With every new generation, we get closer to achieving equal justice and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) Americans.
We celebrate those achievements each June and commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, which marked the beginning of the movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBT Americans.
It’s not all parades and rainbows, of course. In the United States, we continue to see state legislatures advancing bills that target transgender people, limit local protections, and allow the use of religion to discriminate. In many parts of the world, it remains unsafe to live openly and authentically as an LGBTQ person.
I hope that in reading Miguel Camacho’s essay below and his insights into the progress in representation, you will feel as uplifted and energized as I did. I feel proud to have Miguel as part of the Impact and Activate community!
Pride in wild times
Miguel Camacho, Customer Success Manager, Activate Team
As anyone alive right now could testify, we are living in some truly wild times. The speed at which technology, education, and cultural awareness is evolving is breathtaking and exciting. And as a man who was a toddler in the 80s, my perspective on these changes is quite different from the lovely millennials I work with on a daily basis. As time passes, I see younger generations simply accepting the way things are now, and I can see how easy it is to take certain things for granted. Seeing two men simply holding hands was, during my formative years, a gasp-inducing sight, even in mildly progessive South Beach Miami. Cut to 2021, when two men can now be seen in toothpaste ads, Campbell soup commercials, and more, smiling happily with their very own children. It’s as dizzying as it is encouraging.
The value of visibility
One thing I do not take for granted is visibility and representation. As a queer man of color, I can tell you that few and far between were the times I’d find anyone in mainstream media that I could connect with.
This may not sound so bad, but when you don’t see yourself, ever, in the cultural zeitgeist, you start to feel invisible. You find yourself with fewer role models to look up to.
I definitely wasn’t going to see myself in the very talented Hank Azaria, a straight white man playing a campy, gay, Latino housekeeper in 1996’s “The Birdcage.” Eric McCormack on “Will & Grace” was an affable, successful gay man, which, while aspirational, still did not resonate with me at all.
It wasn’t until a struggling little mid-90s show on ABC called “My So-Called Life” showed me Wilson Cruz as Ricki Vasquez: a gay, Latino teenager just struggling to make it through the school day without falling apart. Ricki gave me a sense of identity and much-needed belonging. I suddenly wasn’t the only boy in America sneaking on my mom’s Avon eyeliner when she wasn’t looking!
Being part of the solution
Working for Activate, I’ve now found myself in the very satisfying position of being able to provide much-needed visibility to other minorities and underrepresented groups. From campaigns for Athletha that spotlight body diversity in athleisure to campaigns with Square featuring Black-owned businesses, the simple action of showing in media that these people exist is so important.
Just as important is the intersectionality of campaigns like the one we’re currently doing for Saks OFF 5th for Pride. The campaign not only showcases the LGBTIQA+ community but people of color and of diverse gender identities within those communities. It’s amazing to see groups that were once marginalized now front and center, gaining representation, and seeing much-needed economic gains. Like it or not, money is empowering, so I love helping to put money in their pockets!
Some could write these campaigns off as “just marketing,” but ultimately they portray the complexity of the human experience, from all different facets of life, and I could not be happier to be a part of it.
Miguel Camacho is wearing the black shirt, photos taken pre-pandemic
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