Keegan here. This is a special event for me. Even if you don’t identify as LGBTQ, I hope you will join us for this remarkable celebration and root the community on. This weekly meetup brought people from all walks of life together in one space to support each other for a whole year now. LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup have showcased what AltspaceVR can do for different communities and marginalized groups. Come celebrate with us and support this amazing achievement. There will also be a live DJ! 🎧
LGBTQ+ & Friends – One Year Anniversary
Friday, May 4th, 2018 from 6PM to 8PM PT
LGBTQ+ & Friends – One Year Anniversary – UK Edition
Friday, May 4th, 2018 from 2PM PT to 4PM PT
What started as an internal, casual weekly hang out in AltspaceVR transformed into an essential community for people all over the world. For many, it became a home away from home. Not only does this virtual space cultivate positivity and empowerment, it also encourages people to share their experiences and engage in meaningful, and sometimes tough, topics. Because the events are a mix of constructive info sessions, group discussions and mingles, the environment naturally became educational and welcoming of different opinions and points of view. Communication is key for the community group.
The administrators, Chris, Miyk, Myles & Katherine, have taken the group to new heights. Because the team did not have a space like this growing up, their primary passion is to help others discover it. We live in a digital age and the easy accessibility to this group from all devices will allow the community group to expand to indefinitely. The point is to connect and meet other people when you otherwise couldn’t have in your own cities.
#GetSocial with Chris
Q1. What inspired you join and grow this community group?
Chris: I was up for the challenge. It all started when I got a new Samsung Galaxy phone with the GearVR headset last year. Within two days of being in AltspaceVR, I was hooked. One of the first events I attended was the LGBTQ meet-up Keegan Law had started. It used to be hosted in the old movie theatre room that had board games and chess. We hung out there for a bit.
I immediately clicked with people. Two weeks later, I asked Keegan if she wanted me to take over the meet-ups because I knew she had a full plate at AltspaceVR. Within less than a month, I was running the LGBTQ meetups. Now, we have our own custom space.
Q2. How did LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup start?
Chris: It all started as a hangout space where people could talk freely. Katherine had been in AltspaceVR for a long time already and joined immediately. Then MJ approached me and asked if I needed help. When our team got a Discord channel, Miyk showed up. We had people coming in from all over the world: Germany, Switzerland, Korea, Egypt, Iran, Japan, Turkey, China… Some people joined from places where it’s life-threatening to come out as LGBTQ+. People have come out in this space with the support from our community. Those one-time drop-ins are amazing to experience.
Q3. Do you get a lot of new users? Or is it a recurring community?
Chris: We do have people attend on a weekly basis. Some guests aren’t LGBTQ+ and are simply supportive and curious. Our group has developed into tons of social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. A whole year has passed and the growth is evident. Our goal is to continue expanding and including as many people from all over the world as possible. We want everybody to join. Once people hear about it, they get really excited because this space was created for people to have a family. Anybody— gay, straight, bi, trans. We’ve created this environment where people feel comfortable opening up. As long as you have a computer or a phone, you can come in and we can talk about whatever.
Q4. How important are these community groups in immersive technology?
Chris: I’m lucky enough to live in Seattle, Washington because there’s a huge LGBTQ community here up in Capitol Hill. It’s this mile-long neighborhood downtown with a bunch of community hangouts spots. However, there are other places in the world where people just sit in their rooms. They don’t have anywhere to go or friends to connect with. This space was created for people from all parts of the world to speak freely about LGBTQ. It’s like a home away from home. Having this virtual space where people can just hang out has helped lots of people. We’ve had people meet in VR and then realize they are from the same town. [Laughs] Friends for life right there.
#GETSOCIAL with Myles
Q1. How did you find LGBTQ+ & Friends and what inspired you to join the community?
Myles: Brand new to VR, I walked into AltspaceVR and found the LGBTQ+ meetup— it was such a welcoming experience and unlike anything I had ever experienced in online gaming. A first for me. After the first few meetings, I’d always speak with Chris and finally decided to help out in any way I could. We just naturally formed a team over time. My role is primarily to make the content for the meetups and create slide presentations with specific weekly topics as a starting point for conversations. It’s been a fun experience working with Chris, Miyk and Katherine. We’ve just expanded to Europe and have a dedicated time session for our Eastern members.
My personal reason for joining this group is because I didn’t have this growing up. We need more virtual groups like this, especially in this modern age. It’s great to have people who support you both in the virtual group and in-person, but the reality is— not everyone is lucky enough to have both. Now that I’m a part of it, I want to help other people discover it.
Q2. What is this LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup about?
