Paint your nails, change the world: #NAILit4IDAHO

Nail polish bottles on colorful background

Want know what it feels like to be different? Paint your nails for a day and you’ll soon find out, explains #NAILit4IDAHO founder Travis de Jonk.

If you want to know what it feels like to be different, then simply paint your nails for a day and you’ll soon know. Painting your nails is a simple, almost banal act that surely couldn’t and shouldn’t mean much more than adding colour to your nails.

Perhaps in a world where LGBTQI people were genuinely accepted and respected – or a society where equality between the sexes was more than lip service – it would be. But sadly, despite all the positive gains our society has made in relation to civil rights, we are nowhere near anything that looks like a utopia of true equality and acceptance.

A woman a week is murdered in Australia through domestic violence by the hand of a partner or family member. Humiliation, ridicule, discrimination, homophobic and transphobic violence are committed in every suburb, city and nation against the LGBTQI communities, every day – often for something as trivial as having painted nails.

I can count seven times in the past 12 months when I’ve had people hurl abuse as they hooned passed me in their cars or under their breath as they walk past me in the street. On one occasion, the homophobic shouts came with a half-full Pepsi bottle aimed at my head.


“F*cking gay c*nt”

That’s 2021 Sydney for you. And I know I have it easier than many people living in more hostile nations where violence against LGBTIQ people and women isn’t just allowed by governments, but sanctioned.

I am lucky enough to have a strong, clear and articulate voice – and that’s exactly why I use it. I’ve chosen to do what I do in the most powerful, transformative and non-violent way I know; I wear nail polish every day as my stand against fear, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and sexism, and it is my way to show solidarity for those who can’t and shouldn’t hide.

In 2012, I founded #NAILit4IDAHO – a political action inspired by the simple yet act of painting one’s nails. Each year I ask people to join me and paint their nails on 17 May – the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – and then share their nail art on social media in an act of solidarity.

In the nine years I’ve been doing it, this action has been embraced by many, but it has also been met with a barrage of excuses, barriers and severe discomfort. And I know what feeling that resistance is like. I went through it myself the first time I painted my nails and went out in public.

People looked at me funny. I got noticed when I normally could just hide in the background. People could see, identify and call out my difference.

“ What if they confronted me or asked me about my nails?”

“What if they thought I was gay or less of a man because I wore nail polish”

“What if I became the focus of their violence or hate?”

“What does wearing nail polish say about me?”

Who can say for sure what the experience will unearth for you.

It’s such a powerful act on so many levels. It requires far more effort than most people think. The way it is transformative is deeply personal and unique to each person who does it. And it raises something so much more powerful than money or anything material; it raises acceptance, understanding and empathy.

Since I formally began #NAILit4IDAHO, more and more people have joined me all over the globe in this show of solidarity, including Safe Schools Victoria, the Australian Human Rights Commission, major financial institutions, supermarkets and even politicians. One of my proudest moments was being mentioned in NSW Parliament by NSW deputy Labor leader Penny Sharpe MLC about #NAILit4IDAHO.

If you want to know what it feels like to be different, then simply paint your nails for a day and you’ll soon know.

Travis de Jonk (NAILit4IDAHO founder)

As the 17 May approaches, I once again invite you to join me and #NAILit4IDAHO.

Regardless of who you are, what you do, where you’re from, what your race, gender or sexuality is, paint your nails for just one day on 17 May. Invite your whole class, office, sports team, family and mates to do it with you. You can be as simple or creative as you want. It costs nothing to participate. Then share photos, video or your experiences on social media with the hashtag #NAILit4IDAHO. That’s it.

Help make this the biggest stand yet against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and sexism. Paint your nails. Change the world. #NAILit4IDAHO.

For more info and to follow #NAILit4IDAHO, click here:

To join the official 2021 Facebook event, click here:

Travis de Jonk is the features editor of the Sydney Sentinel and the founder of #NAILit4IDAHO.