“Never be afraid to be you.” That is the slogan at the top of every photo of the So Gay So What campaign, an international LGBTQ equality campaign that celebrates the role models not afraid to be themselves. Started by graphic designer Darren Melchiorre and legendary nightlife producer Chris Ryan in 2012 as an idea to promote a small LGBT music event, the campaign has gained international attention over the past few years.
“We wanted to create something that highlighted the LGBTQ role models who are in our everyday lives, those in our schools, offices and communities who are not afraid to stand up and be who they are in hopes that that courage and pride will inspire courage in those questioning who they are or feel lost or alone. So we got seven friends to trust me with this idea and pose for the campaign, and the rest is campaign history.”
The So Gay So What campaign is about celebrating you. Every person that stands up and puts on one of the shirts sends a message to everyone who may feel uncomfortable in their own skin, or may be afraid to be who they are, that they are not alone, that they have someone standing with them. While also highlighting prominent LGBT individuals such as Sir Ari Gold, famed columnist Michael Musto and celebrities such as “Real Housewives of New York City” star Aviva Drescher, the campaign really caught people’s attention with its feature of Brooke Guinan, the first transgender firefighter in the FDNY.
“Brooke had such an inspiring story, and it’s the story that we look for in people posing for the campaign. Everyone’s story has power, and someone in this world may be inspired by your story. Being a role model is one of the most powerful things you can do for another human being.”
May 2015 marks the campaign’s third anniversary and the launch of its college program, which highlights college faculty, alumni and students fighting for diversity and equality. Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., became the first college to pose for the campaign as part of its Queer Week celebration. Asked if there was any one particular person he wants to pose for the So Gay So What campaign, Chris Ryan says, “Madonna, since she is the ultimate gay icon.” Darren adds: “Melissa Etheridge. She is my role model on so many levels.”
The next So Gay So What campaign photo shoot will be on June 6 in New York City.