Business

Pri Bertucci, CEO of the [SSEX BBOX] project, about inclusion and diversity in fashion

by Marta De Divitiis
26 Sep 2019

São Paulo - During the Trama Affetiva event (about circular economy, upcycling and diversity) that took place last month in São Paulo, there was also a Fashion and Activism debate which was attended by Pri Bertucci. Bertucci is CEO of [SSEX BBOX], which seeks to visualize the issues of gender and sexuality in public life and the workplace. After the debate, two major Brazilian fashion companies contacted [SSEX BBOX] and are currently working out how to train their HR - Human Relations departments about diversity and inclusion.

FashionUnited: When was the [SSEX BBOX] project conceived? How is it structured?

Pri Bertucci: “[SSEX BBOX] is a social justice project that aims to put a spotlight on gender and sexuality. It began in 2011 with a set of educational web-documentaries that explore sexuality in order to promote social change based on Human Rights principles. The project has two S's and two B's because it started in the cities of São Paulo and San Francisco, Berlin and Barcelona. As a result, the project eventually broadened its scope to include other branches such as the [SSEX BBOX] International Conference, held annually in various cities; the Trans Pride March, which celebrated its 2nd edition this year in São Paulo; Queer Brazil; the [DIVERSITY BBOX JOBS], that connects job openings with the minority population; [DIVERSITY] and [SOCIAL BBOX], an incubator of LGBTQIA+ people projects.”

“The two main events that [SSEX BBOX] holds annually are the Trans Pride March, which will celebrate its third edition on June 12, 2020 in São Paulo; and an International Conference [SSEX BBOX], which will hold its 5th edition this year, and will take place for the first time in Paris on October 18,19 and 20, to discuss various issues on the current political landscape and how they affect LGBTQIA+ society. Social activists will attend along with trans Brazilian model, Lea T.”

“Since our participation in the Fashion and Activism debate at the Trama Affetiva festival and given the fact that fashion companies are now seeking us out as a result, we are starting with the development of a project specifically for the fashion industry.”

What initiatives has the project undertaken?

”In 2017, an online catalog was created to map the queer art scene in Brazil. It has a page for artists to use like a portfolio to create their own pages with releases, photos, social media portfolio and contact details. This catalog proves very useful for our clients and brands that would like to hire LGBTQIA+ artists but don't know where to find them. We have a variety of performance artists, visual artists, musicians and many more.”

“We have created an online platform called E-LEARNING Courses, where we develop exclusive videos for our business clients and individuals. Thus, we bring all this expertise we have acquired over the past 10 years of [SSEX BBOX] projects around the world together and implement it in online courses.”

Recently, luxury brands like Chanel have created C-suite roles for Diversity and Inclusion. Two years ago, Brazilian designer Ronaldo Fraga held a fashion show using only trans models on the catwalk. This New York Fashion Week for SS2020 was deemed the most ‘inclusive’ to date. What do you think of this?

“I think it’s important to see that trans people are assuming their role in society and that includes the catwalk. But the questions we and the trans community are really asking from an ethics standpoint are: whether these brands have diversity projects, employee training programs to coexist with LGBTQIA+ people within corporations; how HR is trained and goes about hiring and guiding LGBTQIA+ people - especially transgender people on the work floor, to the communication process and then the catwalk. With that in mind, we make this product available within the [DIVERSITY BBOX] called DIVERSITY Brand Care, where we train brands to not only look at the outside, but to focus more on the inside.”

”I think that it is necessary to form these diversity committees. After creating the diversity affinity groups, we created a strategic plan to split them up into specific affinity groups, and this will include the entire 360º diversity, which is how [DIVERSITY BBOX] works. These groups are: women, blacks, LGBTQIA+ people and people with special needs, along with other topics such as unconscious bias, masculinity and the 50+ generation. It is important to justify why people value diversity by proving with numbers that it is very important for brands to engage in creating these diversity committees. According to research we conducted at the 2nd Trans Pride March in São Paulo, we found that one of the most important points for trans people is knowing that the company they work for has a center for diversity they can engage with.”

”A company where people feel safe to be who they are allows each individual to develop their potential and focus fully on their work. This is very hard for LGBTQIA+ people, but we can also extend our reflection to include the issue of chauvinist, racist and empowering jokes, and sexual and moral harassment. Almost half of all LGBTQIA+ people in the world remain ‘in the closet’ in their professional environments. That’s a lot of people, even in companies with pro-LGBT policies.”

What can we do in our daily lives to make inclusion effective in society as a whole?

”We, as individuals, work in organizations and companies, attend universities, schools, classes, and are involved with our families. I usually call people who go through our training diversity champions. These people learn when and how to intervene if they hear the jokes during conversations at work, including jokes about women, blacks or gays. Or in the family, when someone makes a comment, it is knowing how to use this information to teach others. Because people are ignorant, in the sense that they are unaware because they have always lived in patriarchal, sexist and socially oppressive structures. There is a preconception, a huge unconscious bias, in society about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. This year we started offering courses to individuals. We teach the vocabulary of discussions, approach, and how we can all become allies of the LGBTQIA+ cause and diversity as a whole.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

”I often say that my goal is that [SSEX BBOX] will cease to exist, because one day everyone will know about these issues, and all this work we are doing will no longer be necessary. I think this is a crucial time and people search for information online and need to find quality content. We see a lot of bad things being said and wrong information on the subject, and I worry a lot because I want people to know how to distinguish between terms like ‘gender identity’, ‘gender expression and role’ from ‘body/genital’ and ‘sexual affective orientation’. Most people are really confused about the terms they have to use to explain something. If people want to explain something that is already complex using the wrong words that might actually mean something else creates even more misinformation and an even bigger problem.”

“The current paradigm shift is that society needs to learn that ‘sex’, i.e. the body and genitals people were born with, does not determine their gender. So that's why we separate genital body from gender. This needs to be separated in society. People need to understand that there is no absolute congruence that reports that the genitals a person is born with will determine their future gender in life. This needs to change and that is why we are doing everything we can to achieve this goal.”

Glossary:
L: lesbians
G: gays
B: bisexuals
T: transvestite, transsexuals and transgender persons
Q: queer / Questioning
I: intersex people
A: asexual people / ALLIES
+: other sexual orientations and identities not affirmed.

Photo: Gui Gomes

This article was previously published by FashionUnited Brazil before being translated into English.