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We’re here and we’re queer too!

2022 marks 50 years since the first UK Pride rally, which had approximately 2,000 participants. Since then, the nation’s ideas on the LGBTQ+ community have evolved. We are more widely accepted, but are we understood? Despite a rise in LGBTQ+ representation in media, representations of racial intersectionality, the combined experience of race and sexuality, remain neglected. There must be an opportunity to give a voice to often overlooked, but very present, members of our society who find themselves at the crossroads of identity.

The voices of LGBTQ+ people of colour (POC) have been hugely influential in the historic pursuit of LGBTQ+ acceptance and the dismantling of wider systemic injustices. Bayard Rustin, arrested for his sexuality in 1953, played a pivotal role in building the foundations for the civil rights movement as mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, is often attributed with one of the inciting acts of the Stonewall Riot and continued to fight for queer acceptance right up to her premature death. In more recent times, two of the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrice Cullors and Alicia Garza, identify as queer. Lady Phyll, the founder of UK Black Pride, has given a voice to a generation of LGBTQ+ POC who feel there is still work to be done for those alienated by mainstream LGBTQ+ culture. The Black Lives Matter movement has consistently used its global attention to bring awareness to black trans and queer lives as part of its broader messaging, demanding that intersectional oppressions not be forgotten.

The strong presence of LGBTQ+ POC in activist spaces throughout our history has created a platform for LGBTQ+ POC to openly express themselves in the present day. Entering a queer space, the spectrum of backgrounds from which we come is clear. This is to be expected from a multicultural nation where 1.4 million identify as LGB according to the Office of National Statistics in 2019 (a number expected to grow, as the latest census results will for the first time reveal data on gender expression). The hashtag #poclgbtq has amassed 3.9million views on TikTok – with content by creators such as @sunpaiii, Machiazelli Kahey (@macdoesit) and Dua Saleh (@doitlikedua) gaining millions of likes. We are clearly here and queer, so is this actively considered by the comms industry when we look for talent to endorse clients’ brands?

Across the pond, we can see LGBTQ+ POC talent front and centre of brand campaigns. Lil Nas X has been the face of many a campaign, from Gucci and Calvin Klein to Taco Bell, who onboarded him as Chief Impact Officer last August. Indya Moore partnered with Tommy Hilfiger last year to create what she called a “genderfull” collection. Tan France, British Pakistani Netflix personality who moved to the US, has also secured brand partnerships from the likes of Klarna and Hyundai. This reflects the potential for queer representation across a broad range of industries, and the confidence of US brands in LGBTQ+ POC talent as collaborators. While the UK does have some instances of similar representation, for example Method’s “Drag Cleans”, there is more to be done.

This month, we held the inaugural meeting of Splendid LGBTQ+ . This is a space where LGBTQ+ staff and allies can meet and discuss industry news related to LGBTQ+ issues, as well as reflect on topics such as the one under discussion here. We were able to have an open, group discussion about how we approach talent in relation to our work for clients, and whether we can do more to overcome natural biases and create space for LGBTQ+ POC talent across our campaigns. Are we only considering this kind of talent for LGBTQ+ specific campaigns or are we opening opportunities across the board, to highlight the breadth of talent offered by this community? My view is that, until we are on a level playing field in terms of representation, intersectional talent is something we should make a conscious effort to support. As a group, we discussed ways of implementing processes at Splendid to promote authentic representation.

We won’t solve this issue overnight, but asking these questions, discussing them together, is a start. At Splendid, we want to make a concerted effort to keep these conversations going, to create more diverse opportunities through the work we produce.

Aneesa Kaleem