Arguably few celebrities better understand the power of media representation than Miley Cyrus. The star persistently uses the media fascination surrounding her to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues, and her latest effort is no exception: On Monday, Cyrus teamed up with Instagram to launch an inspiring campaign called #InstaPride.
#InstaPride will release a series of portraits featuring "transgender and gender-expansive individuals from all walks of life" to encourage viewers to learn more about "the power of acceptance, self-expression and freedom," no matter one's gender identity, Cyrus' Happy Hippie Foundation states on its website. This project is clearly in line with the larger goals of the organization, which is to "rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations."
"Anyone should be able to express how they feel, without questions, and be able to live," Cyrus told Time on Monday.
Media representation of gender-nonconforming individuals is a crucial first step toward greater acceptance of this disproportionately vulnerable population. Studies show that media representation is hardly frivolous, but a deeply powerful method of affecting how individuals come to accept themselves and others.
LGBTQ people themselves confirm this. "I've always thought, if I had images that I could have seen, if I had people to look up to—what a powerful thing that would have been," Alex Schmider, a young transgender man participating in the shoot, told Time.
While the campaign has only released photos of one subject — Leo Sheng — so far, Time's profile of the shoot indicates that we can look forward to images of subjects like Precious Davis, a biracial transgender woman who posed with her fiancé, a transgender man named Myles Brady, as well as YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous and plenty more.
"I spent so much of my life uncomfortable with who I was and afraid to move because I didn't want to stand out any more than I already did," Sheng told #InstaPride. But transitioning, he said, changed his life. "I remember that I'm no longer having to hide anything about who I am," he said. "Everything about me right now is exactly as it should be."
If Sheng's photos and comments are any indication, this project will surely do much to help other gender expansive and transgender individuals know that not only are they not alone — they're beautiful and as worthy of acceptance and empathy as anybody else.
h/t The Daily Dot