Trans and/or Gender Expansive People
Built with input from community partners, these U.S. - focused insights are a starting place to help you create marketing that positively and authentically represents people who are transgender and/or gender expansive (GE). It is especially important to reference the guidance below to make sure your campaign includes those within trans and/or GE communities who have been historically underrepresented in our marketing, namely: people of color (especially trans women of color), people with disabilities, older people, and trans masculine people.
Between 2019 and 2020, more than three in five trans and/or GE Americans reported some form of discrimination. What’s more, in 2020, more than 40 people were murdered in transphobic attacks. Violence against trans and/or GE people is a national epidemic, with the majority of those targeted being Black and Latinx trans women. As Google’s Black Trans Lives Matter film highlights, people are searching for information, resources, and aid for these communities more than ever before.
Fewer than one in four Americans report having a close friend or family member who is trans, meaning that for the majority of Americans, an understanding of trans/GE folks is based solely on media portrayals. Not only are these media portrayals infrequent, they are often negative, and can adversely affect trans and/or GE people. By including authentic trans and/or GE experiences in their work, marketers can help their stories reach more people, increasing awareness and understanding for these important communities.
DEVELOPED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MARSHA P. JOHNSON INSTITUTE
What is gender?
Gender is a layered concept across identity, expression, and sometimes anatomy. These various elements combined make up an individual’s gender. This Harvard Medical School article is a helpful tool to start a broader understanding of the definition of gender.
- Gender identity: an internal sense of one's own gender. This can be a continuum across man, woman, both, or outside of this continuum entirely. It is understood by the individual, and whomever the individual chooses to share it with.
- Gender expression: the external manifestations that communicate gender to the world, including but not limited to one's name, pronouns, appearance, behavior, and/or body. This expression can be a continuum across feminine, masculine, both, or outside of this continuum entirely.
- Anatomy: refers to a person’s physical traits (and – not always – may include sex assigned at birth). While anatomy is not a determinant of gender, it can be an aspect of gender expression through secondary sex characteristics (body hair, bust, etc.). This also exists on a continuum across features that are considered male, female, or intersex.
- Sexual orientation: the enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of the same or different gender, or lack thereof. It's essential to understand that sexual orientation is not a determinant of someone's gender.
It’s also important to note that experiences of these definitions can vary greatly from person to person, and that knowing one aspect doesn’t inform you of the others. Additionally, everyone–including trans and/or GE individuals – has hugely varied experiences with both sexual orientation and gender.
Review language to ensure it best reflects current discourse
Review language with trans/GE consultants and review GLAAD’s glossary for appropriate terms and definitions when telling trans/GE stories. Language to describe and name the experiences of trans and/or GE people is continually evolving. Examples include moving away from “gender non - conforming” to “gender expansive” or shifts away from “MtF/FtM” in favor of specific gender identities. This is in line with linguistic shifts away from terms that suggest cisgender or binaries are the basis by which other gender identities or expressions are measured.
Engage with trans and/or GE people, communities, and organizations
Actively involve trans and/or GE individuals in your creative decisions and outputs to ensure authentic representation. Go beyond just including them in creative assets by consulting organizations and thought leaders as well. This way your stories will be holistically inclusive from the concept, through the production, to the final product. And most importantly, make sure that these contributions are compensated accordingly.
Consider working with organizations that focus on uplifting the stories of trans people of color and supporting those in the trans/GE community who are most vulnerable to discrimination and violence.
Reflect the intersectionality of trans and/or GE people
There is no single or right way to be trans and/or GE
Trans and/or GE people are not a monolith. There is no universal trans or GE experience, therefore include a broad range of identities - not just cis - adjacent or conforming individuals. Showcase the spectrum of gender diversity.
Don’t reduce trans and/or GE people to their gender: showcase their humanity
Often when trans and/or GE people are included in media or campaigns, their gender becomes the core aspect of their personas. Someone’s personal reckoning with their gender and possible transition should not be the pinnacle or climax of their time on - screen. Trans and/or GE people should be showcased as everyday people - as artists, parents, students, entrepreneurs, and so much more.
This means showcasing trans and/or GE people in all your campaigns, not just those related to Pride. Moments that celebrate a variety of identities and roles like Hispanic Heritage Month, Small Business Week, and Mother’s Day are all important opportunities to make sure that trans and/or GE people are included.
Go beyond “fake woke” with real commitment
When building campaigns for trans and/or GE people, avoid empty symbols of inclusion like simply changing logo colors, using trans symbols, or only showing up during Pride campaigns. Like “rainbow - washing” – “fake woke” is performative and often co - opts movements with little or no benefit to the affected communities. Visibility is only half the battle. Make sure there is an ongoing effort with a clear connection between your products and tangible benefits to trans and/or GE communities. For example, Google not only showcased the life of Marsha P. Johnson and her legacy, but also presented a $500K grant to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, directly benefiting trans and/or GE people.
- “It is extremely important for people to understand that to see a more just society for the transgender community, bold hate requires bold action. Gone are the days where the trans and/or GE community must figure out things alone. Solidarity is the only way forward."
- - Elle Hearns, Founder of MPJI
Breaking beyond the binary
Opt for using gender - neutral language and visuals for all marketing campaigns. For example, use “guests” instead of “ladies and gentlemen” or “everyone” instead of “you guys.” Reflect on gender’s role in your research, creative, and strategy - is it required in the context of what is being discussed, or just an ingrained practice?