Creating positive change for LGBTQ+ couples in the wedding industry and other spaces doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of open dialogue, questions, and learning and unlearning. If you’re a photographer or wedding vendor who wants to be a better ally, there’s a good chance you might be curious about how to create more inclusive environments. That’s why I sat down with Elizabeth, photographer and ally, to answer the questions you might be too afraid to ask about working with queer folks.
Yes, it’s okay to ask again! It shows that you care about validating their identity and making them feel seen. Keep in mind that while most people will appreciate your question, it might not always be the right time and place. For example, if you’re in a room that’s hostile to the ideas of fluid gender and sexual identities, it might not be the best idea to put a person on the spot and ask them in front of everyone, especially if they’re more private or reserved. Instead, pull them aside or wait until you have a moment alone and ensure the space is safe for them to offer a genuine response.
First and foremost, if you misgender someone by accident, that’s okay! We’re all still learning and unlearning traditional ways of being, and it can take time to get used to adopting new vocabulary. Generally, the more you practice using people’s pronouns, the more it’ll become second nature, and the less you’ll find yourself misgendering others.
The key to handling a situation where you misgender someone is not making a big deal out of it. You may feel the need to apologize relentlessly to compensate and show the person or couple that you’re on their side. But making a big fuss can make things awkward. The best thing you can do if this happens is apologize, correct yourself, and move on.
It’s a good practice to keep things gender-neutral and avoid assuming until they come forward with that information. It can also be beneficial to start introducing yourself with your pronouns because this can open the door for others to feel comfortable sharing theirs. It’s also okay to ask how people identify, but ensure you read the room and gauge their comfort levels and feelings of safety before putting them on the spot.
The opinions on this question may vary, but generally, you absolutely can. For one, how you and your partner refer to one another is your choice and a testament of your love and identity — as queer people, no one celebrates unique these expressions more.
Using this gender-neutral terminology is also an essential step toward subverting traditional roles, regardless of whether you’re straight or queer.
Sometimes, using the term ‘partner’ may make people automatically assume it’s a queer relationship. But, if ‘partner’ becomes the norm, it can slowly help change the way society places people into boxes. The more we use gender-neutral language, the more we’re reminded that there are other ways of loving and identifying. The standard should not be cis or straight; rather, the norm should be that there are no assumptions.
The wedding industry is full of traditional gendered terminology. One way to avoid this is to expand our vocabulary to include gender-neutral language. For example:
The good thing about incorporating this terminology is that these aren’t new words in the English language — it’s just a matter of getting used to using them confidently in context.
Absolutely! The wedding industry is built on old language and outdated understandings of power dynamics. Part of being queer is also about tackling patriarchy and its notions that the man is always in charge. Something as simple as “the groom may now kiss his wife” feeds into these assumptions. So, using gender-neutral language at your wedding as a straight couple can be a great way to break these patriarchal traditions and show others that it’s okay to change it up and eliminate these roles altogether.
It all starts with your intentions as a wedding vendor. If you advertise your business with the underlying motive of “hopping on a trend” or “collecting some extra money,” you’re not helping LGBTQ+ couples feel safe or validated. Profiting off of us is a big no.
However, if you genuinely love and support our community and want to be an ally, this is your chance to think critically about your brand messaging. It’s essential to explicitly express your stance of solidarity and follow through on your actions. You can show where your business stands by including LGBTQ+ symbols (e.g., a pride flag) on your website or social media bios. You can also offer a simple statement like “all love is welcome here.” Remember, this explicit statement should be visible year-round, not just during pride month, and you must ensure that what you say is what you genuinely mean.
Posing LGBTQ+ couples can be a new experience for many photographers, and that’s okay. While it can be challenging to shake away gendered biases, try leaning into energy and personality instead of assumptions of masculinity and femininity. Take the time to learn about each person’s unique characteristics to help you get creative in your shoots.
You can also start with more gender-neutral poses, like walking together or hugging each other. Being highly communicative and open to dialogue with your models can go a long way. For example, simply ask who would feel more comfortable and natural in each position — this will show them that you value their identities, making for better results.
Many photographers may not always have the opportunity to work with queer folks. However, this practice is essential for promoting inclusivity and breaking harmful traditions. To work more with LGBTQ+ couples, be honest about your intentions. Always express your genuine care and acceptance, and make it clear that you strive to create safe spaces for everyone.
Additionally, if it’s your first time working with queer folks, let them know. This communication gives full power and control to the couples. If they’re uncomfortable working with someone who has never worked with the LGBTQ+ community, it gives them a chance to decline before they enter a session with you. This transparency is also a vital practice for fostering safe spaces.
Traditional weddings assume the big day is all about the bride and dress. But the reality is that a marriage is not just about one person. If you’re a wedding photographer, you may know how fun it is to work with folks wearing dresses. Simply put, double the dresses just means double the excitement! Get creative and allow both partners to shine in their element. The wedding is about both of them, after all.
Ultimately, if you want to be an ally, what matters most is that you continue your commitment to learning and speaking the language of inclusivity. Ask questions when you’re unsure, and make conscious efforts to practice every day.
Remember, it’s not the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community to educate you, but for the most part, many folks will be happy to offer their perspectives and explanations if you are willing to listen and learn. Your allyship matters to us, and it’s critical to moving our society forward in the right direction.
If you want to talk more about queering the wedding industry or are looking for an LGBTQ+ photographer, reach out to me! I love these conversations and appreciate the commitment to unlearning outdated traditions and biases to make room for more inclusive environments.
By the way, if listening is more of your style, check out my interview with Elizabeth in “Answering Your Questions about LGBTQ+ Couples,” the seventh episode of my podcast, Queerly Beloved. Catch you there!