Do you advocate for LGBTI inclusion? Here are ways to make your campaigns more effective.

The fight for broader inclusion still has a long way to go. Sure, the world has seen a shift towards the acceptance of LGBTI communities – but as we found in our 2022 Inclusion Online Discourse Report, there’s still a lot left to do.

Exclusionary messages and behavior among online Filipinos remains a real problem, especially with a narrative landscape of LGBTI issues that tends to be limited. As we discussed in an article about media coverage of LGBTI stories, media coverage may be positive, but the important issues faced by the LGBTI community are often sidelined. Furthermore, the media’s apparent lack of clarity and consistency in distinguishing between sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity (SOGIE) also has far-reaching repercussions on audiences.

Much of the crucial work is now up to inclusion advocates – and given this landscape of prominent messages about and attitudes towards SOGIE and LGBTI issues, it’s no easy task. Nonetheless, we identified opportunities that may be strategic in pushing for LGBTI inclusion, anti-discrimination advocacy, and building a broader base of support. 

If you’re an LGBTI inclusion advocate looking for better ways to reach and resonate with more audiences, here are some things you might consider for your campaigns and strategies:

Create and tell more meaningful stories about LGBTI issues

Health, education, and economic well-being are among the most urgent issues for LGBTI inclusion, according to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) LGBTI Inclusion Index – but these issues appear to be underrepresented in media coverage. LGBTI advocates should create and tell more stories about them, especially solutions in the Philippine context.

What is the UNDP LGBTI Inclusion Index?

Syn & Strat used the LGBTI Inclusion Index as a basis of evaluating inclusive and exclusionary attitudes. It is “a set of proposed indicators to measure the inclusion of LGBTI people” through what the UNDP deems the “five most important dimensions for human freedom:” health, economic well-being, education, political and civic participation, and personal security and violence

The index seeks to provide benchmarks for:

- Comparing the overall degree of inclusion across countries;
- Measuring progress toward inclusion over time within countries, regions, or globally;
- Setting benchmarks for countries to achieve new levels of inclusion; and
- Demonstrating where resources are most needed to enable and support sustainable human development for LGBTI people, as shown through outcome measures in the index

Highlight personal stories that show the common struggles of LGBTI people.

Despite the persistent problem of exclusionary behavior and negative commentary, Filipino Facebook users show more empathy towards LGBTI individuals who are victims of crime. 

In a story where a trans woman was found brutally stabbed to death in Tawi-tawi, we found that 60% of the comments were usually sympathetic to the victim, called for justice or vengeance against the perpetrators, and notably, the comments largely avoided misgendering the victim. This is contrary to the overall trend we found in comments, where the most common attitude we found was exclusion (28% of comments) and attitudes of inclusion were the least common (14%).

Comments on the story about the trans woman who was stabbed in Tawi-tawi were usually sympathetic to the victim, called for justice or vengeance against the perpetrators, and avoided misgendering.

However, even for sympathetic comments, online Filipinos mostly called for extreme punitive solutions such as death penalty or martial law –  attitudes that are not consistent with human rights. 

Still, this tells us that the audience has room for empathy. But it’s important that when we tell stories about LGBTI struggles, these stories should go beyond stories of violent crime and instead focus on depicting LGBTI individuals as people worthy of respect and equality. Stories about LGBTI struggles should be nuanced and as diverse as the community itself.

One possible entry point is to talk about LGBTI struggles through human interest stories about individuals. They may include stories about the personal economic consequences of facing discrimination at work, the bullying faced by LGBTI children in school, or the lack of widespread understanding of LGBTI reproductive health by medical professionals. Examples of stories like these include the story written by a father about raising his trans daughter or this listicle of successful LGBTI esports players

Giving the audience a deeper look at the problems LGBTI people face in their everyday lives creates more entry points for empathy — while showing the multifaceted nature of the issues they face.

It’s also important for these stories to end on a hopeful note by showing the path forward about how we can help LGBTI people win against these struggles.

Tell more stories about LGBTI people participating in nation building and community building.

