Viewed over one million times since it was released one week ago, a new ad from Gillette depicts Samson Bonkeabantu Brown getting help and encouragement from his father during his first shave. Brown, a clean-shaven transgender young man, talks a bit about his transition and how it helped him finally feel comfortable in his skin. “I went into my transition just wanting to be happy, “ he says. “I’m glad I am at the point where I’m able to shave.”
Perhaps one of the most moving moments in the ad is when we see a father passing on wisdom to his son: Brown is at the bathroom sink, with his father standing beside him offering reassurance that he is doing just fine. “Shaving is about being confident,” his dad reminds him. Before the ad closes, Brown humbly acknowledges that his transition has demanded growth from his loved ones. “It’s not just my self transitioning, it’s everybody around me transitioning,” he says.
PFLAG, an advocacy group that supports family members of LBGTQ people, highlighted on social media the visibility of trans adolescence as well as positive, familial acceptance in spots like Gillette’s. “As the first and largest organization for parents of #LGBTQ people we thank you for seeing our #trans kids . . . and for honoring their affirming #dads!” This support is something that Brown mentions on his Facebook page too. “I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to be able to exist in this world being supported by my family in ways that all too often many of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings who exist outside the binary are not always as fortunate,” he wrote.
Having affirming family members is one of the most vital things for trans youth, who often fear rejection by family members while claiming their gender identities. The Human Rights Campaign cited an expert who stressed why it is so important for all LGBTQ youth to have support from their families. “Family acceptance predicts greater self-esteem, social support, and general health status… It also protects against depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and behaviors.”
Gillette told NBC News that the company has an obligation to present narratives like Brown’s in the media. “Gender conversations are happening all around us and we believe brands play a role in influencing culture and have a responsibility to use their voice to champion issues of great relevance to both the brand and our customers.” It’s not the first time that the company has waded into the cultural sphere through their platform; earlier this year, Gillette was praised (and in some cynical, anti-PC circles derided) for releasing an ad that challenged toxic masculinity.