All around the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students continue to be bullied and discriminated against. They deal with rejection, fear, and harassment on a daily basis. The stress of these traumatic experiences put LGBTQ youth at higher risk for depression, substance misuse, and suicide.
Needless to say, promoting empowerment among LGBTQ youth is important. Virtual reality might be what the world needs to spread love all around the world.
Pride for Everyone
Founder of Sergio Urrego Foundation, Alba Reyes, spends most of her time running workshops and promoting an open, unprejudiced environment for LGBTQ youth in their schools. She is giving all these kids the help that her son, Sergio, never received. Devastated after being expelled for kissing another boy, he took his own life. From then on, Reyes’ life changed completely.
Reyes set out on a mission to raise awareness on the importance of acceptance and inclusion. So, she went around Colombia spreading this message. But she didn’t stop there. With Google’s help, she created a way to bring pride festivals to all classrooms. It is a 360-degree virtual experience. Using Google Cardboard, LGBTQ youth can feel the excitement, love, solidarity, and acceptance that pride parades celebrate. Through virtual pride parades, young LGBTQ members who are struggling to fit in can experience the sense of belongingness that is crucial to their personal development and wellbeing.
After witnessing its impact, the Ministry of Technology finally decided to support Reyes’ workshops and virtual experiences. Today, Google’s immersive pride parade is available to students around Colombia. Not only that, organizations around the world can use this technology to empower kids everywhere. It gives the LGBTQ community a chance to experience pride celebrations, wherever they may be.
Acceptance and Inclusion
Virtual reality platform VeeR VR came up with social experiments with the help of LGBTQ individuals from China. They recorded a few videos to determine what people feel about the LGBTQ community. Then, they replicated these in a virtual environment. Finally, they launched the initiative on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia a few years ago.
In one of the videos, a woman wore a blindfold and a statement shirt that said “I am homosexual” in Chinese. She held her arms out for free hugs, waiting for people to hug her back—and they did.
Viewers can see it from a third-person perspective and from the girl’s perspective. VR’s immersive nature enables viewers to fully understand the importance of acceptance and inclusion. Thanks to VR, people can present a new angle to these social experiments. These technologies let viewers see that the LGBTQ community are people who deserve love and acceptance just like everyone else.
We need to use different methods and tools to transform our society into one that embraces inclusiveness and equality for all sexual and gender identities. Virtual reality is one of those tools. Not only does VR prepare the youth for our world, but it also reshapes our world for the youth.