In 2015, Google launched #prideforeveryone, a virtual reality experience which allows users to experience what it’s like to be at a Pride parade. The footage was compiled over 25 weeks by Google staff members who marched in their local parades in order to document the global face of the LGBTIQA+ community.
“For a moment in time, I could feel with such intensity, all that love, all that care, all those people. This heals the soul.”
A simple thing like attending a Pride parade is something that many of us in Australia have come to take for granted. We’re beyond lucky that we have the freedom to be able to express who we are, and who we love.
Not everyone is as lucky as we are. There are scores of LGBTIQA+ people around the world who are lonely and ostracised. Moreover, they may not be able to participate in Pride due to anti-LGBTQ laws or social stigma.
In some cases, this lack of understanding and communication can manifest in awful ways, especially when it comes to bullying.
This is the story of Alba Reyes
Alba Rees is the founder of the Sergio Urrego Foundation
In 2014, my son Sergio took his own life because he was suspended and discriminated by his school for kissing another boy. Unfortunately, neither I nor his friends were able to prevent the harassment and isolation he felt.
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to make sure what happened to Sergio doesn’t happen to any other young person in my country. I started the Fundacion Sergio Urrego to travel to schools across Colombia and lead inclusion workshops with local students. Although LGBTQ children may be more likely to feel isolated, many young people don’t feel accepted by their families, friends or teachers. My workshops create activities and safe spaces that help students understand how it feels to be discriminated against – reinforcing the importance of diversity and inclusion.
An important part of these workshops is helping students put themselves in another person’s shoes. This summer, we used Google Cardboard to give students in my workshops a way to experience Pride parades from across the globe. Most of these students have never seen an LGBTQ Pride parade. But with virtual reality, they can learn more about the global LGBT community, and feel supported by a global community that celebrates diversity.
After seeing the impact of my workshop and virtual Pride parade on children in Colombia, institutions like the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies have shown their support to scale my workshops to even more children across the country.
My fight is not just for my child. It’s for all children who have endured discrimination and bullying from their peers, teachers and community.