POSING for a “selfie” with the message ‘So What?’ written on their hands, people around the world are backing an anti-homophobia campaign born in South Shields – and it hasn’t even officially launched yet.
On Tuesday, the Gazette reported that Stuart Hatton, South Shields’ very own Mr Gay World, is launching his So What? campaign on Sunday.
The 29-year-old is hosting a mass photoshoot at his family’s dance studio, the Hatton Academy of Dance, in Commercial Road, South Shields, to kick-start the initiative.
He’s inviting people of all ages and sexualities to show their support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community by posing for pictures with the name of the campaign written on the palms of their hands.
And people have already started to send them out on social media.
Stuart, named Mr Gay World in September, said: “I’m just really happy that everybody has got on board and can see the cause behind it.
“It’s been great to get so much support from people around the world, especially before the campaign has even officially launched.
“But what means the most is having so much support from people in the region.
“I’ve had BBC and Tyne Tees getting in touch with me, and of course, the support from the Gazette has been fantastic.
“People with a high profile taking time to get behind the campaign and put it out there means so much.”
Among the people to post their selfies online so far are BBC Radio Newcastle presenters Alfie Joey and Jonathan Miles, Twitter user @dmhoneyc, known only as Dawn, from Sarasota, Florida, Didier M. Santos, whose Twitter handle is @Hiromisshi, from France, as well as people from South Tyneside and around the country, and even Muppets character Miss Piggy.
Stuart, who is also a model, added: “Sunday is going to be brilliant. We’ve got three-year-olds coming and 93-year-olds and everyone is welcome to come down.
“I’m extremely pleased with how things are going so far and I can’t wait to officially launch the campaign.
“All the Mr Gays from around the world are ready to launch in their own countries and I’ve had so many people telling me they’re ready to get involved.
“This is all about changing attitudes around the world and making people just think, ‘they’re gay, so what?’.
“The UK is good compared to a lot of other places, but I would still feel a little awkward walking down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand.
“Unlike a heterosexual couple holding hands, I’d feel like it would look like I was trying to make some kind of political statement, when all I want to do is hold my boyfriend’s hand like anyone else does.
“Hopefully this is something that we can continue to promote online for years and years to come.”
To take part in the photoshoot, head to Hatton Academy of Dance at 11am on Sunday. The event runs until 2pm.
To show your support online, tweet a picture of yourself with ‘So What?’ written on the palm of your hand to @WeSaySoWhat using #SoWhat.