When my friend Avila told me that she planned to launch the Kutenda project, I was so excited by the simplicity but also the significance of the idea. It immediately hit home that it was going to mean so much to so many people, including me. We hear a lot these days about the importance of representation and having a reflection of oneself in the media, but so few companies have made meaningful commitments to this work.
When you are not part of a minority group so many things pass you by about how so much of our culture is geared towards one kind of person. As a young, non-disabled, white, cisgender woman most things are incredibly accessible to me, and it (unfortunately) wasn’t until I started to come out to myself and become more active online that I realised how big the discrepancies are between my experiences in the retail and pop culture environments to that of some of my peers.
Around the time I was figuring out that I was gay, I paid close attention to stories of same-sex relationships in the media and devoured every bit of content available to me. The idea that I might be different to my friends and family felt so scary to me, and I just wanted to feel normal. In the beginning I wasn’t ready to share what I was going through, so my only comfort came from film and television that had any form of LGBTQ+ representation. The characters were my friends, and templates for what my life could be. Luckily for me, this type of representation was becoming more common in the media.
More than this, the representation I found of same-sex couples mainly consisted of people that looked like me. While I didn’t always notice at the time, I realise now that I had such an easier time identifying with and seeing myself in characters that had similar experiences and looked like me. It made me feel as though their positive experiences could be my positive experiences.
But how could someone from a BAME background identify in the same way when their experiences of the world occur through a different lens? Seeing a same-sex relationship will help them in terms of coming out, but how is white-only representation going to make them feel better about being a person of colour AND being LGBTQ+? One deeply affects the other. Not only is representation for each group important, so is INTERSECTIONAL representation. There are people out there that are part of multiple minority communities and seeing that reflected could make all the difference to someone trying to celebrate their whole identity.
Thankfully, this is an idea that companies like Avila.Diana and Kutenda are taking and running with. So many people will be so comforted by seeing experiences like theirs in a celebratory manner, and I’m so excited to be seeing it because I know how important it has been for me.
By Megan Green
Featured image courtesy of Mercedes Mehling via Unsplash