Getting the equipment ready

A career as a social media influencer can be quite a lucrative prospect. Even if you’re not one of the celebrity icons pulling in millions in revenue, it’s still possible to earn thousands of dollars for each piece of sponsored content. This can make for a viable and stable source of regular income, not to mention some interesting career experiences.

As a prospective queer influencer, you can certainly make a positive impact in the LGBTQ+ online community alongside a great income. But it’s also the case that the social media influencer landscape has become more nuanced. There are challenges you need to navigate and best practices to adopt. Becoming an influencer is certainly achievable, though, with some hard work, focus, and dedication.

To help set you off on the right track, we’ve put together a guide to becoming a queer influencer.

Establish Your Niche

smartphone on monopod

Setting up the shot

Photo by Steve Gale on Unsplash

As influencing is becoming more nuanced, this means that there is greater scope for specific content focus. As such, you can be both more effective and interesting in your approach by selecting a solid niche within the queer influencer space.

This could be industry-based, with a focus on highlighting queer voices in underexplored sectors. Your content focus could surround your unique perspectives on living a creative life as an LGBTQ+ individual. Don’t be afraid to go as extremely niche as you’d like to push this. You’d be surprised at just how many people will still be able to relate to your ideas and connect with you meaningfully.

Your niche could also be directed toward activism. There is no shortage of challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community and when you focus on a specific issue you can really magnify its importance. General activism can be fine, but homing in on specific, less well-publicized causes and efforts can be valuable to you and the community. This doesn’t mean you need to solve these challenges, but you can have a tangible effect as an influencer by consistently raising funds and awareness.

This doesn’t have to be the entirety of what you do as an influencer. You could focus on a couple of different niches, balancing the activism with content on what personally or professionally drives you. You’ll also find these niches can be mutually beneficial. Making comedic TikTok videos can help you shine a light on the absurdity of prejudice, for instance. The point of picking a niche is to focus your content efforts and help your audience to understand what to expect from you.

Treat Influencing Seriously

man squatting in the road getting his photo taken.

Check your lighting

Photo by Lucas Davies on Unsplash

It should go without saying, but if you want to be a successful queer influencer, it’s vital to treat it seriously. That’s not to say it can’t be fun and you can’t express the more playful sides of your personality. But you’ll also find you’ll tend to increase your social media influence more effectively and sustainably if you pursue it with professionalism.

Firstly, it can be effective to create a professional space in which you can work. No matter what niche you’re in you’ll be utilizing this resource to plan content, create it, as well as interact with potential brand partners. This doesn’t have to be expensive to achieve, either. You can create a glam room on a budget by implementing a few simple decor changes. This includes upgrading existing spaces in your home with fresh paint and upcycled furniture. Utilizing natural light sources not only makes the room look great, but it also helps you achieve higher quality video and image content.

Taking your behind-the-scenes activities seriously also encourages others to take you seriously. It doesn’t matter how worthy the cause is, business or fellow influencer partners aren’t likely to support you if they don’t have confidence in your professionalism. Therefore, regardless of your on-screen persona, all your communications, brand outreach, and community interactions should demonstrate how seriously you take your role as a queer influencer.

Build a Community

If we’ve learned nothing else from the history of LGBTQ+ rights, it’s that efforts for change and positivity are always stronger when we act as a community. The same goes for your approach to forging a career as a queer influencer. When members of the community are passionate about what you’re doing, they are more likely to be proactive in sharing and boosting your content. This enthusiasm can spread and empower you to be more effective in your ambitions. You’ll also find that the clear presence of a strong community makes you more attractive to sponsorship partners.

In online spaces, often the best way to find and establish a community is through regular live streaming. There are increasing audiences here and there are usually extremely active interactions. Communicating your commitment to LGBTQ+ causes doesn’t always have to be central to your streaming content. You can achieve a lot here by applying some key best practices for staging your live stream backgrounds. Go beyond the basics of clear surfaces and good lighting that improve the quality of shots. Carefully choose your space so it gives you room to decorate with pride flags and queer iconography. Dress your set with posters for key LGBTQ+ causes. In this way, you can passively connect with the community no matter what the subject of your content is.

The important thing to remember about cultivating any community as an influencer is to maintain authenticity, though. Your audiences are not just tools to further your career aims or bolster your activism. They’re people, like you, with a range of needs and challenges. Treat them with respect. Make efforts to respond to their comments and interact meaningfully with them. Encourage user-generated content and collaborations wherever possible. The more genuine relationships you can build with your influencer community, the more powerful an impact you can have.

Should You Be a Queer Influencer?

Choosing to become a queer influencer can open you up to meaningful experiences and a viable career. However, it’s important to approach the matter in a focused fashion. Choose a niche that represents your interests and intentions. Take the process seriously by treating all your activities with the utmost professionalism. Remember that building a community can make you more attractive to sponsors and boost the efficacy of your activism.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.