Tag Archives: LGBT

Type With Pride

Gilbert Baker was the creator of the iconic Rainbow Flag (1978) and an LGBTQ activist and artist. On 31st March 2017 Baker passed away, leaving a legacy of one of the most iconic and globally recognisable flags.

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To honour him, NewFest and NYC Pride collaborated with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and typeface creator Fontself to create an open-source font called “Gilbert”.

The Gilbert font was originally designed for striking headlines and statements that could live on banners for rallies and protests and it is now currently being built out into a whole family of weights and styles. The font is available in two versions, a standard vector font and a colour font (in OpenType-SVG format) currently usable in Photoshop CC 2017 only. Both are early beta previews that you can download below for free, and you can follow @TypeWithPride on Instagram and on our development blog for news about new font weights, styles and creative contests.

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You can see more examples of the font on posters here. Whilst I love the sentiment, and the context behind the idea, I can’t say I love the font itself. Personally, I think it works best as either singular letters or very short phrases/words (which is perfect for ‘LGBTQ’). However, with long quotes such as the one on my header image above, it just doesn’t work for me. What do you think of the font?

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ANZ: #HoldTight

In the lead up to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival, ANZ bank have released a campaign specifically focusing on LGBTQI couples and their reluctance to hold hands in public. Agencies TBWA Melbourne and TBWA Auckland aimed to highlight this problem and encourage people across New Zealand and Australia, and beyond, to show their support.
The campaign is based on research commissioned by ANZ which discovered that members of the LGBTIQ community were three times more likely (39%) to feel uncomfortable holding hands in public. In Australia, they are more than twice as likely (52%) than non-LGBTI (14%) to have felt uncomfortable performing the most basic gesture of love: holding hands in public. Also, while the vast majority of New Zealanders (95%) agree that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should feel comfortable holding hands in public, less than half of the LGBTI community (39%) truly feel comfortable doing so. Similarly, in Australia, 94% of people support everyone feeling comfortable with this show of affection, but only (43%) actually say they feel very comfortable. What a sad reality, and something we all definitely take for granted.

As part of a broader social campaign, in collaboration with Twitter, a custom emoji was developed alongside the hashtag #HoldTight. The campaign launched the ad (above) accompanied by stories told by ANZ staff:

Additionally, they also developed a limited edition custom wristband (featuring the same heart-shaped emoji hands), which will light up when people hold hands. The wristbands will be worn by attendees at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival:

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Carolyn Bendall, head of marketing at ANZ said:

ANZ is using #HoldTight as a platform to share an important message about diversity, inclusion and respect and to help people understand the challenges that many members of the LGBTIQ community face. We hope to make a difference by encouraging the wider public to join in the conversation and show their support.

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Advertising and Gay Men: How the Media Avoids Gay Intimacy in Advertising

One of the most beautiful and important things about working in the creative industry, whether it’s photography; graphic design; music; dance; acting; writing, is that it allows people of any background, gender, race, sexuality, age to express their opinions and beliefs in whatever medium they wish. The creative industry is at the forefront of self expression and freedom, which has always encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in this field. Advertising in particular is, as we know, incredibly influential – whether you enjoy ads or just stare blankly during the commercial breaks – they can help convey messages to a wider audience.
Although I am part of British advertising, and we have produced some incredible and iconic work that is undoubtedly timeless, ever since I can remember having an interest in the industry I have been unable to shake off one very obvious tactic used by agencies: appearing pro-LGBT, but avoiding gay men. Obviously, showing gay couples in ads is a very recent (and important) thing, but as equality has progressed so rapidly in the last 10 years I have found myself questioning why the media prefers using lesbian characters over gay men.

