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Friday, January 27, 2023
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2022 Pride Month in the Metaverse

A tour of some of the best Pride Month events immersive worlds have to offer.

 

The metaverse is a very diverse place, and its denizens like to celebrate that. This month is Pride Month, and a lot of virtual worlds have hosted events, celebrations, and initiatives to show their inclusion and support.

Here, we’ll look at a few of those seasonal events. We also look at the LGBTQ+ VR Museum, which is not limited to June but just so happened to win an award at Tribeca this month.

Meta

Early on in the month, Meta announced Pride Month events and activations across its range of companies. You can check out the whole blog post to learn more about what Meta’s pride looks like on their 2D platforms like Messenger, but this article will focus on their AR and VR initiatives.

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The next of episode Meta’s “Metaverse Culture Series” is going to focus on LGBTQ+ communities and safety in immersive worlds. The release date for the recorded virtual panel discussion was not included in the blog post, but there is a lot of other Pride Month content to watch in Meta headset and hangouts.

Weird Times is a VR limited series available to watch in Quest. The series explores the lives of modern teenagers and their various trials and triumphs living in today’s society. The most recent episode deals with teenagers coming out in our politically charged world. This is the third episode in the five-part series.

The documentary March for Dignity details the effort to hold the first pride parade in the country of Georgia. At the time, the country was a potential European Union candidate. The EU’s more liberal values make LGBTQ+ support a political touchpoint in the largely conservative country located between Russia and Turkey. The film is streaming in Horizon Venues through this month.

March for Dignity - Pride Month in metaverse

Meta also worked with the team behind A Strange Loop. The musical, about a theater usher exploring his queer identity, has won a number of awards including the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony. Now, users of Reels, Stories, and Facebook feed posts can use AR effects inspired by the musical.

AR effect Facebook - A Strange Loop

Virbela

Hopefully, you know about Virbela, but it’s easy to have missed a part of their sprawling and ever-evolving campus. The Virbela Speakeasy in their open campus is a frequent home to live events in the public immersive world – and it was the perfect place for their Pride events. There are live events scheduled throughout Pride Month, but you can also drop in any time.

The Speakeasy has been rebranded for Pride Month and is home to a museum exhibit that never closes. The two-floor venue features one floor dedicated to currently ongoing trends in the LGBTQ+ community, and one floor dedicated to past events and figures in Pride history.

Virbela Speakeasy - Pride Month

On the last day of Pride Month, the Speakeasy will play host to a live Pride Parade and avatar fashion contest. The parade will be led by members of the Virbela community, but both events are open to everyone.

Snap

Snap’s Pride Month celebrations started off with a Spotlight Challenge. The challenge hosted in collaboration with makeup mogul Patrick Starrr invited Snapchatters to share how they prepare for their favorite pride activities. Submissions are closed with the winner to be announced later this month, but that’s not all Snap has in store.

The camera company also rolled out Pride Lenses and used the Snap Map to show Snapchatters where pride events were happening near them. All of this was in addition to pride-inspired chat stickers and Bitmoji outfits. Internally, the company hosted a number of events for staff members to express themselves and learn about the Pride movement.

Rendever

Year-round ARPost readers know that Rendever, a VR company improving quality of life in senior care communities, celebrates Black History Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. They also celebrate Pride Month – a testament to the more than 2 million Americans over the age of 65 who identify as LGBT.

“Our approach was really on building spaces to celebrate knowing that the percentage of these demographics who openly identify as LGBT is a lot lower than in other age brackets,” Rendever CEO, Kyle Rand, told ARPost in a video interview.

THROUGH-DARCELLES-EYESTheir Pride Month events utilize RendeverLive, a platform for real-time immersive social events. The platform played host to sessions based around the music of musicians like Elton John, Lady Gaga, and David Bowie. Seniors also participated in LGBTQ-themed book clubs, and virtually met Darcelle XV, the oldest performing drag queen.

“RendeverLive is, for us, one of the ways that we’re able to keep our experiences up-to-date with whatever is happening,” said Rand. “Rendever Live has really become more than just a live content platform, it’s become a community-building program.”

The most popular event? Drag Bingo – which returned for a repeat performance by popular demand. Rand shared community feedback from the sessions so far, and the responses from participants and hosts alike have been overwhelmingly positive.

Rendever also took their Pride Month initiatives internal. Through a Pride Bingo event that staff members play on social media, they hope to raise at least $15k for The Trevor Project – an organization that provides information and support to LGBTQ young people. Rendever’s Pride initiatives are important to users and staff, but particularly to Rand.

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“I am one of the gay CEOs in the tech world,” said Rand. “I think it’s an important note because I don’t think there are a lot of us.”

The LGBTQ+ VR Museum

The LGBTQ+ VR Museum is not a seasonal activation, but now seems like a pretty good time to talk about it. That’s true because it’s Pride Month and because, while this article was coming together, the Museum won the New Voices Award at Tribeca.

The Museum features 15 3D scans with audio introduction as well as 25 2D artworks with written information. All of these were submitted to the Museum by LGBTQ+ creatives, and each one tells a part of their personal story.

All of these are organized around the Museum’s only permanent piece: a lifesize 3D replica of “Memorial to a Marriage.” This three-ton marble sculpture, physically located in the Bronx, depicts the artists Patricia Cronin and Deborah Kass, who wanted their love to be remembered in death if not recognized in life. The couple is now legally married and still very much alive.

3D replica of Memorial to a Marriage statue - Pride Month in metaverse

The LGBTQ+ VR Museum is currently a traveling exhibit in large part because it uses biometric data to artistically render the emotional responses of visitors as they experience the immersive museum. Museum director, Antonia Forster, told ARPost that the Museum intends to exhibit in this iteration in more locations around the world, as well as create more accessible versions.

More information on the LGBTQ+ VR Museum, including more from the in-depth interview with Forster, is slated to run in ARPost next week, so keep an eye out for that.

Pride Month in the Metaverse Is Big

Sometimes, putting together seasonal roundup articles like this can be a bit of a stretch. No tree-shaking was required to pull this article together and some worthwhile projects were almost certainly left off the list. The metaverse is alive this Pride Month. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, there’s a lot to learn and a lot of fun to be had in immersive worlds this June.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.