Do Anti-Bullying PSAs Always Have To Mention LGBTs In Order To Help LGBTs?

The Anti-Violence Project‘s new anti-bullying ads feature a diverse cast of different races, body types and individual styles (hair, makeup, clothes, etc.). They ask, “Why would you bully me?” and conclude with “Bullying hurts. Bullying abuses. Bullying kills. Bullying is violence.” The individual styles and voices of some of the actors seem to imply that they’re LGBT, but the ad never specially mentions LGBTs. Does that automatically render them useless in the fight to protect queer youth like Jamey Rodemeyer and the kids in the Anoka-Hennepin school district? Or will presenting “queer-looking people” get these ads into homophobic schools that would otherwise reject them if they did specifically mention LGBT youth?

The Bilerico Project‘s Bil Browning makes his case:

We got washed right out of the PSA campaign. We’re nonexistent in the ads.

While there are people pictured that you can assume are queer, it just perpetuates the stereotypes that you can usually “tell” who’s gay or who’s not – a common excuse for bullying based on perceived sexual orientation. The press release touts that the PSAs “feature a varied demographic of people” and that’s an admirable goal, but did the drive to showcase diversity undercut the goal of talking about anti-LGBT bullying? Did it water the point down so far that it’s meaningless?

We’ve chided the San Francisco Giants’ “It Gets Better” ad for not doing more to explicitly mention lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. But could seeing LGBT characters potentially be more effective than just hearing them be mentioned? The lack of a specific mention automatically render such ads completely powerless in helping LGBT kids. As we said, leaving out any mention of LGBT youth might ultimately get these ads into to homophobic schools and silence parents who might otherwise object if they hear any queer words at all.

Because the The Anti-Violence Project’s campaign features young adults that look like 20-somethings rather than obviously adolescent or middle-school aged children, it seemingly seeks to address bullying everywhere—in the streets, offices, and bars—not just in schools. And while a potentially bully might just see the array of faces and consider which ones deserve a beating the most, perhaps the bullies aren’t the intended target (despite the direct address of “Why would you bully me?”). Perhaps the ad intends to humanize bullying victims to those who would normally stand by or cheer a bully on.