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On happiness and joy
A column by Mona Bling
“A better everyday life is born out of getting to care for another person with all your heart – and share it with the rest of the world.”
The Marimekko Spirit has always been based on equality and diversity. But how do Marimekko’s values apply to the LGBTQ+ perspective? Trans activist Mona Bling wrote a column exploring this question.
Living, not pretending
Everyone should be able to be themselves in their free time as well as at work. Pride means being proud of who you are. However, that is not enough to help a person be openly themselves if they feel the entire world is against them. The closet is meant for clothes, not people.
A few weeks ago, I talked to a bisexual friend about how some people – often straight cisgender people – find Pride to be completely pointless. My friend, who works in the music industry, told me he can’t tell his colleagues in the studio and at concerts that he is bi out of fear of how they will react. His colleagues frequently make homophobic and biphobic jokes, and although he finds them hurtful, he doesn’t want to say anything because he doesn’t want to be labeled as a difficult person.
My friend is not alone with these thoughts and fears. 92% of the Finnish LGBTQ+ people who responded to FRA’s (The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights) recent survey reported being in the closet to some extent about their sexual and/or gender identity at their workplace. This percentage is huge and paints a bleak picture of the everyday life of LGBTQ+ people in a world that considers being heterosexual and cisgender the norm. Marimekko encourages everyone to boldly follow their own internal beacon.
Fairness to everyone and everything
“Armi Ratia was an extremely strong-willed woman whose will always triumphed over her characteristic shyness.” This is how Marimekko’s legendary founder has been described by author Marja-Leena Parkkinen, who knew Ratia personally. We should all strive to be more like Armi: we need to say what needs to be said and do the right thing, even when we feel timid.
Fairness means speaking out about the injustice you see around you. As much as you would like to avoid conflict, everybody has the responsibility to intervene in everyday discrimination. It’s time to realize that defending human rights is not a radical act but the bare minimum, and to declare out loud: “I won’t accept homophobia or transphobia.” At Marimekko, your word is your bond.
I have often wondered where the hostile behavior towards LGBTQ+ people stems from. I believe that, much like for example racism, it is a result of people being afraid of the unknown, and this fear can affect their behavior to a tragic extent. Everyone has the right to live their lives in peace, but sadly, LGBTQ+ people face a lot of harassment and discrimination. In FRA’s survey, 49% of Finnish LGBTQ+ people reported experiencing verbal abuse and bullying off-line within the last 5 years. 26%, or over one fourth, of the respondents had experienced physical or sexual abuse.
When it comes to interacting with sexual and gender minorities, everyone could use some common sense: all humans are unique and none of us is better than anyone else. Everyone has the right to love who they want. Discriminating against people based on their identity goes against common sense: the relationship or identity of another person doesn’t pose a threat to your own happiness. Marimekko believes that a target-oriented action takes far, empty wishful thinking doesn’t.
Getting things done – together
Many people feel that defending minorities is not their battle to fight. However, responsibility for building a world where everyone feels happy and safe belongs to everybody. One letter frequently attached to the acronym LGBTQ+ is A, which stands for “ally”. Being an ally means supporting and defending LGBTQ+ people and intervening in hate speech around the year, not just during pride month. The next time you witness abuse or discrimination against an LGBTQ+ person, please take it seriously. How would you feel if your existence, relationship, name, appearance or self-expression were degraded? At Marimekko, an atmosphere of openness and trust evolves from working together and enforcing inclusion and diversity.
Courage, even at the risk of failure
My own journey as a trans woman has had many developments over the years. Transitioning physically strengthened my identity as well as my voice as a societal influencer. Despite this, I sometimes feel uncertain when talking about other minorities. The feeling disappears when I listen to others and let them share their own perspectives. By listening to each other we can learn more and gain the courage to defend one another.
The theme of this year’s Pride is Pride in progress. Evolving and accepting that life is a work in progress is essential to everything we do as people: nobody is perfect, mistakes happen and that’s alright. What is important is daring to make mistakes and learn new things. At Marimekko, courage is creativity.
A wise drag queen once said: “If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” However, the path to loving yourself is often a long and winding yellow brick road. It’s a life-long journey, but I hope as many people as possible find their way in the end. Even though loving yourself is a wonderful and beautiful thing, my youth, like the youths of other LGBTQ+ people, was shadowed by shame and self-loathing. Nobody should feel inferior for any reason – least of all their identity or who they love.
Life under the rainbow is filled with joy and beautiful things, but loving another person is the most beautiful of them all. A better everyday life is born out of getting to care for another person with all your heart and share it with the rest of the world. Marimekko has always sought – and found – the keys to a beautiful and joyful everyday life.
Mona Bling (@mona_bling) is a journalist, influencer and trans activist from Helsinki.