A variety of social gatherings have begun to take place in Metaverse as companies around the world begin to realize the benefits that interactive environments can bring to consumers .. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Pride Month — a month-long celebration held in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots — will be celebrated in various metaverse environments this year.
Pride in the Metaverse creates open access
Akbar Hamid, co-founder of People of Crypto Lab (POC) — an innovation hub dedicated to increasing diversity and representation in Web3 — told Cointelegraph that the Metaverse is an incredible way to allow people around the world to partake in events they may not be allowed to participate in otherwise. “We want Pride Month 2022 to be an event anyone can join, even in countries where people are not allowed to participate,” he said.
Although Pride Month is celebrated openly in many places, 71 countries currently criminalize being LGBTQ+. Hamid explained that POC collaborated with The Sandbox, a blockchain-based metaverse project, to create a virtual diversity and equity hub for Pride Month. Known as Valley of Belonging, this unique youth center will enable people across the world to celebrate, said Hamid:
“Marginalized communities tend to be left behind, so POC’s goal with Valley of Belonging is to ensure that each community has access to events they can openly participate in. And given the current climate of rising discrimination against LGBTQIA+ and other minorities, there has never been a more important time to build a safe space that welcomes all.”
In order to achieve the goal of “belonging,” Simone Berry, co-founder of POC Lab, told Cointelegraph that Valley of Belonging will consist of 8,430 nonfungible token (NFTs) avatars that represent different ethnic, gender and sexual identities. Our avatars are all non-binary. They don’t identify as any one gender or sexual orientation. Berry explained that this is the first NFT project in The Sandbox to allow users to personalize avatars with pronouns. She added that avatar traits will consist of over 36 different skin shades while incorporating features that celebrate differences like prosthetic limbs, along with cultural identifiers like a hijab.
Berry also noted that NYX Professional Makeup — a subsidiary of L’Oreal — will integrate into The Sandbox to feature voxelized makeup looks, which will further help drive adoption. “In order to demonstrate that makeup is genderless, all of the avatars in our mint, which will take place June 17, will feature makeup from NYX,” she said. Yasmin Dastmalchi, general manager of NYX Professional Makeup, told Cointelegraph that the partnership with POC and The Sandbox is important since it allows diverse communities a forum for true self-expression, noting that the Metaverse “has become a form of digital identity.”
Decentraland will also allow users to openly celebrate Pride Month 2022 in its blockchain-based Metaverse with a month-long event featuring entertainment, experiences and curated content. Iara Dias, head of Metaverse Pride and senior producer at Decentraland, told Cointelegraph that Metapride Land is debuting its headquarters in Decentraland to celebrate Metaverse Pride:
“This will offer a permanent safe space for the global LGBTQIA+ community to engage and meet other members around the world. Users will be able to access the space year-round, not just during Pride Month, further ensuring Decentraland and its partners’ commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Dias added that Decentraland will host Metaverse Pride on June 11, which is a celebration honoring the LGBTQIA+ community. She elaborated:
“Debuting during Pride, the long-awaited ‘kissing’ emote will allow avatars to kiss each other and express their feelings towards one another. Furthermore, couples from all sexual orientations can get married in the metaverse and receive NFT certificates of their union.”
According to Dias, these features present a unique opportunity for same-sex couples who reside in countries in which they are not allowed to express their commitment. She said that drag queens will be presenting in the Metaverse for the first-time, as well as a special vogueing capoeira performer. This is a unique opportunity for same-sex couples who live in countries where they are not allowed to express their commitment.
How safe is the Metaverse?
While it is notable that both Decentraland and The Sandbox will host Pride events in 2018, it is important to note that safety and security remain ongoing challenges in The Metaverse.
Online communities such as gaming chat rooms are known for their hate speech against racial or sexual minorities. Indeed, budding metaverse communities have been shown to be hotbeds for racism, bigotry and misogyny.
One researcher who recently entered Meta’s social-networking platform Horizon World using an Oculus virtual-reality headset announced that her avatar was raped in the virtual space.
Given these concerns, Sebastien Borget, co-founder and chief operating office of The Sandbox, told Cointelegraph that the platform is taking security very seriously as more events are hosted virtually. He stated that “Education about security in The Sandbox was critical for onboarding the next million users to the Metaverse.” Borget added that The Sandbox’s recent partnership with hardware wallet Ledger will help promote security in the Metaverse.
Dias stressed that privacy protection and data security are important for Decentraland, which is a blockchain-based platform. “On Decentraland, usernames and wallet addresses are all that can be used to identify users. She explained that this allows anonymous users to freely express themselves without fear of being identified.
Dias said that Metaverse Pride has established guidelines for appropriate behavior. Users can block others if they are harassed. “We’ll use non-player characters to offer guidance on how to do this, but we have also made this very user-friendly.”
Web3 takes Pride to new heights
Challenges aside, Web3 as a whole is allowing Pride Month to extend far beyond what has previously been possible. Dias said that the Metaverse allows people from all walks of the globe to participate in Pride Month, even if they are not located in safe areas. In addition, she said that a person’s digital identity defined via an avatar can give users the courage to be whoever they wish. I wouldn’t be surprised if people tell me stories about how their avatar helped them be brave and to finally be themselves . A number of NFTs for artwork are being launched to raise awareness and celebrate Pride Month. Serge Gay Jr., Dan Nicoletta and Dan Nicoletta are both photographers and friends of Harvey Milk, an American politician who was the first openly homosexual man elected to public office in California. They recently launched a limited edition NFT art collection inspired by Milk’s legacy.
Nicoletta told Cointelegraph that the goal behind “The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza” NFT collection is to foster support for LGBTQ+ civil rights and within the emerging NFT art market: “I’m not seeing a lot of LGBTQ+ content in that realm yet, so I am excited about the possibilities and to be working in that medium for the first time.”
Brian Springfield, executive director of The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco, further told Cointelegraph that proceeds from the NFT project will go to the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza to support creating a safe, inclusive space in San Francisco’s Castro district. The goal of The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza NFT collection is to increase awareness about the Memorial at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco and to inspire other cities in building similar spaces in their own neighborhoods,” he stated.
Pride Icons is another NFT project that aims to highlight the LGBTQ+ community. Cointelegraph spoke with Regev Gur about Pride Icons’ chief marketing officer, stating that the NFT collection includes images of prominent LGBTQ+ people like Andy Warhol and Elton John.
Gur shared that he grew up with a gay father who hid his true identity for years. As such, he explained that the biggest goal behind Pride Icons is to put a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community while making blockchain accessible to those who may not be aware of the benefits associated with the technology: “This is really about education — we need to educate people of all backgrounds on the power of Web3 and NFTs.”