2016 is to see the first Digital Pride.
To find out more about the LGBTI community’s journey online, we caught up with Tris Reid-Smith, editor-in-chief of Gay Star News, creators of the event.
We covered everything from same-sex emojis to Harvey Milk to the future of content.
What was the impetus for Digital Pride?
The LGBTI community spends more of its time on digital media and platforms than most. Creating an event that made the most of that seemed like a no-brainer.
Telling people about the first Digital Pride, the most common response has been: ‘Why did nobody think of that before?’
Many people can’t easily access a traditional Pride – a march and party in the streets. They may live where LGBTI people are criminalized, they may be disabled, they may live in a country with great rights and events but far from their nearest city.
The opportunity to create a Pride they could take part in really excited us.
Finally, we asked ourselves: ‘What would Pride be like if it was invented now, rather than in the 1970s?’
The first Digital Pride is not just a format, but a chance to make a difference through the scale and power of the internet.
It can contain everything a Pride should – celebration, culture, entertainment, politics, business, community building and so much more.
The LGBTI community in Britain has been characterised as digitally savvy (early adopters). How has this contributed to the Pride movement?
In terms of ‘Prides’ as events and the ‘Pride’ movement, not anywhere near as much as it should – that’s why we invented Digital Pride.
But for the LGBTI community globally, digital has changed everything. We now are able to connect with LGBTIs in countries where they are actively persecuted on a day-to-day basis and tell their stories in real time.
That was unimaginable before and gets people to rally around what’s happening swiftly.
Digital tech allows isolated people to connect with each other too.
LGBTIs are a minority everywhere but if we all lived together in one country it would be the third or fourth largest in the world – that ‘country’ today is the spaces we have carved out on the internet.
There are downsides too, of course. But what excites me is that the process of connecting and empowering LGBTIs through digital is still in its infancy and I believe it will be the most important tool in securing an equal and better future for all of us.
Where do you see online content and experiences going?
The quick answer for a digital publisher is going multi-platform and continually creating richer and more interactive and useful experiences.
We also know that it won’t be just one simple answer but a range of possibilities that will open up – anyone who says ‘this is the next big thing’ is selling something; ‘this is one of many new things which could be big’ is more honest.
Actually, I’m learning to enjoy the uncertainty – it’s exciting and encourages creativity and rapid response, both of those are opportunities a small company like Gay Star News is well placed to capitalise on.
Day-to-day we focus our time on making sure our content is good content. Whatever the delivery mechanism and buzz about the latest platform, quality content never goes out of fashion.
We recently covered the mixed reception to same-sex emojis in some countries. How has social media and digital more generally played its part in countering prejudice?
Social justice and LGBTI rights have become touchstone issues for the social media generation. When we get that right, the impact is life-changing.
But there’s also something deeper happening. When Harvey Milk asked gays and lesbians in San Francisco to come out four decades ago, it was because when a straight person knows a gay person it is the key to overcoming prejudice.
Social and digital media has allowed more people to share their identities, more stories to be told and that makes all the difference in the world.
What are the tech challenges of Digital Pride this year?
The biggest challenge is just that it’s a first year and we have a lot of activities and events to juggle at the same time.
Much of what we are doing is through tried and tested methods – like social media.
Although high-profile events involving live streams always make me nervous, we are planning and testing to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Digital Pride’s week of interactive online events begins Monday 25 April and culminates in a traditional Pride festival on Saturday 30 April.