When it comes to allyship with the Queer and Trans community, it is common for beauty brands to believe that a Pride photoshoot and changing their profile picture to a rainbow is enough. But we must remind ourselves that simply emphasizing Queerness one month out of the year is not enough and has never been enough. Allies must be doing the work all 12 months of the year.
Allyship is something that is not just said or represented in a change in your marketing strategy. Allyship means ACTION! When I say action, it means not just having Queer folx as the face of a brand, but also having them as the BODY. Not just Queer and Trans models, but photographers, consultants, and executives. Queer people in POWER and being PAID.
It’s easy to book us for our outward queerness, but are you paying us for our perspective, our ideas, and our voices? Queer people shouldn’t be an accessory to your business, but integral. When I say “integral,” I mean in the marketing department, in operations, in outreach, in front of the camera and behind it as well. Every facet of your organization should be representing the people that you say your beauty products are for, because Queer people aren’t just walking wallets to give you money and pat you on the back for having a float in a parade.
We are PEOPLE. People who face institutional queerphobia and transphobia and if you say that you support Queer people, it means helping to fight that institutional prejudice. Does a portion of your profits go to supporting Trans people’s transition funds? Do you financially support Queer spaces and Queer organizations that are on the ground in communities supporting us like G.L.I.T.S. Inc.? In the immortal words of activist and community leader Raquel Willis, “If you have an organization with no Black Trans leadership or specific Black Trans funding, you are obsolete”—and for me anything else is simply rainbow capitalism.
As Queer people, we all have an endless list of businesses and organizations that come to us when we need our faces for photos or when the clock strikes June 1st; but aren’t present when we are struggling, in need of assistance, or when they’re hiring and we are more than qualified for positions. We must be restructuring and redefining the ways in which you show up as allies. Not to market to Queer people, but to center, uplift, and including them. And when I say Queer people, it doesn’t just mean some of us, it means all of us. Queer people are not a monolith, from Black Trans people to disabled Queer folx to Indigenous Queer folx, incarcerated Queer folx, and so many others. It is your job as an outsider to get to understand us, not the other way around. As a beautifully diverse community, we all have different needs and different perspectives.
So rather than expect us to come to you to be heard, seek us out. Support our Queer spaces, support our art, support our lives and our transition funds. Uplift us by having them in your boardrooms, in your production meetings, and in your concept and development meetings … and of course paying us for it too! In essence, if you want to consider yourself an ally, put your money where your mouth is, not just your marketing. My piece of advice, take half the money that you spend trying to market towards us and spend it on supporting and uplifting the community that you want to support you. Marketing means nothing to Queer people when we don’t know where our next meal is coming from, or how we’re going to make it to the next day.
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