Condé Nast. Have you heard that name? Do you know what it is? My first association was with my hometown, because it is the travel magazine that rated it the number one city in the United States. I always thought they were a bit rubbish and irrelevant for that, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city for what I’ve made of it. But number one in the country? For the birthplace of the Civil War and current gentrification hub? Well, it’s re-branded as a quaint and cosmopolitan city with loads of history™. So, eh, maybe not.
But then I was doing some digging into a new platform that I had seen advertised on social media called them. them is a mission-driven next-generation community platform that centers LGBTQ people. And they actually have some people of color featured, including Tyler Ford, agender social media personality, and Alok Vaid-Menon, non-binary performance artist and self-proclaimed fashionist@! I find this pretty wild that Condé Nast, a well-known mass media company, has launched this project. them is actually the first project of Condé Nast’s new incubator that, according to their website, was “created to develop new brands and businesses for the company’s consumer audience and advertising partners alike” and “designed to capture and mobilize the innovation.”
The company is specifically targeting “the most influential demographic – Gen Z,” claiming that, actually, “more than half of Gen Z identifies as queer.” The website then states that equality is a “high priority for the population.” So, obviously, Condé Nast is appealing to a market and to specific consumers who they claim have influence on culture (minds). They’re looking ahead to think about what the next relevant cultural matter is in order for them to capitalize on it. But, also, they’re actually giving platforms to LGBTQ and queer and trans people, some of whom are of color.
This is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are so many LGBTQ political and cultural platforms in the United States that are completely exclusionary or closed-off to people of color, and especially to trans people of color. In my own state, the organization that I was working for that sought to financially support queer and trans people of color (POC) leadership was greatly overshadowed by the organization, Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). AFFA pulled some moves over the years that made it pretty clear that they weren’t actually down to commit to the fight for queer and trans people of color, especially those who are not cisgender (cis) and cis presenting. Above them is Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national organization that has historically been problematic and is pretty much a big red X for a large swath of queer and trans people of color for that reason. An LGBTQ space that actually respects the voices and wallets of people of color is much needed. I hope that them can rise up to the challenge.
Secondly, apart from actually including and hopefully respecting people of color as members of their platform, them has the potential to influence culture especially in terms of representation. If greater numbers of people have access to platforms like them on the internet, they might feel a little less alone with their identity or expression. They might feel a little more a part of a larger community, but one that doesn’t force assimilation into white culture and beauty standards for acceptance.