The future is queer
A view from Marty Davies

The future is queer

Our industry is quick to engage LGBTQIA+ colleagues to mine them for their trauma, time and creativity, but it is also slow to recognise the growing mental-health crisis that results from the environment we find ourselves in.

Life for LGBTQIA+ people is more difficult than five years ago. Hate crime has been increasing both for LGB people and trans+ people. In just two years, there has been a 10-point rise in the number of Britons viewing trans+ people negatively. With next year’s election likely to be fought on “culture war” issues stoked by desperate politicians, the near future looks dark.

Looking at our industry, the All In 2023 Census tells us that our LGB+ colleagues are more likely to be affected by stress and anxiety than the industry average (46% versus 33%). Deloitte found that, along with women, we’re also less likely to report sexual harassment.

The All In Census also found that over a quarter of us are likely to leave our industry within the next 12 months – higher than the industry average (27% versus 21%). We don’t even have data for trans, non-binary and intersex colleagues, but having co-created the Trans+ Adland community last year, I can tell you that we’re not thriving.

Our industry is quick to engage LGBTQIA+ colleagues to mine them for their trauma, time and creativity. It is, however, painfully slow to recognise the growing mental-health crisis that results from living in water that’s boiling us alive. This needs to change.

We can thrive only with a determined creation of an environment that doesn’t comprehensively drain our spirit, actively promotes our wellbeing rather than just limiting threats to it and recognises diversity not just as a precondition for effective work, but as the fundamental nature of society. Anything less than this is to contribute actively to declining mental health.

This is now do-or-die. Agency models that genuinely centre the diversity and inclusion of their talent will survive. The best minds will be drawn to these environments, and clients will be attracted by the superior creativity, effectiveness and innovation produced there. Concurrently, we’ll see institutions that fail to adapt, struggle and fade away. A flashy name and a line of old lions will not keep the
wolf away. 

In the work we produce featuring queer people, we’ll see a renaissance in that rare, insight-led and emotionally enthralling work that doesn’t lean on unhelpful stereotypes. We’ll see more joyful and usualised portrayals of our nuance. We’ll see light shone on parts of our community underserved by ad creative: representation of non-binary, bisexual, intersex, asexual and aromantic people. I believe we’ll also start to see polyamorous relationships represented.

With more women, neurodiverse, LGBTQIA+, disabled people and people of colour finding themselves with greater power and visibility, leading in this new adland ecosystem, we’ll see more campaigns backed by the will to create systemic change and promote real equity for those currently minoritised.

I want to live in that future, but we need to build it now.

Marty Davies (she/they) is joint chief executive, Outvertising, co-founder, Trans+ Adland, and founder of creative strategy consultancy Smarty Pants