The Web3 ecosystem is growing rapidly, and as it takes shape, today's artists, developers, and creators online are in a unique position to decide what the next generation of the internet is going to look like. Rather than copy/paste the shortcomings of the Web 2.0 internet we know today, why not build a more inclusive, and more queer digital world?
If you're here, then you're early, because Web3 is an upgrade to the internet that is being developed as we speak. Here are some ways that I think we can build and bring more queer representation to Web3, and make it queer from the start.
Queering the Metaverse
If you've kept up with me on Twitter at all, then you probably already know how interested I've been in Twitter Spaces lately. (And if you don't already follow me on Twitter, then what are you waiting for? My username is @OMRLXS.)
I was fortunate enough to attend a Space hosted by none other than Zak Krevitt (they/them) (@Zak_Krevitt) and Laurel Charleston (she/they) (@YannyCharleston); two burgeoning queer community builders in Web3. The topic: Queering the Metaverse. We explored so many incredible things during that Space, and I was inspired by some of what we covered so felt the need to put it all in one place for other queer creators in Web3 to use as a call to action.
One of the main topics of Zak's Space was on how we, as a community, can come together to take more directed actions towards truly making Web3 more queer and more inclusive. These are my thoughts on some of the things we discussed as a group, and I highly recommend you follow both Zak and Laurel to take part in more of these conversations in the future.
Four Things You Can Do to Help Build Queer Representation in Web3
When it comes to building a powerful queer community (on Web3 or not), one thing is clear: it's an uphill climb. If you're ready, willing, and able to join forces with other queer creators in Web3, then here are four things you can do to help build that community into something truly special!
1. Lead with your queer identity
As queer people simply taking up space, we are already doing the work of queering the metaverse. Our mere existence in Web3 (or anywhere, really) is revolutionary. However, truly owning your queer identity, and leading with it in Web3, is critical to advancing visibility for the community as a whole.
If you're a queer artist, this means being unafraid to describe your work in queer terms whether it's on Twitter, or a public marketplace. During Zak's Space, Laurel Charleston, who is a multi-disciplinary makeup artist (and recently featured in Harper's Bazaar), shared a personal story about when they first listed their NFT artwork on Foundation.
Laurel stated that they were worried their work wouldn't sell as well if they went ahead and tagged it as something queer, LGBT, or gender non-conforming, even though these terms were the best way of describing it. They were concerned that they would turn off potential buyers and inadvertently make their work too niche for a mass market collector. However, despite this, Laurel was able to find a market in the queer space and make their first sale. Since then, Laurel has made over 5 ETH in sales on Foundation (currently valued at over $15,500 USD as of February 2022.)
Embracing your queerness in Web3 by leaning into the keywords and terms that describe queerness online is critical for our visibility. When your work is linked to LGBT keywords, and makes a sale on an NFT marketplace, this implicitly tells the algorithm and the creators of the marketplace that queer artwork is valuable. This subsequently makes it easier for other queer creators to get their work sold with the help of an algorithm that will now identify similar work as potentially interesting for a collector. All of this is achieved through keywords and clicks interacting behind the scenes, and is only made possible when successful queer creators lean in and own these queer signifiers.
I can tell you from personal experience that there is already a growing safe space for queer people in Web3 because of creators like Laurel tagging and owning LGBT keywords. We just need to tap into it, and when we do, then others will start finding each other more easily -- and that's step two!
2. Connect with other queer creators in Web3
Once you've clearly identified yourself and your work as unabashedly queer on your accounts/market profiles, then you're going to want to be intentional about finding other queer people in Web3. Fortunately, it's easier than it looks.
When queer creators mark themselves and their work with queer terms, these same terms are what you can use to find them on any searchable social media or marketplace. On Twitter, which has been a hub for any and all crypto / Web3 / NFT art discussion, this can look like either hashtags or lists.
Use hashtags to find queer creators
Some people might think that Twitter hashtags are dead (since Twitter has long changed their search functionality to include both hashtagged and non-hashtagged keywords), but they remain an incredibly effective way of organizing disparate posts and profiles under a single moniker.
To use a timely example: searching for "Super Bowl" related posts in 2022 will bring up any and all tweets using those exact words. However, this term alone will actually include any and all tweets ever made containing that exact phrase; from the Super Bowl in 2008... to the Super Bowl in 2022 (this weekend.) Granted, Twitter automatically prioritizes more recent tweets, but it still goes to show how singular keyword search functions aren't as precise as a hashtag. If you're looking for specific tweets from a particular Super Bowl year, the best way to do this would be to search instead for a hashtag, such as #SuperBowl2022 or #SuperBowlLVI. This refines the search to a given year and will weed out anything not containing that term, and is a powerful way to search historical tweets.
You can apply this same methodology to finding queer NFT artists. Searching for terms like #LGBTNFT or #QueerArt can be an effective way of finding artists and creators who specifically identify with this group. There is not yet an agreed upon singular hashtag for LGBT NFT artists and creators, but having some level of consensus within the queer NFT community on tags like these can make it easier for us to find each other not only on Twitter, but anywhere in the metaverse that can be searched. (Personally I think a great catch-all queer tag could be #WebQ, which is also the name of a newsletter I am creating specifically for queer people in Web3. Subscribe now!)
Follow queer users and their lists
Twitter users that are already building communities and audiences of queer people are a great resource for finding others. Not only will following queer users in Web3 help refine your Twitter algorithm and get better recommendations for who to follow, but you will also be able to see their interactions with others who may be LGBT or allies. Not only that, but the most committed community builders will often create public lists of accounts they find, for others to use as a resource.
