In the depths of infinite scrolling, sometimes it can feel difficult to find your digital home. Yet every day, people with interests just like you, or with shared beliefs, identities and experiences, or even just the same sense of humour, are all showing up on TikTok ready to build connection and community. Whether educating people on what it means to be a queer disabled person in 2023, to giving a 90-second dive into drag history, to teaching audiences about the colonialist erasure of gender diversity over the centuries, TikTok creators have been dedicating their time to developing safe spaces to learn, to experience, and to find community.
Focused on celebrating the intersectionality within the community, GAY TIMES and TikTok have curated a roster of creators who are loved by both alike. Coming together to capture how we can turn up, have fun and learn more #ForYourPride, these fifteen LGBTQIA+ creators continue to inspire and shift culture year-round, leading the conversation all around the world at the touch of a button. For this year’s TikTok Pride Unpacked series, the bitesize videos will explore their renowned work, individual ideas and interests. Let yourself delve deep into their worlds as we open up a variety of topics, capturing what Pride means to each of them and celebrating the diversity of the queer experience.
For specialised LGBTQIA+ educator Jude Guaitamacchi, their hope is to use TikTok to “inspire, inform and empower my audiences, especially those that are on a journey to discovering their identity, [because] meeting and learning from other trans and non-binary people helped me to understand myself.” According to Jude, that’s the “beauty of TikTok”: easy access to empowering information and “a sense of community at our fingertips”.
“The power of community cannot be understated,” Benjy Kusi agrees, “we are stronger together than we are alone.” As a queer Black person, the inclusion and wellbeing consultant hopes that his content “shines a light on the experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ people…Existing at this intersection is wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it also presents unique obstacles that the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies need to be more aware of than they are currently.”
When thinking about how TikTok’s pride campaign will resonate with LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, British-Pakistani singer-songwriter Leo Kalyan believes it “just creates important representation… We talk a lot about ‘representation’ and diversity, but the power of seeing someone like yourself on screen, being unapologetic about who they are… it’s empowering.”
For artist, creative and co-founder of Hysterical Collective, Bee Illustrates, they strive to “create the kind of content I feel I would have benefitted from seeing when I was growing up and navigating adolescence, feeling lost and disenfranchised, and struggling with all of the confusing and conflicting feelings that come with growing up LGBTQIA+ and not really knowing what my place in the world was.” Bee explains that to them, social media is a “fantastic way of spreading information to people who might not have otherwise sought it out, and I hope that by participating in campaigns that make complex aspects of LGBTQ+ history easily understood, that we are able to combat some of the lack of understanding and frequent misinformation that is spread about the queer community and move towards a more accepting, empathetic and informed society. Knowledge is power!”
If there was one piece of advice that all our creatives wholeheartedly agreed on, it’s that authenticity is key – both on and off the screen. “I’m not a master editor, dancer, or comedian, even if I think I am pretty funny personally”, Benjy Kusi tells us, “my strengths lie in writing and speaking, so that’s what I do, in the way that suits me best.” In fact, your unique authenticity could be just what someone is looking for; TikTok creator, presenter, stand up and drag artist Ellis Lloyd Jones’ niche is “just being Welsh, so I am basically related to a whole country! TikTok is endless and you’ll always find your people…. The best thing that happened to me was when I started to stray away from my usual content of being the Welsh stereotype and showing my queer Drag side, my audience enjoyed it but I also gained a new audience that came for the specific content!”
“Authenticity is important. I don’t think I would have connected with wider audiences without showing up fully as myself – as cliche as that sounds – it’s the truth”, Leo Kalyans muses, “Find a new way of looking at things, and figure out how you can bring joy or value to people’s lives in a way that also challenges you as a creative person.”
The You Belong Here campaign captures just that: you don’t need to pretend to be anything that you’re not, you just need to capture your authentic self and share whatever you want to share. Benjy explains: “When you’re starting out it can be so tempting to try to copy other successful creators, but if you don’t have their exact strengths and interests their formula isn’t going to work for you, and you’ll burn out fast.” Jude Guaitamacchi agrees, “My advice [to rising TikTokers] would be, ‘be who you are and make it work for you, whatever that looks like’.”