What started out as a virtual counselling session to discuss coming out with LGBTQ2+ Gen-Zers was disrupted – in a good way – by surprise celebrities who joined in to share their stories, support and reaffirmation that it does, in fact, get better.
It’s a fact: 75% of Gen-Zers who come out, do so online before coming out to their friends and family. If Gen-Z feels more comfortable online, then there is a need to create truly safe environments to hold space for what is likely one of the most important conversations of their lives.
In the days leading up to National Coming Out Day, influencers from the LGBTQ2+ community across Canada shared their coming out stories on social media and issued private invitations to join a virtual safe space session created exclusively for Gen-Zers who are thinking about coming out.
'The Safe Space Session' was completely safe. No cameras. No recording. Just love and support, and a few surprise guests.
For the virtual event, Gen-Zers from around the world, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, South America, Europe and the Middle East, joined 'The Safe Space Session' moderated by Bill Ryan, a licensed social worker and internationally recognised expert in the field of sexuality, gender, sexual education and homophobia. The virtual Safe Space Session fostered an open, honest dialogue about how to navigate the waters of this exceptionally important time in one’s life, providing a supportive forum for participants to discuss their personal situations and plans for their own coming out.
“Coming out is often one of the scariest and most important things someone will ever do. That’s why so many young people come out online before they do in real life,” said Bill. “Covid has created a lot of challenges for people in the LGBTQ2+ community, and it’s especially hard for those who haven’t yet come out. It’s hard to feel connected, it’s hard to feel able to explore who you are, it’s hard to be your authentic self. Given that it looks like we’ll be living in a virtual world for a while to come, it’s more important than ever for us to connect virtually and ensure that everyone knows where to access the resources and support they need.”
After the counselling part of the session wrapped up, participants were surprised as celebrity guests from the LGBTQ2+ community popped into the chat, including multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter, performer and outspoken LGBTQ2+ philanthropist and activist Adam Lambert; former member of the girl group Fifth Harmony, one of pop’s most loved singer-songwriters and an outspoken LGBTQ2+ activist, 24-year-old Lauren Jauregui; Canadian YouTuber, actress, model and avid transgender activist Gigi Gorgeous, and Canada’s own Jackie Cox, who was a fierce competitor on last season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. The surprise guests shared their own coming out stories, answered participants’ questions and provided some counsel based on their own experiences.
The celebrities shared their experiences as well as some sage advice. Adam Lambert said “I often wonder what my experience would have been back when I was a teenager, if I had had experiences like this. Keeping a secret is harmful to you. If you’re not out yet, you have to try to find someone in your life, someone somewhere who you come out to. It will be such a release – you can’t imagine.”
Lauren Jauregui commented about the event: “I’m just grateful. Grateful to be in these spaces.” She added: “Just know that it’s your own journey, to go along at your own pace. To be express who you really are.”
“I know from personal experience coming out online, having somebody tell their story and thinking, ‘That’s me – it’s the best feeling ever.’” said Gigi Gorgeous.
NYX Cosmetics Canada was behind the inception of and funding for 'The Safe Space Session' initiative. Diversity, inclusion, accessibility and empowerment of self-expression through makeup for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or race, have long been fundamental brand pillars for the brand. The brand is a proud supporter and partner of It Gets Better Canada.
“To lead by example, earlier this year, all of NYX Cosmetics’ retail stores in Canada became Certified Safe Spaces, with our employees across Canada participating in safe space training to ensure that everyone feels welcome to be who they are inside our stores,” said Keon Zhang, general manager for NYX Cosmetics Canada. “As National Coming Out Day was approaching, we asked ourselves how we could further extend our commitment to providing safe spaces to reach out to Gen-Z, most of whom are more comfortable coming out online. The team at McCann brought us the ‘Safe Space Sessions’ idea – and we knew that it was the answer to amplify our impact to provide safe spaces to more people in the virtual world.”
Josh Stein, chief creative officer at McCann Canada, said: “All NYX Cosmetics stores in Canada became Certified Safe Spaces earlier this year – and that inspired us. Unfortunately, with everything going on this year, finding people to talk to who understand what you might be going through hasn’t been so safe. The situation is especially difficult for those who are struggling with the decision to come out. So, in partnership with It Gets Better Canada, we decided to extend NYX’s commitment to safe spaces online by creating 'The Safe Space Sessions': a virtual safe space where young people considering coming out could prepare for this life-changing event. When you hear feedback from participants who said things like, ‘this is one of the most real connections I’ve ever felt in my whole life’ – you know you’re doing something important. It’s a great feeling.”
The idea for 'The Safe Space Sessions' was imagined and produced by McCann Canada on a pro-bono basis. In preparation for and support of the project, all McCann team members who worked on the project participated in Certified Safe Space training. McIntyre Communications provided PR support for the project.
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