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Black Trans Community's 16th Century Portraits Highlight Ongoing Struggles


UK Black Pride and McCann London unearth dangers of misinformation about the UK Black Trans community

Black Trans Community's 16th Century Portraits Highlight Ongoing Struggles

UK Black Pride, the world’s largest volunteer-led organisation celebrating African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQIA+ people, has launched 16th Century Life Expectancy. This campaign, created by award-winning agency McCann London, raises awareness of the dangers of misinformation spreading about the Black trans community and asks for improved access to healthcare for trans people.

One of the most harmful pieces of misinformation states Black trans women have a life expectancy of just 35. This bleak life expectancy statistic first arose when a report compiled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  found that the average age of trans homicide victims in South America was between 30 and 35. Although a very real and shocking statistic for that specific group, it has since been extrapolated, misappropriated, and shared across social media fuelling a rippling effect of fear for a vulnerable section of society. 

Trans people are two and a half times more likely to be victims of violence than cisgender people  and as harmful anti-trans rhetoric like 'trans people are a new phase', 'trans people are problematic', 'trans people are infiltrating woman's spaces'' intensify, so too do the threats to trans people and those who support them. 

McCann London’s creative idea sees five leaders of the Black trans community reimagined as paintings from the 16th Century, which was a period in history where the life expectancy was just 35, with the aim of sparking conversation and debate around misinformation and the harm it can do. 

The five individuals featured in the exhibition are: Talulah Eve (the first transgender woman on Britain’s Next Top Model), Amani Cosmo, Ebun Sodipo, Mzz Kimberley, /and Rico Jacob Chace. Their portraits were revealed at an exhibition hosted by world-renowned auction house Christie’s as a part of their ‘Christie's Lates London: Pride’ showcase. The exhibition will continue to exist via an online gallery on where the trans rights the campaign is lobbying for, ways people can join the fight, historical context and more examples of misinformation around the trans community, can be accessed.

Lady Phyll (she/her), co-founder and executive director of UK Black Pride said, “We’re excited to launch this project to showcase just how damaging misinformation can be to the lives of Black and brown queer individuals, specifically the younger generation. Imagine going on a journey to be your authentic self and seeing false information about the life expectancy of those who have had similar journeys. Seeing that compounded with issues with healthcare, safety, housing, jobs and so many other wrongs, makes the path much more tremulous. We’ve also set out to challenge the systems that create these issues and encourage others to do the same. We must always look at every element of the queer experience through the lens of intersectionality, and we’re proud to work alongside such advocates and defenders of our Black trans community.”

As the UK continues to descend the ILGA’s Rainbow Europe ranking for the third year running  and as trans rights diminish, violence and a lack of adequate access to healthcare remain, the project seeks to answer how the UK can safeguard the community, citing countries such as Malta which has implemented models of healthcare grounded in self-determination based on informed consent . UK Black Pride is asking allies, via a letter on the 16th Century website, to open discussions with MPs across the UK asking for the rights and safety of trans people to be a priority; and for an urgent review of waiting times for trans-related care which can be up to five years. 

Dr Kamilla Kamaruddin (she/her), GP in transgender healthcare and clinical lead, East of England Gender Service said, “I would like to highlight the significant challenges faced by trans people of colour in accessing gender affirming care in the United Kingdom. As a Gender Service specialist, I join my community in advocating for change and equal opportunities. Trans people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds encounter barriers that hinder their access to health care. Persistent racial disparities in healthcare perpetuate inequality, preventing trans people of colour from receiving necessary treatments, mental health support, and culturally sensitive care. I would like to call for urgent action to eliminate these disparities. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and society at large must prioritise comprehensive and inclusive policies, increased funding for Gender Services, and culturally competent care. Diversity training for providers and the employment of trans healthcare professionals from minority backgrounds are crucial steps toward fostering an inclusive environment. Together, we can create a society that upholds inclusivity, compassion, and dignity for all, ensuring equitable access to gender affirming care for trans people, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Trans people deserve equal opportunities and to be treated with respect.”

McCann London is working with UK Black Pride’s network of trans activists such as Radam Ridwan and Tate Smith to further amplify the campaign’s message through an additional series of portraits. These trans activists and additional members of the LGBTQIA+ community will share their portraits across social media. The wider community is also encouraged to get behind the campaign by creating their own 16th Century portraits via an Instagram filter available on UK Black Pride’s page (from May 31st) – using the hashtag #16thCenturyLifeExpectancy.

The portraits are now live across UK Black Pride social channels (@ukBlackpride) and are also running across DOOH sites kindly donated by Clear Channel, and OOH sites donated by wildposting media company, UNCLE. The portraits are supported by a BTS film, starring the five cast members.

Rico Jacob Chace (he/him) Treasurer and Trustee at LGBT+ Consortium says, “We’ve created this campaign to shed light on the misinformation which continues to spread about our community. An ongoing struggle sparked by the spirit of intolerance that has been brought about by colonialism. In addition to misinformation, there is the intersectional impact on people of colour (POC) in the UK, leading to over 50% of LGBT+ homeless shelters inhabitants and LGBT+ users of hate crime hotlines being POC - this needs to be addressed head on by the UK government. It takes on average five years for a person who wants to transition to get their first appointment on the NHS - can you imagine not being able to live your true self for five years. This campaign is fronted by the most vulnerable members of the community – Black trans people – and once they’re protected, all members of the community are protected.”

Talulah Eve (she/her) who stars in the campaign said, “This project was super important for me to get involved in. In recent months it’s become harder to read newspapers or watch the news because of the increased transphobia in the media and anti-trans rhetoric within the government.”

Ben Conway (he/him), creative at McCann London said, “The trans and non-binary community is under attack in the UK. They’re looking for allies in all directions, and as creatives in the ad industry, we should harness ideas and creativity to face the vitriolic hate and discrimination they are receiving. We couldn’t be happier to collaborate with UK Black Pride to deliver this landmark campaign, to celebrate and platform the stories, beauty and legitimacy of our wonderful cast of trans and non-binary women of colour. They deserve to be heard, understood, listened to, reflected on and actioned against.”

Jason Jarvis (he/him), creative agency account director and Queer Channel Crew co-captain at Clear Channel UK, said: “Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community has been integral to Clear Channel’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, spearheaded by our employee resource group ‘Queer Channel Crew’. As part of this year’s Pride activities, we chose to partner with UK Black Pride and McCann London to bring to life the 16th Century Life Expectancy campaign, recognising the dangers of misinformation around the Trans community. We hope that our public medium will help to raise awareness of this important message as we continue to advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, challenge misconceptions, and drive positive change during the Pride season & beyond.”

16th Century website can be found here.


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Categories: Corporate, Social and PSAs, LGBTQ+

McCann London, Wed, 31 May 2023 08:19:38 GMT