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Young Queer Influencers Talk Why Democracy Matters

Gabriel Zamora and Kenneth Senegal
From left: Gabriel Zamora and Kenneth Senegal

Social media influencers such as Gabriel Zamora and Kenneth Senegal have joined the We the Purple campaign to underline the importance of democracy. 

To combat "fake news," "alternative facts," and conspiracy theories in this age of political polarization, activists of all ages and identities -- but especially millennials and Gen Z-ers, including several LGBTQ ones -- have teamed up to promote access to information and restore public faith in democracy.

We the Purple: The Purple Project for Democracy is a nonpartisan coalition of media companies, educational institutions, think tanks, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and more, all aiming to encourage civic literacy and engagement. Launched in November, it had an initial goal of encouraging conversations over Thanksgiving dinner, but that was just the start. To show how much the project is needed, We the Purple cites some alarming statistics on its website:

* In a recent poll, more than 29 percent of respondents expressed support for either a "strong leader" or "army rule."

* In 2018 only 33 percent of the general population expressed trust for government.

* Among 1,400 young adults asked about the importance of democracy, only 39 percent said it was "absolutely important."

* In a 2019 survey, 39 percent of Americans said our democracy is "in crisis" and 42 percent said it is facing serious challenges.

Meanwhile, very few people know how the government actually functions and how laws get made, and there's a ready audience out there for conspiracy theories like "Pizzagate," the "deep state," and the like.

To fight this, the organizers of We the Purple are calling on newspapers, magazines, YouTubers, and other media types to tell stories about how democracy functions, in addition to how the news gets reported. We the Purple isn't dictating what kind of content to create, however, leaving that up to the creators to appeal to their particular audiences. And there's no political slant, the organizers say.

The media "can produce programs that teach the basic functions of the three branches of the U.S. government and explain the creation, enforcement and adjudication of law -- basic civics, in other words," one of We the Purple's founders, journalist Bob Garfield, wrote recently in Current, a media trade magazine.

Various publications have joined in the campaign by explaining the First Amendment, showing how they gather the news, and delving into a variety of other topics. And some young queer social media influencers are telling their audiences what democracy means to them.

"I think it's very easy to take democracy for granted, especially when you're born in this country," says YouTube makeup adviser Gabriel Zamora, who is gay, in a video prepared for his followers. "I come from two immigrant parents who really fought to be here, and growing up here and having all these advantages of being a U.S. citizen, in comparison to people who come here to fight for a better life, kind of puts things into a different perspective."

A world without democracy would be "without a sense of direction," says another gay YouTube beauty expert, Kenneth Senegal, a.k.a. HeFlawless, in his video.

Another out supporter of the campaign is entertainment executive Craig Bland, and he praises the young LGBTQ people who've joined in. "The fight for equal rights continues, and it's been great to see members of the queer community show up for We the Purple," he tells The Advocate via email. "I dare anyone not to watch this group of diverse young Americans speak about their relationship to democracy and this country and fail to have a visceral reaction." Bland is executive producer of the yet-untitled "Homobiles Project," a TV series centered in the San Francisco queer community, at Ish Entertainment.

"To see them put aside the rhetoric they hear every day from the adults representing them in Washington and instead focus on how democracy and civic engagement can make this country better for not only the LGBTQ community but all Americans, across party lines, should give us all hope," Bland adds. "Hope for the future of America and hope for our democracy -- that is what the We the Purple movement is all about."

Watch videos with Zamora, Senegal, and a whole group of young influencers below.

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