In the "spraying room" at Lego HQ, in the Danish town of Billund, tiny figurines are layered with bright, glossy paint before being placed on a rainbow-striped arch. The result, a waterfall of colour with 11 brand new minifigures striding purposefully towards an imagined brighter future, is the toymaker's inaugural LGBTQIA+ set, titled Everyone Is Awesome.
The colours of the stripes were chosen to reflect the original rainbow flag, along with pale blue, white and pink representing the trans community, and black and brown to acknowledge the diversity of skin tones and backgrounds within the LGBTQIA+ community.
In all but one case no specific gender has been assigned to the figures, which are intended to “express individuality, while remaining ambiguous”.
I'd moved offices, so wanted to make the space feel like home with something that reflected me and the LGBTQIA+ community I'm so proud to be a part of. Other members of Lego's LGBTQ+ community came by to tell me they loved it
The exception, a purple minifigure with a highly stylised beehive wig, "is a clear nod to all the fabulous drag queens out there", says their designer, Matthew Ashton, who initially created the set for his own desk. "I'd moved offices, so wanted to make the space feel like home with something that reflected me and the LGBTQIA+ community I'm so proud to be a part of."
But the set attracted attention and was soon in demand. “Other members of Lego’s LGBTQ+ community came by to tell me they loved it,” Ashton says. “So I thought, Maybe it’s something we should share.”
He also wanted to be more vocal in support of inclusivity. “Growing up as an LGBTQ+ kid – being told what I should play with, how I should walk, how I should talk, what I should wear – the message I always got was that somehow I was ‘wrong’,” he says. “Trying to be someone I wasn’t was exhausting. I wish, as a kid, I had looked at the world and thought, This is going to be okay – there’s a place for me. I wish I’d seen an inclusive statement that said ‘everyone is awesome.’”
Ashton says he is really happy to work for a company that wants to be outspoken over such matters. Jane Burkitt, a fellow LGBTQIA+ employee at Lego, who works in supply-chain operations, agrees.
“I’ve been at Lego for six years, and I’ve never hesitated to be myself here, which isn’t the case everywhere,” Burkitt says. “When I joined Lego I hoped it would be an inclusive place – but I didn’t know. People like me wonder, Will I be welcome here? And the answer is yes – but this set means that, now, everyone knows it.”
The set goes on sale on June 1st, the start of Pride month, but a few Afols (adult fans of Lego) and Gayfols have been given a preview. "This set means a lot," says Flynn DeMarco, a member of the LGBTQIA+ Afol community and a contestant on the television show Lego Masters US. "Often LGBTQ+ people don't feel seen, especially by corporations. There's a lot of lip service and not a lot of action. So this feels like a big statement."
Other LGBTQIA+ representations by Lego – including a tiny rainbow flag in a build of Trafalgar Square, in London, and a bride-and-groom BrickHeadz sold separately, so that fans could put two women or two men together – have been subtler.
“This is much more overt,” says DeMarco, who hopes the set will help broaden people’s minds. “People look to a company such as Lego – a company they love and enjoy – and think, Hey, if it’s okay for Lego, maybe it’s okay for me, too.”
And his own response? “For Lego to do something so inclusive, so full of joy – it made me smile, then cry, then smile a little more.” – Guardian