Last night I watched a bizarre (but fascinating) documentary ‘For The Bible Tells Me So’, which documents the ways in which conservative Christians have exploited religious teachings and scriptures to deny LGBTQ+ rights. Without spoiling too much, one factor which stood out like a sore thumb was the fact that the parents (of gay children) being interviewed all expressed fears of having a “faggot son” (they said those exact words), even if the story ended up focusing around their lesbian daughter. There was a continual theme of obsessing over the fear of a gay son. As we all know, homophobic beliefs all stem from religion, and their target is 9 times out of 10 going to be gay men.
Why?! Well, as the husbands in these documentaries (and in most religious and/or homophobic households) have the final say on what goes, men generally have more discomfort towards gay men than lesbians. It all stems from a fear that gay men will try to have sex with them (don’t flatter yourself) or influence their sons’ ‘sexual behaviour’. It probably also relates to the fact that mentions of sexuality in the Bible only relate to men sleeping with other men. Lesbianism became publicly demonised during the Victorian era.
I have no idea why gay men seem to receive more homophobic abuse (I know, that is a sweeping statement), and this is particularly evident in the homophobic slurs used – I can name only a few related to lesbians, but gay insults based on gay men are endless. There is a fear and disgust surrounding gay sex, whereas lesbians are often used as part of the male sexual fantasy. Funnily enough, I always wonder whether these religious homophobes get off on girl-on-girl fantasies but heaven forbid two men together! Gross!

[Before I get into the advertising part of this blog, I want to say that I am by no means denying or deflecting homophobia against lesbians, nor am I insinuating that gay or queer women receive less discrimination than gay or queer men. These are merely my observations about the representation of gay men in advertising].

So what the hell does this have to do with advertising? I believe it all stems from the same place – whilst companies, agencies and brands are largely trying to be inclusive by introducing LGBT narratives, the avoidance of male couples is remarkably salient in advertising.
In the US (certain states, of course, we couldn’t have two guys in love being aired in Texas now could we) the depiction of a range of LGBT couples has been, overall, fantastic in comparison to what it was like as recently as 5 years ago. This is particularly amazing for gay men who seem to have an equal platform in terms of narrative to lesbian couples or female same-sex families. Certain states in the US are notorious for being openly pro-LGBT and have no qualms when it comes to presenting gay men in their commercials. A lovely example of this is cosmetics company Lush who recently launched a Valentines Day campaign for 2017 featuring non-heteronormative couples in their campaign. Wonderful! A gay couple are featured as a header on the US website, alongside other gay and lesbian and gender-nonconforming couples in the campaign:

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They even released a very sweet statement for the campaign:

At Lush we believe that love transcends gender. We set out to do one thing when creating our Valentine’s Day visuals, we wanted to capture love between two people and we believe that’s what we have done here. The fact that our loyal and loving fans are starting their own conversations using our visuals and #loveislove absolutely warms our hearts.

But, (and this is a big but), why on earth didn’t this transcend to the UK website for Valentines Day?! There is no mention of the LGBT campaign – no photos, no #loveislove hashtags, just a crappy photo of a heart-shaped bathbomb. This kind of contradiction and blatant picking-and-choosing of where to present certain messages makes the campaign and the company come off as inauthentic, consequently using the gay community to publicise a Valentine’s Day sale. Love is a universal experience, so why can’t Lush’s campaign be? My theory is that British ad men and women are too afraid to upset anyone. We are so apologetic and fearful of offending in the UK that it’s affecting how we stand up for what we believe in.
To reiterate, this seems to be a bizarre UK problem – as a country where gay marriage finally opened its doors to lots of British gay couples and proudly abolished Section 28, I struggle to accept that the advertising industry has moved forward in this way too. The only time I ever seem to see gay couples represented correctly in advertising is when Pride in London is being advertised!
Another very sweet Valentine’s Day campaign featuring a man proposing to his boyfriend by Hallmark has done a fantastic job at normalising gay love in a campaign with lots of other couples celebrating international the day of love:

There’s no hashtags about equality, no clickbait, no hint towards inclusivity, just a mix of normal people showing us what love means to them. Of course this was a campaign in the US! This is the third consecutive year that Hallmark features a gay or lesbian couple in their Valentine’s day ad. I’ve never seen any of those campaigns here, despite Hallmark being a retailer in the UK.

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Ok, for a moment I will stop listing the negatives, and actually praise a British brand who has defied the norms when it comes to gay male affection in marketing – Lloyds! It’s been noted that brands are failing to represent LGBT+ people in mainstream marketing campaigns, but Lloyds Bank have been praised for advancing LGBT diversity both internally and through its brand communications. Perhaps Lloyds being no.2 in Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT Employers 2016 rankings influenced the fantastic campaign for ‘He Said Yes’, a same-sex proposal featuring two men.

