “Though stereotypical views—rainbow flags, hot pants, and drag—still exist as a visual shorthand, the breadth of representation has expanded nearly to the point of banality, which in this case is a positive.”
The Images of Today
This banality is apparent in recent ads. But Norman gave us a brief history of LGBTQ+ ads. Citing Ikea as the first company to feature a gay couple in 1994, Tristan Norman highlighted the slow progress following the ad.
“The rare LGBTQ+ ads had a bit of a heteronormative, “normalizing bent” to them featuring primarily cis gay couples, mostly white and mostly male and often with very traditional gender presentations alongside an even smaller group of cis lesbian couples with often one-dimensional appearances. Of the few ads not featuring couples, those ads were often designed to “titillate” with hypersexualized or very suggestive posing, stripping the LGBTQ+ models of any true storytelling and humanity.”
In recent times, companies have improved non-heteronormative representation in ads that are increasingly more inclusive and diverse like the communities they seek to portray. Like Gillette’s recent “First Shave, the story of Samson” featuring a father teaching his trans son how to shave.
In 2016, Airbnb’s “Don’t Go There, Live There” campaign featured a couple with two moms and their children visiting L.A. Also in 2016, Clean & Clear’s “See the Real Me” featured Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen girl and reality star navigating middle school.
Visit Las Vegas’ heartwarming “Only Vegas Moments” 2018 campaign featured classic “Americana” tropes but with two women deciding to marry in Las Vegas and sharing the special moment with loved ones. Samsung’s “The Future Ad” in 2019 featured a young queer interracial couple looking at a sonogram of their baby.
Norman told us,
“Companies like these are helping to push the LGBTQ+ representation forward here in the US by featuring LGBTQ+ models with intersecting racial/ethnic identities, expansive gender presentations and moving beyond a heteronormative gaze to highlight the full lives of LGBTQ+ community.”
The original LGBT/GLBT acronym has grown to variations of LGBTQIA+, in order to create more inclusion for terms like “queer,” “intersex,” “asexual,” and others. These terms have also seen an increase in searches with “queer” up 178%, “gender-neutral” up 100%, and “LGBTQ” up 137%.
These trends show us that there’s still a lot to unpack when it comes to LGBTQIA+ life and that people are willing to search for understanding and that Pride is not only for one month but year round.