Queering the Blockchain

Claire Lovell
Jun 7, 2019 · 6 min read

Happy Pride Month! While Pride is obviously historically more about our right to exist as full and equal citizens, I think it’s also a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go.

I have worked in LGBTQ activism most of my adult life. I first realized I was a lesbian in high school. At that point, I was mainly focused on surviving without anyone catching on. It was an incredibly tough and demoralizingfew years. I finally got fed up, and decided that hiding in the shadows was preventing me from being happy. When I came out to my family in college, I vowed from then on to live my life openly as a queer person, no matter the cost.

At that time, 2003, casual discrimination on the basis of sexuality was quite common. I assumed I would never be able to launch a successful career, get married, or have children. Furthermore, I rejected these institutions as the crushing paradigms that enabled queer rejection by society in the first place.

Today, I am gay-married, mother to a 3 year old daughter, and have worked for close to a decade in product management at startups. How did I end up here?

Initially, I became involved in startups because they existed outside of the bone-crushing boredom of large corporations. Not only was this a job that was interesting to me after a lifetime of teaching myself how to use technology, it was a job I could get. No one cared that I had tattoos or was a lesbian. That being said, being white and college educated were certainly privileges that enabled me to embark on a professional career.

I quickly was able to prove myself and rise up the ranks on the merit of my work, but I wasn’t helping to change society in the way that I had wanted. Instead, I spent most of my free time in those years working for the The San Francisco Dyke March to increase lesbian visibility and fight for our rights.

Photo by Christine Ricks at the 2011 San Francisco Dyke March

Funnily enough, I first heard about crypto through that work about 6 years ago, from my friend Christine Ricks. She told me about a logo she was working on with her friend Jackson Palmer for a silly project. That project, of course, became Dodgecoin — a joke cryptocurrency.

I was confused as to the purpose of this money that no one could procure or spend. Coinbase was just getting started. I didn’t know how to code and had no idea how I’d go about getting Bitcoin (or Dodge) even if I wanted to. And I didn’t want to, because it sounded like a waste of time for nerds.

As time went on, I heard about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies more and more often. A coworker often offered people 1 BTC for doing code reviews or other jobs he found tiresome. By this time I lived in Santa Cruz, which had a very small startup scene. It basically consisted of three companies: PredPol, PayStand, and Looker. Everyone at these startups was aware of what their Santa Cruz neighboring companies were doing. When I heard PayStand had started offering a Bitcoin solution, it was even more incentive to investigate it.

PayStand.com, 2014

After hearing about it for so long, something like 3 years at this point, I finally started to do some real research. I still had no idea how to get involved, and given my wife was a graduate student at the time, there was absolutely no way I could afford to “invest” in anything. In fact, I didn’t think of it as an investment at the time. The great promise of Bitcoin was the ability to transact like cash, digitally. About 85% of all global money exchange is in cash.

As I started to think more about the concept of digital cash, I realized it could be used for positive social change in a way that few technologies can claim. I was excited about the idea of families sending money internationally with no waiting and low fees, or avoiding repressive governments, or rampant inflation. I saw so many ways this new technology could help marginalized people. I still did not know how to purchase Bitcoin.

My first cryptocurrency purchase, ever

Eventually in 2015 my company started laying people off and I was pregnant, so started looking at PayStand. They didn’t have a job for me, but I wrote them anyway, and was soon hired. Soon after I joined, the company was forced to stop accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment as banks didn’t (and often still don’t) want to work with crypto companies. But I finally did buy some crypto through Coinbase — just $5 — because I knew it was risky.

The current price of Bitcoin is $8,091.44 — a 2816% increase. Imagine if I had given myself permission to participate fully — I could have created wealth for my family. I know this is a common story. Many marginalized people don’t feel that they have the skills and knowledge to participate in investing. It’s especially true for those of us who do not come from wealth, and have never been expose to proper financial planning.

The thing is, very few people have been involved with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for more than a couple of years. Most people got started by buying a little, reading a lot, and giving it a try. It’s incredibly rare for anyone to be a true expert, so you can catch up quickly. Women make up less than 10% of the crypto community currently. There aren’t statistics available, but it’s likely that a very small number of queer people and PoC are involved or invested in crypto given the demographics of most businesses and investors in the space.

But that’s the thing about cryptocurrencies. Although it may be full of a lot of Bitcoin Bros, there are no gatekeepers. Anyone can participate, whether it’s on the promise of the technology or as a potential investment.

As a teenager, I faced a lot of bigotry for being a queer person, just for existing. That experience caused me to question existing paradigms of power. Participating in cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects is a subversive, queer act. You are opting out of the financial power structure of big banks in that moment to create your own economic network. You are actually, in the purest sense of the word, queering our financial system by participating in something outside of it.

However, if the same old systems repeat themselves in the new order, nothing is subverted. There needs to be more people of all kinds involved in crypto and blockchain, because it’s already shaping our financial services. Access to money and financial services are an important way of interacting with the world around us and accessing resources. Most of these movements have historically left behind anyone who isn’t a straight white dude.

Let’s stop letting the people who have power today, have the power tomorrow. In that way, crypto is pretty anarchist. You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to get started. Who knows, it just might change the world.

If you don’t know how to get started, Medium is a great resource, as is Earn.com. While most people start with Bitcoin, you certainly don’t have to. You can read a whitepaper and decide for yourself if you believe in a particular cryptocurrency, either for its utility or for its value. Here are a couple of my favorites.

#QueerTheBlockchain

Claire Lovell is a Senior Product Manager at BRD, a decentralized, mobile, cryptocurrency wallet offering easy ways to buy and trade cryptocurrencies.

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Claire Lovell

Written by

Product at Gemini. Avid reader. LGBT activist. Feminist. Mom. clairelovell.com

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Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Claire Lovell

Written by

Product at Gemini. Avid reader. LGBT activist. Feminist. Mom. clairelovell.com

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

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