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Here’s what Joey Hambidge (client account manager at Stonewall) had to say about the importance of LGBT representation in marketing:

While campaigns around Pride season are encouraging and to be applauded, consistent year-round communication with the LGBT community and featuring LGBT people within mainstream campaigns sends a strong message of inclusion and support.
Lloyds Bank springs to mind due to its recent mainstream commercial featuring a male same-sex couple’s proposal. Many young people entering the industry have grown up with an inclusive mentality. Their social circles can be mixed and varied so they are looking for companies that reflect these values. So even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important to them.

Lloyds Bank could have so easily used women in the ‘For Your Next Step’ ad, but I absolutely believe they did the right thing by using two men. Not only were they featured in the ad below, they have also been used on huge underground billboards and posters:

Lloyds Bank have actually featured same-sex couples in its advertising since 2010, and Marketing Week have written exactly why this is so important in an article here. I feel honoured to have worked with such an inclusive brand during my time at adam&eveDDB.

Unfortunately, Lloyds Bank are the exception in the UK. Whilst doing my research for this blog post I came across one of my favourite websites, Pink News, which had a news section on gay ads – hoorah! Lots of content to prove me wrong! Not quite…….. as wonderful as they all are, they’re all American. Check out the list here.
There has been cataclysmic shift in the portrayal of homosexuality in advertising, particularly when it comes to the likes of fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana producing homoerotic ads for years. This is an improvement to be noted – we’re hardly seeing any half naked, muscle bound and oiled up Adonis, instead we’re seeing gay men being portrayed in a mundane, family-orientated way, like the ads mentioned above. This still isn’t good enough – all of these campaigns (including Lynx’s ad featuring a dancing man in heels; Lynx’s “kiss the hottest girl… or the hottest guy” adTylenol’s #HowWeFamily campaign, to name a few) are American and Australian. They aren’t broadcasted on British TV, even if though sell the exact same products or services here.

Whilst we should always praise and encourage the portrayal of lesbians in advertising, as the sexualisation and fetishism of lesbians is still rife in the media, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant use of two women being more comfortable viewing than two men.
Match.com really had the chance to represent the LGBT+ community in a normal way like a lot of the ads above have done. Lots of dating apps and websites are now trying to convey a message of inclusivity – that their services are not just for straight people. As part of their campaign, Match.com decided to dedicate one spot to two girlfriends who supposedly found love through the website. I cannot help rolling my eyes and cringing every time I see the following ad on TV:

‘Messy Girl’ actually was no.3 on the top 10 complained about UK ads, because of kissing women (896 complaints). Despite the ridiculous amount of homophobic complaints, I do not respect Match.com for this campaign, and I cannot support their efforts. I find the entire narrative unnecessary – the “messy” story did not need to include lesbians undressing (with lacy lingerie on underneath… come on, really?!) where all the other spots for the same campaign are not sexualised, and instead portray the innocent, adorable and quirky aspects of dating and falling in love.
The entire ad screams male gaze, and Match have clearly spent no time researching into what it means to the LGBT community to be represented in advertising. ‘Messy Girl’? more like Messy Idea! Who wrote this sh*t?

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas ad saw an enormous amount of praise not just from creatives surrounding the concept and execution, but also from families in the UK – particularly same sex parents who were thrilled to see female same-sex parents along-side mixed-race families and a single dad:

Whilst successfully reflecting modern British families, I can’t help believing that two women were favoured over two men. Even though they are animated characters, lesbian women are predominantly more accepted over gay men because society still does not feel comfortable with the idea of gay male sex. You might be thinking “calm down, how on earth did you go from innocent animated characters to gay sex?” well, that’s how homophobes’ minds work – they believe the representation of same-sex parenting is damaging and has a gay-agenda. So, ASA (or whatever standards authority board) receive complaints, ads get taken down, and clients/agencies steer clear of pro-LGBT concepts for fear of offending. I can’t tell you why people think this way, but I can tell you it is still a very big and very ridiculous problem. It’s particularly concerning that very few UK brands choose to represent male couples, particularly affectionate or intimate gay couples.
I think the current discrimination epidemic seen during the US election speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go regarding LGBT rights. From what I have seen on social media, people have (up until the election) remained naive and unaware of how discriminatory certain groups of people can be, and how manipulative they can be when working in numbers. A lot of people in this world genuinely believe gay sex is demonic, and that those showing it on TV are pushing an ‘agenda’ to turn their kids gay. These same people compare gay men (never lesbians) to pedophiles. If it wasn’t so tragic, I’d laugh.

