‘My Life Is F—ing Pride’: @mileycyrus, the Youth LGBT Movement and the Future of #InstaPride
Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) wants to change the narrative around gender acceptance. She is using photography to share personal, positive stories from the LGBT community — in their own words.
It started with a set of portraits of trans individuals taken by Miley herself. While that series comes to a close this month, the movement is far from over. As the singer and activist explains, there’s more work to be done, and more stories to be shared. “I know everyone’s saying ‘Love wins,’” she says. “But does it? There are still so many people and so many [issues], especially for black trans women.”
Ahead, Miley discusses the thinking behind #InstaPride, the changing narrative around gender rights and how she plans to help moving forward.
Let’s talk #InstaPride. How do you think the response to the campaign has been?
I think it’s been so awesome. It grew to be so much bigger than what we expected. We thought it was just going to be something I would post on Instagram. But these pictures turned out so magical, and everyone’s personality is shining through in all the photos that it felt like it needed something beyond Instagram. We all sat around looking at the pictures, like, These are too good. We’ve got to get this on a bigger platform.
The photos were pretty stunning.
Once gay marriage got legalized, I was at breakfast with my family celebrating and I had so many people walking up to me and saying thank you for what I’ve been doing with the community. It just makes it all so worth it to know that a group of people that don’t always have strong allies feel like they are really important and loved.
Are there any other responses that have struck a chord with you since you launched the series?
I think just how many different trans people I’ve had direct message me on Instagram and tell me their stories. It makes me want to continue to shoot more people all the time. Life kind of hands you your future even if you don’t know it. I’ve always loved photography, but I didn’t want to take pictures of f—ing clothes. I really wanted to take pictures of people who are telling me something, you know? And I think that these people have such a good story that it just makes me now know that this is something I want to do with my life. Maybe one day I could do a book, just to have this continue and keep InstaPride growing past InstaPride.
That would be incredible.
Everyone’s so happy about Pride. But, for me, my life is f—ing Pride. Like, Happy Hippie? That’s my f—ing life. It doesn’t stop in a month. You know? This isn’t Christmas or Valentine’s Day where you give people some presents for no f—ing reason just because you’re supposed to. Saying that these people really matter, my voice matters and I want to use it for something, it’s given me such a purpose.
When these people tell me thank you I don’t think they realize how much self-discovery I’ve had in my own self. Because I’ve also learned a lot about gender fluidity, which I didn’t really understand. I relate to that. My favorite thing Brendan Jordan [who was part of the portrait series] says is, Some days I wake up and I’m the more fem Brendan and some days I wake up and I’m more the masculine Brendan and I don’t know what I’m going to be in the future, but I know that for right now I’m just Brendan. I think that is something that we need to all focus on more. Leo Sheng made a really good point about how much it takes to legally — on social security cards and passports and IDs and licenses — be the gender that you have transitioned into and that what’s in your f—ing pants shouldn’t f—ing matter and the government has no reason to know that personal information either. So that was something that really, I think, struck my mind a lot. Yes, I can celebrate today, but tomorrow it’s back to work.
What’s so wonderful about how you’ve approached this is that you are bringing young people along to speak for themselves. Instead of going on your social networks and just talking about how this issue is important, you’re letting them speak on your platform. Was that something you made a decision to do, or was it just something that happened organically?
It just kind of happened. I feel like my life is insanely serendipitous at the moment. I keep running into people that are really helping me. It’s really nuts. Like, we were working on this project trying to figure out how to help homelessness and we developed all these ideas around an old storage container that a lot of people are using to make these cool looking homes. And the other day, I randomly start talking to someone who has one of the biggest shipping container companies in the world and donated all these shipping containers for us. My life just keeps happening like that. The universe is kind of supplying it all for me. They’re like, if you’ll do the work, you have to deliver it but we’ll give you the materials to do it.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve become more educated about these issues. Can you walk me through what the process was for preparing for this series — or even the steps before it in educating yourself?
Me and Happy Hippie and everyone on my team, I just want everyone around me and everyone that’s important to me and everyone that loves me to be educated on it. So, we talked to a lot of trans experts. They were really helpful. Even when you’re trying to have good intentions you just want to make sure that you’re always up to date on [the issues]. The Leelah Alcorn story is the main reason I kind of started focusing on trans. I just was so struck by that story. Leelah was a white, seventeen-year-old girl [who committed suicide]. And sometimes these stories with other ethnicities don’t make as big of news. So, I just wanted to bring attention to that.
Especially for young people, they see so many negative stories about trans individuals.
That’s the thing. Any time you hear about it on the news, it’s usually something that is a suicide or about these kinds of abusive parents or murders and it’s absolutely horrible. People don’t usually get to see people like Tyler Ford go off and write and be a journalist. It’s just really, really incredible. You can really be a hero. You can really have a great life. You know, it’s hard because when you’re a kid and you’re under your parents’ rules and you don’t agree with something, it can be really rough. I went through it, but I just try to remind kids that that’s not your life forever. Just see that light at the end of the tunnel and try to surround yourself with people that do support you. Be compassionate and love your family because that makes us bigger than them already. If I can see past you being an a–hole and you telling me that I’m not allowed to look and be the way that I want to be, then you can look past the way I want to be. You know what I mean? That’s loving unconditionally.