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Generations of Resilience: How the Past is Helping the LGBTQ Community Through the Present



Huge associate creative director James Ryan and senior business strategist Scott Mathews reflect on how the LGBTQ community are using past lessons to live through a public health crisis

Generations of Resilience: How the Past is Helping the LGBTQ Community Through the Present

Huge associate creative director James Ryan and senior business strategist Scott Mathews discuss the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the LGBTQ community. 

At Huge, we first started to think about a theme for this year’s Pride in February. In those early discussions, we found ourselves coming back to the idea of what the wider world might learn from the queer community. What lessons we could teach based on our specific experience as LGBTQ people. Then March came, and not surprisingly, our discussions were upended.

As a group we felt it would be tone deaf (and futile) to ignore what was happening with Covid-19 - after all, it was often all we could think about as well. But we quickly realised that our community has dealt with the devastating impact of a pandemic before. So as we looked for a way to tie together this new reality with our earlier discussions, we arrived fairly naturally at ‘Generations of Resilience.’ 

Put into a strategy statement (as we do in this business), we articulated our guiding star for this year as follows:

The queer community is defined by our resilience - our ability to bounce back and push back, to stand fast in our true selves and move forward in our activism. It’s a trait developed over generations of fighting against unjust laws, censorship, disease and neglect. It’s a trait everyone needs right now. For Pride 2020, let’s show what resilience looks like - and what can come of it.

Learning from our past. 

One important caveat to all of this is that Covid-19 is not HIV/AIDS—there are limits to any parallels we can draw between the two. Beyond the simple medical facts, the response to both is vastly different: the world did not pause at the outbreak of HIV, and it was a brutal struggle over many years to prompt proper response to the crisis. But as outlets as diverse as the New Yorker and Buzzfeed have explored, some lessons can be gleaned from the past, even as we acknowledge that difference.

  • Political action and forcing a focus on the issues. 

The nature of the pandemic has made many of us feel a specific kind of helplessness. We can’t campaign against it. There’s no marching in the street. But there is always action we can take. The most obvious one is donating - there is no shortage of organisations working to help those affected by the pandemic, from the Red Cross to individual GoFundMe campaigns to God’s Love We Deliver, which was founded to bring home-cooked meals to AIDS patients too sick to cook for themselves and now is working to serve the vulnerable during Covid-19. Give where you can to support a community when the government cannot or will not.

But there’s more we can do than simply show support in the midst of a crisis. The compassion or callousness shown by legislators matters and should be remembered. The conditions that allowed black and brown communities to be affected more than others must be scrutinised. During the AIDS crisis, groups like ACT UP were formed to take direct action, advocating loudly to change legislation and public policy. Social distancing may not allow for such action in the same way now - but in the US, we at least have an election in November, and there’s no shortage of issues to address. 

The minimum wage is not sufficient to live on, let alone to save enough to withstand even the normal bumps of life. Healthcare isn’t working as it should because so many have been pushed out of responsible patterns of care by exorbitant cost and socio-political apathy. These are a few of the underlying tears in our nation’s fabric that we can choose to confront and solve as a consequence of this pandemic.

  • Living joyfully by living responsibly. 

It’s not hard to see how grief or anger can be channeled into action, but what about joy? Right now it can feel like any emotion beyond sadness is disrespectful. But the LGBTQ community has always found a way to use a radical kind of joy in its response to overwhelming traumas. Our annual Pride marches, for instance - one of our most visual outpourings of joy - were a response to decades of harassment and forced invisibility. But next to every amazing drag queen you see there, you’ll find groups of activists and health educators, because joy comes with responsibilities as well.

And we can take as another example the art of Keith Haring, who died of complications from HIV/AIDS at 31. His iconic work is full of joy, but was never divorced from the political and social realities of the moment. It would be a waste to live miserably, just as it would be a waste to live without taking action to help those in need and work for something better. So joy has its place - and that place is next to informed action. 

  • The value of intergenerational bonds. 

In our community, we are not (often) born into LGBTQ families. We need to create and sustain ‘chosen families’ and work to inherit and pass on their lessons. The links between generations in the LGBTQ community are a pillar of its strength.

This is especially true now, because even for those of us in the affinity group directly affected by HIV/AIDS now, much of our knowledge of the height of the crisis is second-hand. We were children then, if we were even born yet. But that only underscores the value of intergenerational connection. The art and activism we use as touchstones - films like How to Survive a Plague or plays like The Normal Heart - is a gift and a guide left to us by older generations. And especially right now, it is vital.

With our senior communities at a vastly increased risk from Covid-19, it’s imperative that we celebrate their value. The elderly are not disposable - they are a source of knowledge, of strength, but most importantly they are our loved ones. 

Celebrating and remembering in the present.

Pride means celebration; It means remembering; It means appreciating what we have today and coming together to push for what needs to come tomorrow. Doing so this year will be challenging. But, not impossible.

At Huge, we’re translating what can be translated into digital formats, we’re shifting channels to meet people where they’re at and, above all, we’re keeping a sense of humour about it. Because, sometimes the best balm is humour and the wisdom to not take yourself so seriously. This year at Huge, we have a line-up that includes drag shows with a history lesson, talks with healthcare professionals, and even some stand-up comedy in Colombia. There will be a digital film festival and, as always, a strong line-up of design that will unfold and hit Huge’s channels throughout the month.  

So join us. Let your hair down, don a blue wig on your next Zoom call, and don’t for a second take any of this to mean we’re not serious. We’ve just learned that life is too fragile and short to waste it. 

Be safe. Have fun. Remember to be proud.

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Categories: LGBTQ+, Corporate, Social and PSAs

HUGE USA, Mon, 01 Jun 2020 13:47:33 GMT