I want to end this blog post on a positive note – the note being Thomas Cook – a UK company who have subtly flown the flag for the LGBT community in this lovely ad called ‘You Want We Do’:

Again, no hidden messages; no hashtags; no trends; no exploitation, just a bunch of different people all wanting a great holiday with the ones they love.
Jamie Queen, marketing director for Thomas Cook Group told Marketing Week:

I think marketers can always do more to represent the needs of the consumer and that’s what we’ve tried to do with the gay kiss. It comes down to the needs of our customers and addressing a modern population.

Aside from the wonderful representation of gay partners (header image) and gay dads (below), the ad itself is actually wonderfully art directed and shot.

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To conclude, what I’d like to say to creatives is, don’t be like Match.com – be like Thomas Cook – be revolutionary, be bold, be authentic. Feature gay love, feature men playing tonsil tennis, and do it with conviction. Don’t worry about the complaints, the Bible bashers and the ratings. You are the voice, and we are living in a time where your compassionate creativity is needed more than ever.

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Enemies of Equality: If Coachella’s Price Tag Isn’t Putting You Off, Maybe Your Conscience Will

Put the flower crowns away, kids. Philip Anschutz, the owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG Live) has been exposed for his right-wing radical beliefs and contributions towards organisations against human rights!
The Coachella lineup has only just been released, and the hippie, beige, HOLLYWEED, home-made flower-power accessory makers of the world rejoiced after headliners like Beyonce, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar were announced.

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In all seriousness, last year, festival-goers spent a minimum of $400 on the most basic tickets for Coachella, and LGBTQ activists are urging people not to spend their hard earned money funding hate. The wonderful organisation ‘Freedom for All Americans’ released this infographic, showing well-known and influential anti-LGBT supporters:

FFAA is the bipartisan campaign to secure full non-discrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide. The organisation has gained attention from reporters, journalists and bloggers for their claims that Anschutz’s foundation gave $190,000 to anti-LGBTQ organisations between 2010 and 2013. Having picked up on this information about the 77-year-old billionaire, more information has come to the surface that shows how Anschutz supports some of the most damaging and oppressive organisations in America, donating the following:

  • $110,000 to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) between 2011 and 2013. The ADF litigates cases to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and civil unions.
  • $30,000 to Family Research Council between 2010 and 2013. The lobbyist organisation battles pro-LGBT laws and has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • $50,000 to National Christian Foundation between 2011 and 2013. The foundation has contributed tens of millions of dollars to ADF, the Family Research Council, and other similar organisations.

Apparently Anschutz has funded anti-equality groups for decades, supporting Colorado’s 1992 proposition Amendment 2, a ballot created to overturn laws offering LGBT protection. Also, he has been noted by Greenpeace to finance science denial groups, with a Greenpeace report alleging that he attends “strategy meetings” with the Koch brothers (Republican narcissists who don’t believe in climate change) twice a year. This man is starting to sound weirdly similar to Donald Trump…

So, why do I care? Why should you care? Well, as we’ve seen in last year’s US election, with great power comes great responsibility – and unfortunately power is often put in the wrong hands. Something that has always deeply disturbed me from a young age is the rose-tinted glasses people seem to wear surrounding topical issues that don’t directly affect them. This is exactly how immensely rich and powerful people take control and spread hate. This is particularly important when it comes to something like Coachella, because the artists performing (almost always), such as Beyonce, are pro-human rights. Most importantly, so are their fans (Beyonce is a huge gay icon and pioneer for young black women). Thousands and millions of people are fans of these musicians, yet they would probably still buy tickets to Coachella knowing this information. Headliners Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé have both released amazing, politically charged albums over the past two years that have helped set the conversation around blackness, feminism and progressive politics.
Similar to this situation, following the US election debates, business in the USA made their political beliefs known (which is unusual) and confidently showed support for democrats – check out the extensive list here. Also, here in the UK the campaign Stop Funding Hate has convinced businesses to stop advertising their products and services in newspapers that contain ‘hate campaigns’ – Lego being the first company to break their contracts with said newspapers.