Comments and reactions about LGBTI people also tended to be more positive and inclusive in stories where LGBTI individuals are shown as actively contributing members of society.

In this story about a gay construction worker who shows up to work wearing make-up, almost half (49%) of the comments were positive and praising the worker for being responsible and pursuing honest work.

Word pair map of comments to “LGBTQ community member, proud sa pagiging construction worker” (GMA News)

However, the lack of these stories in mainstream and alternative media make it seem that the LGBTI sector’s contribution to society is mostly through entertainment or pageantry which still tend to attract negative social media engagements.

Advocates need more stories about LGBTI people and organizations’ contributions in the workplace, or through projects that they decide to take on – and show their vast and varied contributions to society.

Distribute LGBTI stories with coordination and intentionality.

Judging by which media stories about LGBTI issues “naturally” go viral for Filipinos on Facebook, the average user will be limited to seeing stories about showbiz personalities, pageants, same- sex marriage, and violent crimes. Issues about education, health, and the economic well-being of LGBTI people don’t get the same amount of social media engagements.

Average social media engagements, per story category

If we are to tell more varied stories about LGBTI issues, we also need to actively engage with and share these stories so that they may reach audiences outside our circle of advocates.

This means sharing these stories on our social media feeds, sharing them in Facebook groups where they are likely to be seen by non-LGBTI people, as well as sharing them or talking about them across different platforms.

Participate in comments sections with proactive messages of inclusion and acceptance.

We also found a lack of strong, inclusive pro-LGBTI voices in mainstream media comments sections. Along with distributing LGBTI stories, advocates can also be intentional about leaving specific and meaningful pro-LGBTI comments in these spaces.

It’s not enough to congratulate a queer couple for their marriage or an out trans person for their courage, we should also emphaize why these people being free to live their lives is important to society at large. To increase the readability of these comments, the language should be colloquial, the voice approachable, and messages straightforward.

By using public neutral spaces such as media comment sections to spread inclusive messages, these messages will be seen by more people who may not encounter these ideas in their everyday lives.

Create guides for the media about how to discuss sensitive LGBTI topics and how to use essentially terminology

Both mainstream and alternative media’s confusion about the nuances of SOGIE influences their audiences. Apart from the inconsistencies and vagueness around the use of these terms, there also needs to be “best practices'' that are encouraged when covering LGBTI issues.

In stories that aren’t fully inclusive in their coverage, some trans or gender non-conforming people are either misgendered, or are described as born as one gender but believe they are another. At worst, such lack of nuance perpetuates the erasure of such identities, especially when it was apparent in our findings that many online Filipinos think trans identities are not real.

Advocates can create terminology and coverage guides that are easy to refer to, so that more communications and media practitioners can make their coverage of LGBTI issues more inclusive. 

Media: GMA News

Shares: 331

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 185

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: ABS CBN News

Shares: 140

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the ABS-CBN News Network Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 133

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page, but also from Facebook users sharing it to supporter groups, askeing for help in combating the negative comments

Media: Global Balita

Shares: 88

Shares were from: From a network of supporter Facebook Pages and Groups for political figures mostly aligned with the administration; blog itself does not have a Facebook Page counterpart

Pro-Robredo

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of Robredo for President

Pro-De Guzman

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of De Guzman for President

Opposition Supporters

Users who show support for both Robredo and De Guzman but have not explicitly stated who they are endorsing for President

Pro-Marcos

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of Marcos Jr. for President

Users with unknown political leanings

Users who tweeted, retweeted, or replied to content about the CNN Presidential Debate but have not declared in their profiles or posts if they are endorsing any candidate for President

Media

Twitter accounts of mainstream and alternative media outlets/publications. Media accounts are typically present in networks of newsworthy topics and issues because they report on them.

Want to know more about how online Filipinos see LGBTI issues and people?

In our 65-page insight-rich report, <brand-color>Syn & Strat<brand-color> reveals surprising, data-driven findings on how online Filipinos perceive LGBTI issues and suggests ways forward for advocates, researchers, communicators, and policymakers. Click here to download the full report.