I Love My Trans!

Awareness campaigns often start with the purpose of making information available. After an organization pinpoints the cause and decides on the message, it becomes a matter of how to communicate it effectively and successfully. In today’s world of Internet 2.0, social networking has taken that to a new level. However, sometimes it works in reverse where social networking becomes the reason an awareness campaign comes into existence.

Earlier in the term, students taking the graphic design program at NSCC were given a project where they had to design a poster bringing awareness to an issue of their choice. While it didn’t have to be serious, it did have to be convincing. Elliott is a friend of mine who is a student in the two-year program. He chose an issue that meant something to him: Transgender awareness.

His idea was simple. Photograph several friends with a message written on their palm: “I <3 my trans friend.” ‘Friend’ could have been replaced with other words depending on their relationship: co-worker, brother, boyfriend, student – the list goes on. Elliott used social media to help ease the photo collecting by setting up a Facebook group. Within days, friends, and friends of friends were joining the group and some were uploading photos of their own. He soon had more photos than he needed for the project and quickly realized that what he initiated was bigger than a school assignment. I Love My Trans was born!

Elliott had never fully understood the potential that social networking could have until this project. Using his graphic design experience, he quickly created a logo using the two colours of the transgender pride flag. He says “as a graphic designer, branding and identity is something I work with on a regular basis. I wanted every aspect of the campaign to be cohesive and recognizable, so the idea of branding the campaign came naturally.” He expanded it from the original Facebook group to its own Facebook page, Twitter and Tumblr.

After only a week, the Facebook group had nearly 250 members with well over 50 photos sent in. He attributes its quick growth to his ongoing immediacy to the project. As soon as someone submits a photo, he preps it and uploads it to the group. When someone sends an email, he promptly replies back. “It’s immediate gratification,” he says. “When people see you’re on top of something, they’re more willing to act.”

Elliott has also sent emails of his own to various LGBT groups and university societies around the country and a few in Europe. His idea is that the worst thing that could happen is to get no response.

Finally, good old fashion word of mouth is still beneficial to spreading the word. Elliott says, “if you have something that people are interested in, people will jump on it.”

The biggest thing Elliott has learned from this project is the effectiveness of social networking. While having never been a fan of it before this project, he has changed his mind on the potential it has. “It’s easy to reach a wide audience and there are no limitations on what you can do with it.”

While he doesn’t have a set goal for I Love My Trans, he would like it to continue to grow to be a positive visible presence for the trans community. Awareness campaigns often focus on the negative aspects of an issue, making them easy to ignore because we’ve become so desensitized to them. Elliott believes that it’s the positive nature of this one that has gotten it the response it has.

“If I can make somebody’s day a little happier because they saw it then that’s a good thing.”

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