“It is an absolute joy to be a part of the first-ever metaverse Pride Parade. All very vibrant and colourful.” Uzuki Asagwara sums up the feeling of hundreds like her who took part in the metaverse Pride walk.
From musical concerts, and festivals to corporate team meetings, everything that could be possible in the real world is now being replicated virtually, fueled by the power of blockchain technology and AR/VR. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pride Month, a celebration in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, is now being celebrated in various metaverse environments too.
In a discord chat, Asagwara, an Indonesian national, tells indianexpress, that attending a Pride Walk was a dream come true for her. “Due to the risk of attacks by conservative reactionary groups in Indonesia, there has never been a proper Pride Parade here.” Thanks to the metaverse, Asagwara and many like her could actively participate in the Pride Walk, albeit digitally.
The virtual social world Decentraland is hosting Metaverse Pride which features international music icons, and experiences such as the Pride rainbow colours, virtual concert stages, streets, and pride floats to celebrate and amplify the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community. “It is an honour to get to build the future of the internet with Decentraland, but with it comes the tremendous responsibility to ensure we are building a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for everyone, everywhere,” said Iara Dias, Head of Metaverse Pride at Decentraland. “We are thrilled to kick off Pride Month by showing that, yes, even in the metaverse LGTBQIA+ people exist, we are here, and we are all a part of the Web3 revolution.”
Metaverse is becoming a welcoming space for the LGBTQIA+ community in places where pride month celebrations are not accessible. “While the world has become open to the queer community in a big way, there are still many pockets where this community is closeted and is looking to break free in the real world. It is the metaverse that helps them open up by providing the real-life experiences that they crave to be part of such as a Pride Walk, an event that in the real world could still be considered a taboo. Indeed, the Metaverse can help them represent their true selves,” Lokesh Rao, CEO and co-founder of Trace Network Labs tells indianexpress. Trace Network Labs is building gender-neutral fashionable clothing for digital avatars in the metaverse.
The best part of a pride walk event in the metaverse is that it is not time-bound. It is live 24?7, around the clock, thus allowing new visitors to catch the celebration anytime and every time they visit the metaverse.
Multiple metaverses are promoting the idea of an inclusive and open metaverse for all. Some are celebrating the work of global Queer icons who have worked towards bringing inclusivity to this community. While others like Decentraland have announced musical performances, panel discussions and Pride Walks in the virtual world.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential in a truly open metaverse. Rather than replicating the biases and inequality of the real world, the metaverse must break barriers and forge an inclusive, welcoming global community,” says Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox.
The primary real aspect of any event in the metaverse will be the avatars. Metaverse users are called ‘avatars’. An avatar in the metaverse is more than just a user-created face. It is your identity. Every avatar is unique with limitless possibilities. Avatars have humanoid features such as moveable limbs, upper and lower torsos, and a face capable of expression. “…for a person who is either fully opened up to being part of this community or someone who is still trying to figure out their gender disposition, the avatar’s appearance becomes an important starting point to test out who they want to be and represent,” Rao adds.
Brands are also looking forward to linking their products to the array of stripes in the community, to highlight how they are promoting gender-neutral products. The Sandbox has teamed up with People of Crypto (POC) Lab to launch the first inclusivity hub in the metaverse.
NYX Cosmetics and POC Lab will highlight that makeup have no gender through a non-binary NFT avatar collection featuring a voxelised makeup look for each group represented in the Progress Pride flag. The NFT collection is characterised by 36 skin shades which include every ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identification. It is meant to celebrate cultural and physical differences ranging from different abilities like prosthetic limbs to cultural identifiers like the hijab.
The Sandbox has teamed up with People of Crypto (POC) Lab to launch the first inclusivity hub in the metaverse. (Photo: The Sandbox)
Microsoft is also embracing Pride Month. The company has already sent out invites to the “Pride has no borders” metaverse event. The event will focus on LGBTQIA+ rights in a virtual world from activists, players and advocates from LGBTQIA+ communities at Microsoft, Team Xbox and organisations like the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) and OutRight Action International.
It is also important to point out that safety is still an ongoing challenge in the Metaverse. One researcher who recently entered Meta’s social-networking platform Horizon World using an Oculus virtual-reality headset announced that her avatar was molested in virtual space.
“We believe that experiential events such as the Pride Walk in the metaverse should open up this space so that more and more people can find their true selves in a relatively safe environment without facing discrimination, negative encounters, bullying, isolation or marginalisation,” Rao added.