HomeGlobalInsightsNotes from 2019 Cannes Lions: Heterosexism
Facebook iconLinkedIn iconTwitter icon

Notes from 2019 Cannes Lions: HeterosexismJune 19, 2019

BCW's Global President Jim Joseph Reports from the 2019 Cannes Lions

It’s Pride Month, so there’s a lot of talk about Diversity. Inclusion. Individuality. Being your authentic self. Showing up as uniquely you. Choose any phrase you’d like to describe our collective mindset of including everyone into our communities, workplaces, and lives.

This has also been a big topic at the Cannes Lions too. In fact there’s an entire camp on the beach that’s dedicated to diversity: Inkwell. As in dip your pen into the ink and write your own story.

I’m in.

Literally in…I was on a panel Tuesday that was all about discrimination and prejudice. Inkwell in partnership with the agency Oberland is holding a discussion each morning on different aspects of discrimination. Racism, Sexism, Ageism, Tokenism and the panel I was on about Heterosexism.

Not sure I’ve heard the word Heterosexism but it’s essentially straight people being prejudice against people who aren’t straight. Against someone who is a letter in the LGBT+ world. My world. For me, it’s partially that but even more about the unconscious bias we live within that aligns more with straight people. Many of us inadvertently judge people within a “straight” lens or not within a lens that is fully inclusive of the LGBT+ community. Some of it is purposeful and some of it isn’t.

Many of us just assume that the world is straight!

I told the story of how I was at a 1:1 dinner with a client just recently and he asked me what my wife “Does.” After all of these years, I panicked. In that moment, I didn’t have the courage to say that I don’t have a wife. I’m gay. I have a husband. In fact I’m gay with a husband and two kids. Even after all of these years, I didn’t have the courage to accept if he couldn’t accept me. After all of this time.

That’s just one tiny example. Heterosexism.

When you look across our industry, there is not a lot of LGBT+ representation. We don’t have a lot of the letters, or at least there aren’t a lot of letters who are comfortable being out.

That has to change. As members of the industry, we have to be more conscious of the unconscious bias and create an environment where people are comfortable to be who they are. Comfortable being individuals. Comfortable being themselves. We can’t assume anything, and we can’t look at the world through our own lens. Straight or otherwise.

Think about this simple little question we all say every Monday am: “How was your weekend?” Innocent enough. Merely striking up a conversation.

Now imagine you ask someone who is transitioning or struggling with their life. “How was your weekend” becomes a source of stress. I know that back in the day when I was a single, gay, divorced dad (and struggling with some aspects of it) that question was a source of stress for me. I was never really comfortable really answering that question. I didn’t feel like I was in a safe environment some of the time. I guess I was experiencing Heterosexism.

We can call it Heterosexism. But let’s flip it. Let’s call it Understanding. Inclusion. Let’s open up and make it safe for anyone to be what ever way they are.