Myles: The meetup is about education and learning. We believe this is the way to defeat a lot of misconceptions and hatred in the world. We try to create a space safe for people who are out, not out, or even confused. If this virtual community didn’t exist and you wanted to find other LGBTQ people, you would have to go to your Gay/Straight association, that is if your school even has one. Or you would have to find a LGBTQ space in your local city.
However, some people don’t have that opportunity. The meetup is also a private way to connect with the LGBTQ community. We make sure that no one is recording these meetups in any way, shape or form. We want people to open and free. When I came out, I didn’t have that. I was very picky and choosy of who I told. My coming out experience would have been easier if I had a space like this. I’m not saying it was hard, but it would have been way more comfortable. We want to provide as much education, comfort, and safety as possible for everybody. The LGBTQ+ & Friends meet-up is focused on family, education and connection.
Q3: Can you tell us more about the weekly event and what to expect?
Myles: We start the meetups with a little introduction where people can share their names, sexual orientation and where they’re from. You’re not required to share any information or participate if you don’t want to. Even though we may have tons of people join, we prioritize this initial activity and make sure everyone gets a chance to introduce themselves because a lot of people start making connections that way. People can also keep in contact on our Discord channel.
After introductions, we move on to our topic of the week. I’ll pick out about four questions to ignite a conversation and get people thinking. It’s really interesting to hear different perspectives. We’ve talked about coming out, gay marriage, how to deal with homophobia, what to do when you’re out amongst so many other topics. We try to focus on common subjects and challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces. Afterwards, we just let people mingle and get a chance to say hi to each other.
Q4: The 1-Year Anniversary Party is coming up soon. What are your plans for year two of LGBTQ+ & Friends?
Myles: We got the ball rolling early on and have something solid to work with. This year, I want exposure. I want us to be seen more. There are so many people out there that could benefit from this group. We’ve heard from the community; we’ve gotten emails. People share with us how the meetup has helped them. There’s so much more that we can do. I hope to see great things in this second year. We know how to do this now and have worked out the kinks. I see a big future for this LGBTQ+ meetup. Personally, I hope people walk away from these meetings more educated than when they entered. We don’t only get LGBTQ+ community members come in, we also get supporters. Education is key in all situations. Knowledge is power.
#GETSOCIAL with Katherine
Q1. How did you first discover the LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup?
Katherine: I’ve been in AltspaceVR for a few years now and attended the very first LGBTQ meetup Keegan created. It was interesting to see actual LGBTQ events in AltspaceVR. When I realized Chris was going to do this every week, I got involved.
Q2. How important are LGBTQ+ community spaces in virtual reality? And what inspired you to take part in this meetup?
Katherine: I wanted to help build a space where people could feel like they belonged somewhere. Even if they’re not out in real life, they have a virtual space where they can be themselves. People can talk and people will be there to listen to them. We’ve had people come out here, and then build the courage to come out to their parents.
Q3. What do you hope visitors and recurring members get out of this meetup?
Katherine: We hope visitors gain knowledge and learn something new from these meetups. We discuss lots of great topics. For instance, this week was about how gay marriage has continuously been more accepted over the years. Even if people don’t agree on everything, our goal is for them to learn something from a different perspective and to walk away with more information than they had before.
#GETSOCIAL with Miyk
Q1. What inspired you to join the LGBTQ+ & Friends community?
Miyk: I wanted to inject a lot of positivity into the group. People who are stuck in situations where they cannot express themselves can do so freely in this space. We want to talk about the positive: how things have changed, improved and how to create meaningful, long-lasting impact on the future and evolvement of society. Overall, I want people to be uplifted and feel empowered. We’re not here because we’re victims— we are here because we have something in common. We want to be happy and true to ourselves.
Q2. What do you hope members will get from this LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup?
Miyk: Our goal is for this to be a group of friends, not a victim group. Our weekly topics don’t always have to be about LGBTQ – we can branch out. If someone is in a position where they cannot come out, while we are sympathetic, they don’t need us to remind them of their bad situation or how they are not being accepted. Instead, we foster a space where people can get away and escape their realities. We try to steer clear from the polarizing topics, such as politics or religion. The space is kept neutral in hopes people will express their opinions freely, share their experiences and just have a good time.
Q3. Who can join this community?
Miyk: One of the great things about this meetup is that it’s not strictly limited to LGBTQ+ folks, but LGBTQ+ and Friends. We’ve had people come in and feel like they are intruding— to that we say, “No, you can stay and hangout.” Even if people come in and aren’t approving of the lifestyle and want to have a conversation, we also welcome those discussions as long as they aren’t trolling or disrupting. We’ve had tough and uncomfortable questions and we won’t shy away from that. We need to be able to have these conversations.