I myself created a Twitter list specifically geared towards compiling LGBT NFT artists and developers I have come across. I tweeted out a thread where dozens of folks have responded with accounts I'd never seen before, that belong on this list. Currently, my list has over 70 accounts and is rapidly growing. Follow me @OMRLXS for any updates, and follow the list so that you can get an endless feed of Web3 queerness. See below:
3. Onboard your queer friends
In the last two steps, we looked at how being visibly queer, and seeking out other queer users will combine to help seed a Web3 queer community. However, these two steps are merely the foundation. One of the best things you can do to bring queer representation to Web3 is invite your queer friends to join us in this digital revolution, and enter the communities we've already started to build .
By inviting your queer friends to become active participants on the blockchain, you are directly bringing more queer representation to Web3. This is critical because with every new person we bring to the space, we also add their unique experiences and intersectional identities. In this way, we make the space more queer, but also more culturally diverse, which will effectively build a community that represents all forms of queerness, rather than our existing, almost exclusive group of tech-savvy queers.
Teach your queer friends about the Web3 vision
When inviting a real-life queer friend to join you in the metaverse, the first thing you should do is make sure they know the basics: what is blockchain? What are the benefits? What are some examples? Chances are, they're already familiar with the more popular chains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but their experience with it is probably limited to using it as an investment via Coinbase or Robinhood.
Financial benefits aside, educating your queer friends on blockchain use cases beyond making money will make it easier for them to learn about all of the ancillary use cases such as community and provenance. These ancillary benefits really make up the bulk of what I'd call the "Web3 vision" of decentralized platforms, self-determination, and community action.
Help them set up & secure a Web3 wallet
In my experience, after getting familiar with the vision, my queer friends taught me about wallets. Specifically, understanding how apps like MetaMask are not only wallets but also browsers, and that it can effectively be used as a "window" into the Web3 world to buy and sell digital assets. Getting a wallet is foundational to anything else in Web3, so after getting it set up, understanding how to keep it secure is critical.
Protecting their seed phrase, and identifying suspicious links / messages are two basic concepts they'll need to understand. Most of your queer friends are probably already adept at identifying phishing scams in the Web 2.0 world and know more or less what to look for. However, in a Web3 environment of wallet signatures, mint sites, Discord servers, whitelists, and limited-time drops, the phishing game has changed.
I'd say that after teaching them about wallets and browsers, and the basics of protecting their private information, they should really take a pause and just study the space before attempting to join any organized communities. Connect them with trusted resources, people to follow, and Spaces to join so that they can learn. For me, simply listening and learning was incredibly useful when I first got started, because I was able to hear both horror stories and success stories about Web3, and really learn what makes the Web3 world tick. Eventually, I got the confidence to mint my first NFT, and also buy something on the secondary market, which brings me to step #4.
4. Spread the wealth with other queer creators
The Web3 world is predicated on transactions. Every interaction on the blockchain is a transaction that is exchanging some type of information, whether it's the contents your wallet, or actual currency to buy something. As such, the fourth step you can take to queering the metaverse is spreading the wealth.
Whether you're a queer creator selling art and digital assets of your own, or a queer collector simply browsing and supporting others, you have the power to spread the wealth in a variety of ways that will help elevate the queer community as a whole.
Be a new queer artist's FIRST sale
If you're a creator selling NFTs, then you know how difficult it can be to get started. If you're a collector, then you know that NFT projects that are already generating sales are likelier to increase in value. It's a catch-22, because most people don't want to buy from an artist showing zero volume traded; but everyone starts at zero!
As such, one great way you can help new queer artists is by being their first sale. Getting the ball rolling on anything -- whether it's a collection, a business, or an actual ball -- is the most difficult part. But once you've got momentum, it doesn't take as much energy to keep things rolling. As a creator or collector with some disposal ETH, being the first bid or sale on a new artist's work can not only help build their confidence, but also get other people to take notice.
Even if your first bid or sale doesn't ultimately amount to much actual income for the artist, this small push can be all it takes for them to start seeing incredible success, which brings me to my next point.
When you make some money, go buy from queer artists
If you're a creator making your first sale, or a collector making your first big flip, you should think about how you want to use this liquidity. Everyone has bills to pay, so that isn't to say all of the money you make in Web3 should go right back into the ecosystem. However, much like in the real-world where you support small and local businesses, your conscious decision to shop queer artists will cause a domino effect.
During Zak's Space on Queering the Metaverse, Kate the Cursed (@KateCursed) who is an NFT artist combining digital and analog technology in her work, brought up an incredible story about how she has been paying her rent. Kate shared with us that she has been able to pay for the last SIX MONTHS of rent at her current studio, where she makes art, off of a SINGLE sale she made to a collector. With that freedom she has been able to create more work and therefore generate more income, which she has re-injected into the queer Web3 art space by buying art from creators like Zak and Laurel (who in turn buy from other queer artists.)
This feedback loop of queer-money-in and queer-money-out creates lucrative opportunities for all kinds of NFT creators, and invites more and more buyers and sellers to pick up artwork by LGBT makers. The income you make in Web3 can easily be cashed out to the real-world, or spent on random 10k projects in the metaverse, so making the conscious decision to buy from smaller, newer, queer artists goes much farther, and will often times make its way back to you anyway either through asset appreciation and support on your own projects.
Queering the Metaverse Starts with YOU
We need your help to make Web3 a more inclusive and queer-friendly space. Whether you're an artist, developer, or simply a supporter of the queer community, there are many ways you can contribute. By leading with your queer identity, finding and connecting with other queer creators, onboarding your friends, and spreading the wealth, you can create a more inclusive digital world for everyone.
This is just the beginning, and I'm excited to see how we can push this the digital queer community to new heights. If you know an artist or developer working on something queer in their spare time, please share this article with them! They might not have heard about Web3 yet, but they'll thank you once they do.