Finding belonging in LGBTQ+ spaces

The Stonewall Inn, a small bar in New York City where in June of 1969 LGBTQ+ people fought back against years of oppression and abuse, has special meaning for many people, including me. When I moved to New York City in 2007, I lived in the West Village, the neighborhood where the bar is located. I shared many memorable and meaningful nights with newfound friends at Stonewall and other local bars, where we felt a sense of community and belonging. As a minority in most other establishments, it’s hard to explain how comforting it is to walk into a place and feel like you are among your people and not feel othered or insecure. That’s what these bars were to me and millions of others.

The most meaningful one of those Stonewall Inn nights was when I met my future wife, Christine, a digital entrepreneur with her own LGBTQ+ media startup. She also happened to bartend there on Thursday nights. Needless to say, I spent more Thursday nights there then I should have after that, but it was well worth it.

With such fond memories of my time there, I was surprised to learn the Stonewall Inn was almost twice the size it is now when the rebellion took place in 1969. As New York City rents rose, the leaseholders were forced to let part of the building go, which is now 51 Christopher Street.

Google has been committed to preserving and sharing this history of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the U.S. Today, we’re building on our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community with almost $1 million in support from Google and Google.org to Pride Live, an advocacy group dedicated to the fight for LGBTQ+ equality that is working to secure the lease to 51 Christopher Street to reunite the Stonewall Inn and build the Stonewall National Monument Education and Visitor Center. On June 24th, Pride Live will be celebrating the reuniting of the Stonewall Inn, with musical guest Kesha, at their annual “Stonewall Day” event.

In 2019, through Google.org grants totaling $1.5 million and the tireless work of volunteer Googlers, The LGBT Community Center of New York commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with the launch of the Stonewall Forever, the first-ever interactive “living monument” dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community and their fight for equal rights.

Within Google, our PRIDE at and Trans at Google employee resource groups continue to grow each year. It’s great to see so many LGBTQ+ Googlers and their allies coming together with their local communities and participating in local Pride marches. For the first time, Googlers will be participating in Baltic Pride, organized by Lithuanian Gay League (a Google.org grantee) in Vilnius. We will showcase a Google Arts & Culture piece about Harvey Milk, who was an LGBTQ+ rights pioneer and of Lithuanian descent.

The mood of this Pride isn’t just celebratory. It’s been another tough year for LGBTQ+ folks and many historically marginalized communities. We see continuing discrimination and violence worldwide, especially against the trans community and for folks at the intersections of Asian and Pacific Islander and Black communities in the U.S. Moreover, many LGBTQ+ refugees in Ukraine remain displaced and overlooked as conflict continues in the region.

Given the challenges facing so many LGBTQ+ people, we are donating to nonprofits that work directly with the community. Googlers will be able to donate to nonprofits during Pride month and Google.org will match their donations to local LGBTQ+ charities around the world. Google.org has also made a critical contribution to OutRight Action International’s Ukraine Emergency Fund. This program is delivering humanitarian support to LGBTQ+ refugees, providing aid to neighboring countries and helping those that have been internally displaced and impacted by conflict. We are also providing donated Search advertising and other tools to nonprofit organizations like GLAAD and The Trevor Project, helping them spread awareness of their critical work and cultivate support for LGBTQ+ communities.

We are also continuing our work on making our products more inclusive and useful for everyone – including the LGBTQ+ community. We heard directly from members of the transgender community that the way Google Photos was resurfacing old Memories was hurtful. So last year we brought in our partners at GLAAD and worked with the trans community and learned how we could make reminiscing with Google Photos more inclusive. This effort led to launching new controls that let users hide photos of certain time periods or people from Google Photos’ Memories feature.

Our products continue to help small businesses owners connect with the LGBTQ+ community. Like helping merchants show their commitment by using the “LGBTQ+ friendly” and “Transgender safespace” attributes on Maps and Search, and our Google Ads products that help businesses connect with users that are looking for products made by companies that match their values.

As our community continues to be under attack both here in the U.S. and abroad, what gives me hope is the work we do across our products and platforms to help the LGBTQ+ community find places where they can feel accepted and safe. I found the Stonewall Inn and I found my wife. So many other establishments, like the Stonewall Inn, play a vital role for many in our community. They are more than just places where we socialize and gather, they bring a life-saving sense of community, belonging and security that everyone deserves.

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