ICYMI: Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, Influencer Dylan Mulvaney, Advertising CEO Aaron Walton and NBC Reporter Jo Yurcaba in 2024 SXSW Featured Session on Combating LGTBQ+ Hate

by Aryn Fields

NBC Reporter Jo Yurcaba said when Mulvaney faced online hate and threats to her safety, many led with talking about beer sales when the conversation should also focus on the impact on real people’s lives

HRC President Kelley Robinson said the LGBTQ+ community continues to need bold public support from corporations and allies in response to the staggering number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country

AUSTIN — Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, advertising CEO Aaron Walton and NBC Reporter Jo Yurcaba participated in a Key Featured Session at the South By Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals curated to discuss poignant LGBTQ+ issues. The panel, titled “When Beer Goes Viral: The Role of Brands and Media in Fighting Hate,” dived into the responsibility of brands and the media to reject misinformation and discrimination and instead allow the full spectrum of LGTBQ+ stories to be shared.

The SXSW Featured Session participants included:

—Kelley Robinson, the first Black, queer, woman President of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.

—Dylan Mulvaney, trans actress and content creator. Her viral videos have received over 1 billion views across Tiktok and Instagram, and in early 2023, she was at the epicenter of a far-right hate and misinformation campaign fueled by a singular paid content piece by a major beer company.

—Aaron Walton, CEO and Founder of Walton Isaacson, a progressive and innovative marketing and advertising firm. An inductee into the 2023 Advertising Hall of Fame, Aaron began his career as a marketing executive at PepsiCo before founding his own entertainment marketing firm.

—Jo Yurcaba, a reporter for NBC OUT, the LGBTQ+ section at NBC News Digital with a focus on the transgender community. They have been published by NBCNews.com, ELLE, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Verywell, Woman’s Day, Bustle, among others.

During the panel, Mulvaney discussed her personal experience being at the center of an anti-LGBTQ+ corporate controversy and the precautions content creators can take to ensure they are working with brands who will fully support them.

“To see all of the hate that came from just one advertisement on Instagram was so disheartening. And then it became a very real world thing where I had people showing up to my house and being followed and harassed in public. That was something I would have never thought was going to be a part of my daily life. I would never wish that on anyone, especially any other trans or queer content creator…More than ever, for any queer or trans talent, we need to be communicating with actual humans behind these campaigns. A lot of the times when a brand puts together a campaign, there’s no trans or queer person even on that team shaping this content…That extra step of really getting to know a talent and what they want to put out into the world and what their hopes are for this campaign can make everything a lot smoother.”

Aaron Walton also mentioned how it’s critical for brands to support the LGBTQ+ community all year round and the steps they can take to be good corporate allies.

“Good partners aren’t there just during the good times, good partners are there when a community like ours is under attack. That's the definition of a good partner. Those are the people that we are going to remember. Those are the people that are going to survive and wake up on the ride side of history because they did the right thing….It is an ongoing journey to be a partner with the LGBTQ+ community. And that doesn’t mean just stepping up during June and Pride months. I tell folks I am Black and gay 365 days a year. I am not just Black in February during Black History month. Nor am I just gay in June during Pride month. So, if you want my loyalty, if you want my relationship as an advocate for your brand you have to be talking to me 365 days a year.”

Yurcaba discussed best practices for how reporters can responsibly cover LGBTQ+ issues while combating misinformation.

“In covering what happened to Dylan, the first thing that we really wanted to do was obviously center the hate that she was facing. A lot of people were talking about beer sales. And so we really want to focus on how this is actually affecting people’s lives. This happened within the context of state legislatures last year considered more than 500 bills targeting LGBTQ+ people. And we saw Target face similar backlash for a Pride campaign they did over the summer. So, we show people that this isn’t happening in a vacuum and this has real effects on people’s lives.”

While moderating the panel, Kelley Robinson reinforced the importance of LGBTQ+ advocacy in the corporate space and beyond.

“One thing that’s very clear— we are in a moment where you have horrific anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country. There are kids out there looking to adults to see what we are going to do. And not being visible, not being out loud about our allyship is simply not an option. So, we’ve got to make sure that these companies are doing the right thing internally. But also standing up boldly and publicly about these things that matter.”

Photo courtesy of South By Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals

The SXSW Conference is organized into various programming tracks that specifically relate to this panel’s message and audience, including: Advertising & Brand Experience, Creating Film & TV, Creator Economy, Culture, Design, Film & TV Industry, Government and Civic Engagement, Music & Tech, Startups, Tech Industry, Workplace.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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