Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Positive Images (Revised)

And the prize for the best representation of gay men in the mainstream media ever goes to...TD Canada Trust, for its ad on page A8 in "The Vancouver Sun" on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 (and I hope other newspapers across Canada).  

When I saw the image--which, thanks to ChaoticGRRL, I'm now able to include in this post--my heart was filled with pride for being a gay man (possibly in a way it never has been before).  I've waited years for something like this, to see myself represented in a positive and upstanding way.  Finally, in so many ways, I feel validated.    

Here's a brief interpretation of what's included in the picture:

It's a street scene, probably in a historical section of a big city (I'll guess Montreal), late September, early evening. Think stone facades on low-rise buildings, character windows, a brick-paved walkway, large, illuminated Colonial lanterns--really charming, warm, and old world.  In the background to the right is a man and a woman, he wearing a tam, she a large, bright red scarf, both strolling down the walkway, her left arm wrapped around his right arm.

The prime subjects of the picture are a couple of men, one tall, black, wearing dark grey slacks, a light grey, zippered sweater, and a purple shirt, a large paper shopping bag propped in his left arm containing a French baguette surrounded by some green leafy vegetable.

The second man is shorter, Caucasian, cropped grey hair, wearing grey jeans, a black jacket, and a white shirt, a purple-and-white striped shopping bag hanging from his right hand, and a white/grey/red scarf knotted loosely around his neck, like every second man in Paris.  The white fellow has his left arm around the black fellow's right arm, mimicking the image of the straight couple down the street behind them.  Both men wear warm, contented smiles, obviously a happy, loving gay couple, as they walk home to make dinner together.

Here's why this ad wins the prize:

1.  It's bold.  Make no mistake, the picture is about these two gay men, in love with each other, in a long-term relationship.  No coyness here.  No confusion about who they are and what they are.        

2.  The two men are older, perhaps in their mid-fifties.  They are both attractive and take care of themselves.  They are dignified, vital, even sexy.  How many times have you seen two older gay men portrayed that way?  

3.  Both men are immaculately attired.  Gratefully, a twenty-something, overblown muscle hunk in nothing but his Calvin Kleins is nowhere to be seen.  Which just goes to show muscles and nudity are not necessary to get our attention.

If I could make just two teeny-tiny suggestions on how this image could be improved for the future, they would be:

1.  The ring on the left hand of the Caucasian fellow should be on his wedding finger, not on his pinkie (a gay stereotype).  Thus, a shout-out could be given to Canada, one of the few countries in the world progressive enough to legalize same-sex marriage.

2.  Feature real gay couples--real gay men in real relationships with each other (I suspect the two men in this ad are models, not a true couple).  Using real gay couples would add a layer of authenticity to the image and to your advertising campaign. Chris and I are available.

Congratulations, TD Canada Trust!

You've taken a big risk featuring a gay male couple and presenting it as equal to a straight couple--in respectability, legitimacy, even normalcy.  No doubt, some of your customers don't appreciate your position and have taken their business elsewhere.  On the other hand, you've likely gained customers because they salute you, your progressiveness, and your celebration of diversity.      

Of all the large national corporations, you are the only one to take such a visible and positive stand on behalf of gay men, putting your reputation and your profitability behind it, thereby setting an example of the right thing to do.  Gay men, especially those in long-term, committed, and loving relationships, from Kitimat to Flin Flon to Grand Bank, join me in standing to applaud you.

Bravo!  And thank you.


  1. I agree! It's a beautiful ad! Your description made me want to find it, even if it meant signing up for a 21 day free digital subscription to the paper. :)

    I've got the full ad now, directly from the paper, so if you'd like to post it up, let me know, and I'll be more than glad to share it with you!

    I will be using it on my blog, and referencing your post as well, because your perspective is absolutely invaluable.

    Thank you Rick, for sharing something beautiful, positive and inspiring.

  2. As always, Heather, I'm thrilled with your comment. Apparently, there's demand to see the actual image, so, if you wouldn't mind, please send a copy to my email address so I can include it here. And thanks so much for your offer and kind words.

    Thanks for your interest and enthusiasm, Neal. I'll get it up as soon as I can. Believe me, you won't be disappointed.

  3. TD Canada Trust seems to be a big sponsor of Pride events in Vancouver and Toronto too!

  4. Judging by some of the photos I saw of TD Canada Trust on Google, I think you're right.
    At one time, I thought VanCity was the credit union/financial institution to come out (so to speak) in support of the gay community. But that position seems to have gone away. Haven't seen much lately.
    Kudos to TDCT for taking up the slack and for showing its commitment and consistency, year over year, in its support of us.
    And my congratulations to the advertising firm TDCT employed for coming up with such a positive and inspirational representation of gay men, and especially older gay men.
    Honestly, I'd rather be compared to the two men in this picture any day than most of the less flattering pictures of gay men in our own publications and in the mainstream media.
    I have no doubt this image has done more to improve the average citizen's view of gay men than any other. We really are like everyone else, not at all like the more visible (and less clothed) part of our community
    Thanks for your comment, Doug.