By purchasing tickets to Coachella, you are paying towards an empire that supports the following:

  • gay conversion therapy
  • pro-abortion
  • anti-LGBTQ groups
  • extremist hate groups like Gordon Kligenschmitt’s (a despicable televangelist in the US) ‘Pray in Jesus Name’
  • denial of climate change and global warming
  • Mission America Foundation (vomit), whose president considers homosexuality a “deviance”

…the list goes on.

Interestingly, a representative for AEG Live forwarded the following statement from Philip Anschutz in response to this report:

Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of The Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.

Let’s have faith in humanity for a moment and believe that Philip is pro-LGBTQ (which is hard to believe when he has had such a huge influence in Colorado politics)… this means that someone in his team is supporting these extremist views. These donations weren’t made by accident. Who is he trying to kid? That is so depressing.

My final thoughts on this terrifying, draining topic can be perfectly summed up by Ian Silverii, ProgressNow Colorado’s executive director:

At a time in American history when discrimination and violence against LGBTQ citizens is on the rise, support for pro-discrimination groups puts Anschutz on the wrong side of Colorado, and on the wrong side of history.

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National Geographic: Gender Revolution

National Geographic will devote an entire January 2017 Special Issue to an exploration of gender, featuring cover star Avery Jackson (9-years-old). Avery first made her name earlier his year when Planting Peace painted a house they had bought across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound in Topeka (2013) in the LGBT and trans* flags, and declared Equality House a symbol of peace and positive change for the LGBT community. It was Avery (then 8 years-old) who came up with the idea for a trans house, and helped paint it:

I love the transgender flag—it’s beautiful and makes me smile. I’m happy that we will have a house painted like the flag to show that transgender people are beautiful and will make them smile.

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Now, trans voices like Avery’s are being heard more frequently, and her story is being told on 27th December 2016 alongside an in-depth look into gender from different perspectives. The special issue will address gender identity, sexuality, puberty, and the problems those who don’t confirm to traditional gender norms endure physically, mentally and socially. The issue is parallel to ‘Gender Revolution’, a two-hour documentary co-produced and hosted by Katie Couric, premiering on Nat Geo in early February.

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This special issue is being published at a really crucial time in history, as young trans* suicides have risen and transphobic abuse is the norm online. On top of a presidential committee next year who are all anti-LGBT, it’s important that influential media representatives like the National Geographic represent gender in a human, kind and inclusive way. Although the negative connotations surrounding the trans* community seem to be as strong as homophobia was 50 years ago, a lot of progress has been made, and that’s largely thanks to media outlets like the National Geographic, who allow gender-nonconforming and trans* folk to share their unique stories with the world.

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GLAAD: Trump Accountability Project

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is one of the many LGBT+ organisations I support, and am very fond of, not only because they are a non-governmental (and therefore non-profit) organisation, but also because of their purpose – GLAAD is a media monitoring organisation founded by LGBT people in the media. Their aim is to tackle tough LGBT issues and consequently create a narrative that leads to cultural change.

GLAAD has taken the open homophobic and transphobic statements made by republicans very seriously, and used this information to create ‘The Trump Accountability Project (TAP)’, “a resource for journalists, editors, and other news makers reporting on the Trump administration, which catalogues the anti-LGBTQ statements and actions of President-elect Donald Trump and those in his circle.”
The aim of TAP is to hold those on Trump’s team accountable for their hate speech, stemming from GLAAD’s original project ‘Commentator Accountability Project’ (CAP) which aims to bring anti-LGBT statements to life, putting information about anti-gay interviewees into the hands of newsrooms, journalists and editors. Similarly to this project, GLAAD aims to do the following with TAP:

…Use first-hand statements, video, and/or audio to document the animus displayed by people being appointed into positions of power in the U.S. government. GLAAD will update the following profiles with new statements that disparage LGBTQ people, women, Muslims, Immigrants, and many others. GLAAD will also share this information with reporters, journalists, producers, activists, and fellow organisations each time they make headlines anew.

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What a great project. It’s a shame how targeting works on social media, as Trump supporters probably would never see these types of articles and projects on their feeds (not that it would necessarily change their minds). The US election really opened my eyes to targeted ads and news feed items, especially on Facebook…
Now listen up. Organisations like GLAAD can’t exist without donations, so please reach into your privileged pockets and donate towards an amazing cause – love, acceptance and unity! Pretty please!

