An open letter to ANZ: Be better

ANZ made a mistake with its 'Love Speech' campaign, argues Paul Scarf in this open letter to the bank. As he says, a marginalised community can reclaim slurs - a corporation can’t. 

Dear ANZ,

Thank you for being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community for the past 15 years. Your support in lending your platform and resources to promote equality should be commended. The way you have encouraged openness and diversity within your workplace is admirable. 

But your most recent campaign “Love Speech” is one of the most hurtful and triggering campaigns I – as a gay man – and fellow friends who identify as trans, lesbian, queer and bi, have seen in a long time (and that’s saying something considering the onslaught of tone-deaf advertising we endured throughout the same-sex marriage plebiscite).

I’m writing this not to cancel you or shame your campaign. I’m writing this as a plea for you to do better. 

I understand you sought views from members of the community on this campaign before launching, but you are dealing with hate speech which is hurtful and dangerous. 

Dredging up the hurt caused by these slurs is not a progressive way of supporting a community that has been vilified for centuries. 

Let me break it down for you.

Having a piece of advertising that says “TRANS PEOPLE ARE SICK OF BEING SOOOOO FABULOUS” does three things.

Firstly, it revives decades of memories of bullying, non-acceptance, and of the hate that the community still has to put up with on a daily basis. 

Secondly, it’s reductive to attempt to create a positive out of something so hateful; promoting a flippant, 2D view of the trans experience in the process. Trans people don’t actually speak like they are on Rupaul’s Drag Race. 

And thirdly, you are perpetuating a stigma that already exists in society. Your role as an ally is to help progress the conversation, not add fuel to a damaging narrative that is still prominent today. 

Now, onto your video – and I should start by saying that I commend all the individuals in this video for their openness and bravery to reclaim those words.  

But having members of the LGBTQ+ community speak the awful, derogatory words that they have been called can give the impression to the general public that these words are acceptable. 

Hearing them without any kind of censorship is hurtful and extremely triggering for people who have been bullied and continue to be singled out and alienated by complete strangers on the street.  

You have said it yourselves – words hurt. But covering them with emojis or rainbows is a cheap gimmick that does nothing to actually address the cause of the problem. 

You know what does address the problem? Lobbying government on anti-bullying programs that help children who are struggling with their identity and sexuality.

The naivety in creating an online glossary to combat hate speech blowing up slurs in HUGE LETTERS is staggering. What homophobic or transphobic person is going to read this and curb their actions?

Walking down Oxford Street, there is a huge billboard that reads BOYS SHOULD NEVER WEAR DRESSES WITHOUT A KILLER PAIR OF HEELS. Do you think an 11-year-old boy struggling with their identity really wants to feel alienated or different? 

Who is this campaign targeting? If you want to educate straight cis people about equality, now is not the time. This time of year is about celebrating marginalised people and making them feel welcome. Not reminding them how ‘different’ society views them. 

I understand what you are trying to achieve with this campaign, but it does not welcome the LGBTQ+ community or make us feel a sense of pride which we all should be feeling at this time of celebration. 

But I think what hurts the most is that there are so many issues this campaign could have promoted – the blueprint was already on the Mardi Gras website. Acknowledgement of First Nations people and culture. Affirming trans and gender-diverse identities. Respect for the pioneers of the past, having the big conversations of today, inspiring the leaders of the future. Shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ rights across the Asia-Pacific region. Inclusion, empathy, sustainability, belonging. 

Out of all these important issues presented on a silver platter for you, you chose to create a campaign that divides.

A marginalised community can reclaim slurs – a corporation can’t. 

This campaign has triggered years of being bullied for just being me. But I understand that we all make mistakes. So please ANZ, I implore you to just do better next time. 


Paul (a privileged, white, cis, gay male working in media who lives in Sydney and needed to voice my concerns and those of my LGBTQIA+ family)

Paul Scarf is strategy director at Alchemy One


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