  5. When my son (14) and I were in Vancouver this fall we passed a TD bank, and it had a huge wall sized ad of the two men sitting in the big chair, I think it was for mortgages. He noticed it, and said, "You'd never see an ad like that in Calgary." I certainly hope we do see ads like that in Calgary, but kudos to TD bank for having them in's not like 14 year old boys generally notice bank ads, but this one made an impression...

  6. Wow! So from what you've written here, SBS, I understand TD Canada Trust might in fact place their ads, featuring same-sex couples, only in certain markets in the country where they believe the ads will be more accepted (and potentially less damage will be done to TD's reputation).
    I'm with you on this one. Absolutely, TD should place the same ad right across the country, large city or small town. Are there no gay people or couples in Calgary? Do these people not need to be validated in the same way as those in Vancouver, where the ads regularly appear? I sincerely hope TD isn't making that mistake.
    But I can't let this opportunity go by without commending you for the way you're parenting your son. Your openness, your ready acceptance of gay people, both will go a long way toward raising a more open and accepting young person in our country. You should be proud of yourself for this. We need many, many more parents like you.
    Thank you for your wonderful comment and for the great example you set for all parents, regardless of where they live.

  7. Thanks, Rick! Yeah, Calgary can be pretty disappointing at times (71% of Herald readers said they were against the Sask. court decision that wouldn't let marriage commissioners opt of same-sex marriages), but there is good here, too. I volunteer at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, and this year the Gay Pride Parade had tons of people out on the street watching it (which probably doesn't seem like a big deal for Vancouver, but in previous years, it had really low attendance from spectators.) Anyway, I think if we all try in whatever way we can (for me, it's writing letters to the Herald blasting their antiquated views!), it's got to help after a while. It was cool to be in Vancouver with my youngest son, we were there for the Scissor Sisters concert, and I could tell he was really noticing how much more openness there was there.
    Found your blog via "Slap Upside the Head", it's a really good read, thanks for sharing your story.

  8. Good to hear about things loosening up a bit in Calgary and more support for the Pride parade there.
    I've written a post here about not supporting Vancouver Pride anymore because what goes on there doesn't represent most of us who are older and in committed relationships. The point I make is, Pride is all well and good, if you're young and pretty and muscular, but it allows the community at large to think that's all we're about. And, believe me, Chris, my partner, and I know gay pride is about so much more. I feel in some respects the gay movement is held back by the overly sexualized images, at the parade in our media, etc., so I'm doing my best here to create some balance in how we're perceived. Who knows how successful I am.
    Anyway, you sound like one cool mom, accompanying your teenaged son to a Sister Scissors concert in Vancouver. Good for you. Like I said before, I applaud how openminded you are and the example you set.
    And thanks for letting me know how you found my blog, and for making me aware of the Slap Upside the Head blog, which I'd never heard of. Curiously, I went looking for a reference to my blog on that site and didn't find it. Oh, well, I appreciate all the publicity my blog gets, so, if it's there, so much the better.
    Thanks again for visiting and commenting. I hope you'll return often.

  9. At the risk of over-commenting (promise I won't do this every time I comment!) here's the link ( Look at the list on the right, you're found under "Queer Canada Blogs." I was looking for resources to do with parenting, as the place where I volunteer is trying to put together some links for parents, and so much of what's out there is mainstream, I wanted to include some links to other sites as well, for "gender-variant" kids (read, the opposite of tomboys), that sort of thing.

    And I did read that post of your about Pride parades, and had two thoughts: First of all, I think Calgary's version is pretty tame, there were lots of parents with kids watching it go by (and happily accepting the lollipops we were handing out), it was mainly floats from social service non-profits like ours, and yeah, there were a few with dancing boys, but mainly it was just a good time. Lots of gay couples watching the parade, it didn't really have that "single and beautiful only" vibe. Second, perhaps I see it differently as a straight woman, I just see it as a celebration, whereas if it were, say, something being done by a women's group that I felt reflected poorly on women in general, I might feel more strongly, I'd be more sensitized to the issues and possible reactions.

    Glad to have found you, will check back often, cheers!

  10. Sarah, I have no problems engaging in ongoing conversations with my readers. I learn a lot through them, and I like the opportunity to build a connection, especially with someone as accepting and supportive as you.
    Feel free to stop by and to comment any time and as often as you like. I don't mind in the least.
    (And thanks for the clarification on how you found me and Pride parades. I appreciate it.)

  11. Kudos to TDCT for taking up the slack and for showing its commitment and consistency, year over year, in its support of us.

  12. Couldn't agree more, mancards, and thanks for your comment.
    Unfortunately, it looks like TDCT cherry picks where these same-sex ads appear, both in newspapers and in branches. For example, they're visible in Vancouver, but Sarah, one of my others readers, says they're not in Calgary.
    Which tells us TDCT's commitment to portraying us positively in the media is careful and measured, obviously because they don't want to piss off offended customers and lose market share.
    This concerns me since these positive images need to appear in smaller cities and towns across Canada, because gay folks there could especially use them.
    On the one hand, we're making progress, and, on the other, we're not. But, hey, one step at a time, right? At least we have to give TDCT credit for what they've done so far. It's much more than any other financial institution, including the one I worked for for twenty-eight years.
    Thanks for your interest in my blog. I hope you'll keep coming back.