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Grayson Perry: Born Risky

All4 describes the series of shorts as Grayson Perry meeting “people who take great risks to be themselves“. Channel 4’s ‘Born Risky’ follows the story of Grayson himself and 3 others – transgender model Tschan; Geoff, a transvestite truck driver; and EJ, a trans* fashion historian. The shorts are very natural and don’t contain any invasive, pushy questions that a lot of interviewers tend to ask those who are gender diverse or trans*.

Grayson previously explored gender identity in a documentary for Channel 4 called ‘All Man’ in an investigation into the heteronormative, ultra-male society we live in. That series is a must watch if you’re interested in how we translate different types of masculinity in Britain. It is incredibly eye-opening.

Grayson explores his own gender in ‘Born Risky‘, which adds an interesting insight alongside the other interviewees:

I am very proud to be part of Born Risky – it was fascinating, fun and a privilege to meet and work with three such brave, tender souls. If just one viewer feels more confident enough to live the gender they feel driven to live then we would have done our job, but I’m sure these lovely films will do much better than that.

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LGBT Refugees: Abuse Uncovered in Asylum Centres

Stonewall UK and UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) have uncovered some shocking truths from refugees fleeing to the UK in a report called No Safe Refugee . A large majority of asylum seekers in the UK are those from the LGBT community who face violence, abuse, rape, torture and even death in their countries. This is something that has made me so proud to be British, because despite a small amount of gay-bashers in the UK, as a whole we are very inclusive and accepting of sexual orientation and gender. However, I seem to have been under the illusion that the UK is a safe place for those who are being persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity. Researchers carried out interviews with 22 LGBT asylum seekers, who’ve been held in UK detention centres, asking about their experiences with staff and other asylum seekers, their physical and emotional well-being in detention, and access to legal and health services.

We will always meet someone or hear of someone who is a bigot – someone who makes you feel uncomfortable because of their backwards views – but I had no idea that the centres (which are made specifically for those who are desperate for a safe place) would contain these stupid, uneducated people too. The report uncovered frequent incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and some violent incidents. Also, some asylum seekers were denied vital medication for HIV, and transgender detainees were banned from taking hormones.

Vani, a transgender asylum seeker from India said:

They didn’t provide me with any kind of medicine. I have to take regular cycle of hormones. I normally get hormonal implants. Then in detention they told me I can’t have any kind of hormones. If I don’t have the hormones I get hot flushes and all those hormonal imbalance things. I get like blisters, get depressed, get anxiety and all sorts of stuff.

How does this happen? The UK is so lucky to have a fantastic free healthcare service alongside a ‘good’ (I say that with hesitation, as I know there are a lot of concerns from trans* people when it comes to their treatment under the NHS) understanding of medical services and advice for LGBT patients.

Not only were vital medications confiscated from the refugees, others told of shocking instances of homophobia at every level of the system – from guards, other detainees, interpreters and even legal representatives.

Sathi, from Sri Lanka said:

He asked me if I am speaking with my parents. I said no because they are not happy with me because of my sexuality. He then told me that ‘if you are not happy with your parents then God isn’t going to be happy with you. So make your parents happy and go back’. It means leave my sexuality and just make them happy.

Why is this important? Why should we care about what happens in other countries – shouldn’t we focus on our own? Well, I’m proud to live in such a multicultural and diverse society, and when I saw a group of LGBT asylum seekers strut down the street at the Pride Parade this year, I felt incredibly overwhelmed with emotion because I knew that they had to give up their families and lives to live authentically in this wonderful city. I care because I’m privileged – I’m a white, middle-class woman from London who has never suffered any discrimination or violence (other than for simply being a woman, of course), so if I can’t take advantage of how lucky I am by trying to help others who aren’t as lucky, what’s the point of my existence? It takes some serious guts to start an entirely new life in a different country, but most refugees have no other choice. Often, death is the only solution if they stay in their homeland, but Brianna from Jamaica managed to escape, and told the reporters that back home:

I have been shot, I have been raped, I have been beaten. I just got fed up because Jamaica is a very homophobic place. They don’t tolerate LGBT people. You have to live a life of lies.

