It may sound like a marketing gimmick, but the founders of the first LGBT + cryptocurrency said they wanted to harness the economic power of the community to “change the world”. Maricoin, a pun from a homophobic slander in Spanish, was launched on Friday in a week-long pilot test of 10 companies in Chueca, known as the LGBT + neighborhood of the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Maricoin’s supporters aim to see the virtual currency begin trading early next year to pave the way for use as a payment method in LGBT-friendly businesses and events around the world.
“As we move this economy, why shouldn’t our community benefit from it instead of banks, insurance companies or large corporations that often don’t help LGBT + people?” Co-founder Juan Belmonte, 48, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.
Belmonte, a hairdresser and entrepreneur, said the idea for the LGBT + cryptocurrency came to him while partying with friends at the Pride event in Madrid this July.
But he traces the origins of the project back to 2017 when the ultra-conservative group HazteOir launched a campaign against transgender rights by sending a bus across Spain saying, “Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Don’t be fooled . “
The campaign by the conservative Christian group was quickly banned by Spanish authorities, but Belmonte said he realized he “had to do something” to harness the economic power of the LGBT + community to fight homophobia.
The global LGBT + market is huge. Research by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse suggests that it ranks as the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power behind Japan but ahead of Germany.
A 2018 study conducted by Kantar Consulting and LGBT + social network Hornet estimated the community’s purchasing power to be $ 1 trillion in the United States alone in 2016 – almost equal to that of African American or Hispanic consumers.
Maricoin is backed by Miami-based venture capital firm Borderless Capital, and the initiative’s executive director Francisco Alvarez said 8,000 people were already on a waiting list to buy maricoins before the currency begins trading.
According to their plans, LGBT + cryptocurrency will be accepted as payment in businesses – from restaurants and cafes to shops and hotels – that have signed an “equality manifesto”.
The manifesto defends the rights of LGBT + people and “everyone who suffers from exclusion” and advocates a “social, ethical, transversal and transparent economy”.
“The establishments that accept our coin are listed on our map, which serves as an LGBTI guide for anyone visiting any city in the world,” said Alvarez, 48.
“If you violate any of the items in our anti-discrimination manifesto, such as dismissing a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, Maricoin will expel you,” he added.
The currency will also have its own LGBT-related language – transfers between Maricoin users are called “trans”.
Alvarez and Belmonte also hope the company can generate a source of funding for LGBT + businesses and community initiatives around the world.
“We will be able to provide microloans so that people in Colombia can build a small LGBTI-friendly café or support projects that help queer refugees flee from countries where they would be stoned to death,” he said.
“We look forward to changing the world.”
© Thomson Reuters 2021
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