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LGBTQ Posters in Toronto Schools Send Messages of Love in the Flash of a Camera Phone JWT changes the conversation around gender

The climate in which kids are growing up is changing dramatically, but schools remain some of the toughest environments to endure when you're marked as different. Thankfully, there's more support now than ever from adults and community members with authority. 

New posters have gone up in Toronto District School Board schools, which include 76,000 middle school and high school students. Launched by LGBTQ advocacy group Toronto Pflag, the posters depict a rainbow that spells out the LGBTQ acronym: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Straight, Queer and 2-Spirited. 

When students use the flash on their camera phones to take a picture of the poster, the words are suddenly accompanied by nouns that illustrate LGBTQ folks are people they know, respect and love:



"We wanted to send a positive message to students that we are all more than just our gender identity and sexual orientation," says Toronto Pflag president Anne Creighton. "Our mission is to get students talking about these things, so the novel and shareable nature of this poster was a perfect fit for our message."

The poster was designed by J. Walter Thompson Canada, which developed a special printing technique especially for the campaign.

"By taking a traditional medium like print and adding an interactive component that's triggered by students' phones, our message has a greater likelihood of being shared," says executive creative director Ryan Spelliscy. "School hallways are a busy place, so trying to compete with everything else on the walls is a challenge." 

(They aren't the first ads to make use of camera flashes, however. Wunderman made some interesting posters last year for doctors offices and day care centers—if you flashed a picture of those ads, the resulting image showed what a child's eye looks like with the eye cancer retinoblastoma, and thus taught parents how to recognize the symptoms.) 

In the case of the JWT campaign, it's hard for young people to go on ostracizing a group if it's being validated by the wider community. The work also brings to mind a recent effort by one mother to both celebrate her young son's coming-out, and protest the defeat of anti-gender discrimination legislation in Texas.

And while we can applaud these efforts today, the hope is that in the next handful of years they won't even be necessary—though sadly, that'll probably only happen when kids have something else to make fun of, like peers who haven't been genetically modified. 

Check out more photos below. 

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