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I’m hoping this public report allows further investigations from the Home Office as it is simply not acceptable that asylum seekers are not protected by the detention centre staff. Many say they felt they have to hide their sexuality to avoid abuse, which is the exact reason they fled in the first place! The UK has one of the largest detention estates in Europe, where it detains more migrants and asylum seekers than most other countries, which is so fantastic… but this isn’t the first time there have been concerns about the welfare of refugees. In July 2015, the High Court found that the detention process was “systematically unfair and unlawful”. Umm… So why is it still happening?!

A Ugandan asylum seeker said :

It felt like I was betrayed because if somebody seeks asylum, they’re just trying to get some protection, but then you’re detaining them. It’s like you’re putting them in prison for having come to you for help. It didn’t make sense to me.

Seeking asylum is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is not a crime, and those looking for help should not be treated like criminals. We should be accepting those who are trying to live authentically, but unfortunately the reports clearly show that UK detention centres offer little respite.

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Secret Deodorant: trans* support or token trans* person?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the rise of trans* awareness in advertising, and the thin line between jumping on a bandwagon and actually portraying authentic gender journeys.

Secret Deodorant explores the message “there’s no wrong way to be a woman” in their new #StressTest ad (by Wieden + Kennedy Portland) and the portrayal of different women in a public toilet. The women entering the toilets can be heard giggling and chatting amongst themselves, as we are presented with another woman hiding in the cubicle, nervously thinking about exiting the stall. It’s hard enough being a woman in a society where we feel constantly judged and persecuted for our appearance and actions, let alone a trans* woman in a heteronormative society.

Now, when I first started watching this, admittedly I cringed. I thought “oh god, here’s a token trans* woman!” but, since researching I’ve found a wonderful authenticity to the script. Whilst P&G deny any political ties to the message, Janine Miletic (brand director of North America Deodorants at P&G) states that:

This ad was inspired by transgender women and a real-life moment which is stressful and challenging. This is one of many stories about women’s stress we’re proud to share

I have to say, this spot perfectly captures the anxiety that a lot of transgender people face while having to use public restrooms, and what makes the ad even more authentic is that the very talented actor Karis Wilde is gender non-conforming (identifies as queer). Hoorah! No cis-gender actors playing gender-diverse roles! Clearly W+K Portland have listened to what is going on in the world, especially the struggle trans* and queer actors face with employment.

The portrayal of queer experiences within advertising and the media is really on the rise this year, which is particularly important for the trans* community when it comes to politics and laws. Whilst Janine Miletic confirms that:

This spot was not intended to make any political statement or to support or oppose any specific legislation. We’re nonpartisan and not affiliated with any political party. ‘Stress-Tested for Women’ builds on Secret’s rich history of supporting all women who show courage in redefining feminine strength.

It’s hard to ignore the connotations towards North Carolina’s HB2, which shook the world when it was announced that a vote was taken to block cities and counties from passing protections against LGBT discrimination in a bill that ended up having terrifying and violent implications. The new law no longer protects transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity.

At the end of the advert we can hear the women saying “great dress”, “it’s really cute”, which I have to admit put a little smile on my face! Welldone W+K!

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There are no homosexuals in Iran | il n’y a pas d’homosexuels en iran

Iranian photographer Laurence Rasti travelled to the Denizli (Turkey) to meet gay refugees who are now seeking refuge, due to fear of death, violence and persecution. LGBT+ Iranians have no option but to either flee their country, hide their sexual identity or transition (which would probably still pose an issue in Iran).

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In 2011 Iranian former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Columbia University where he claimed that unlike America, there aren’t any gay people in Iran (lol). This comment was the catalyst for outrage, which Rasti focused her project on, but rather than focusing on the negatives, her photographs highlight the beauty and innocence of love, whilst still subtly concealing the identity of the subjects.

This context of uncertainty, where anonymity is the best protection, this series of photographs questions the fragile nature of identity and gender concepts. It tries to give back to these people a face that their country has temporarily stolen

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Laurence captured my attention as her previous projects also have connotations towards gender constructions within our heteronormative society. Whilst this particular project has a truly terrifying and heartbreaking background narrative, the photographs are so affectionate, sweet and almost comforting.

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