Celebrating Signs of Acceptance
J&B Blended Scotch Whiskey recently released a progressive holiday commercial that would not have been on mainstream television just a short time ago, which is cause for celebration. The Spanish advertisement supports the transgender community and features a grandfather and the love for his grandchild.
It opens with Grandpa taking his wife’s lipstick and applying it, hidden away in the bathroom. As the commercial unfolds, he acquires his own makeup collection, wearing it with growing confidence. The viewer sees Grandpa looking relaxed and authentic in makeup, yet the act remains something he does in solitude.
The emotional turning point is reached when he thinks about his grandchild, who is initially introduced as Alvaro. Grandpa intuits that Alvaro is trans. In the final scene, he takes her to the bathroom and gives her a makeover with his own makeup. When they emerge, Grandpa introduces Ana, who is wearing a full face of makeup, looking hesitant yet beautiful.
Mom and Dad look at Ana with tears and Mom embraces her. Mom looks to Grandpa with gratitude as she envelopes Ana in her arms, and the family moves on to celebrate their holiday. One of the last snippets shows Grandpa leaning over to give Grandma a loving kiss on her hand.
I use the pronoun “he” to refer to Grandpa because the ad doesn't answer the question of his identity along the gender continuum. We know that he has hidden an important part of himself away from loved ones but has kept it alive and growing within himself. Having nurtured self-acceptance, even as he continues to hide, Grandpa is able to love Ana unconditionally, and help the rest of the family do the same.
When we are accepted for who we are, and we feel safe and free to show ourselves without masks, that is true transformative belonging. We need and deserve it from our communities. Acceptance is essential for fostering authenticity. When we are accepted, we don’t have to hide aspects of ourselves, including our vulnerabilities or things that embarrass us.
Unfortunately, in a society which narrowly defines who is acceptable, able, and beautiful, too many people are placed on the margins and must struggle for acceptance, which takes a huge toll on them. But a lack of acceptance comes at a huge cost to us all because we are missing out on engaging the full range of human potential. And those of who, on the surface, fall within the range of social acceptance, continue to don our masks and diminish our own potential, often unconsciously, in order to be accepted in a conditional world. What is so often missed in conversations about inclusion and acceptance is how much people who do “fit in” lose out because they are separated from belonging fully to humanity.
We have all internalized conditional notions of belonging and have projected them onto others at one time or another, because this is the world we live in. We don’t have to feel guilty, but we do need to practice noticing it as it is happening so we can change.
Fortunately, more people who have been placed on the margins are finding and celebrating each other. They are not sitting quietly while given only occasional seats at the table, in a nod to diversity measures that still cling to old, inadequate notions of welcoming.
To a large degree, it is the countercultural marginalized communities worldwide who are challenging the notions that limit us all and if we join in solidarity, we can fundamentally transform the way we relate to each other.
J&B’s ad encourages greater acceptance, offering a view of what life could be like in a more all-embracing world. Even while appealing to greater inclusion, it's always helpful to note who continues to be left out – for example, Ana is a young trans woman who falls within the fashion industry's definition of beauty. There is a wide range of people in the trans community, as in all communities, that remain outside of the fashion industry’s standards.
We can appreciate a commercial which encourages acceptance of the LGTBIQ+ community, especially because the holiday season can be triggering for those who have not experienced family gatherings as places of acceptance. We can do this while also understanding that it will take much more effort to join in solidarity with the trans community who struggle daily for inclusion, basic rights, and their very survival.
While celebrating movement in the right direction, we can still reflect upon the ways in which we, personally, have room to be more accepting. Questions that help us practice being more accepting are important to ask. Ask yourself: “What aspects of myself am I still private about, fearing judgment?” and “What groups are hidden from me because I still participate in a woefully conditional world?”
The organization Positive Exposure promotes a more inclusive world through photography and film. Rick Guidotti’s stunning photographs show people who have physical conditions that can fall outside the limited parameters of beauty.
Try looking at the photos and see if it opens your eyes and heart to the dimensions of beauty that our conditioned eyes don’t always see.