Fourteen months ago in a drafty farmhouse a few miles north of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Sage and Curry Kalmus, two gay men married for what would then be almost 9 years had a realisation. They realised their friends were making a virtual exodus from Facebook, complaining of feeling disempowered, disenfranchised, and disenchanted by it.
Many in the LGBTQ community, they found, are feeling underrepresented or not represented at all by the prevailing social networks. Some lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, in fact, are even outright bullied and threatened on many of these sites, teens especially, to the point where LGBTQ teens are citing these kinds of incidents in their suicide notes.
The husband-and-husband duo assumed some other social network for the LGBTQ community must exist, somewhere supportive, that kept out bullies and anti-gay rhetoric, but all they could find were dating and sex sites segregated by gender and sexuality, and local business and event-based sites. No inclusive social network for the diversity of people who comprise the LGBTQ community.
The Kalmuses were shocked by this, but also inspired. Despite neither one having much technical knowledge or experience, they did have years of experience between them in holding safe and supportive space for people to explore and express who they are. So two months after their realisation, on November 9, 2015, Qommunity: The Queer Social Network was launched as a free-membership website for the LGBTQ community and its straight allies at qommunity.org.
One year later, Qommunity is also available as free apps for Apple and Android devices. Today, Qommunity boasts members on every continent, except Antartica, including in countries where being gay is a crime, like Iran, Syria, and Bangladesh. Qommunity’s nearly 600 members range in age from 13 to 73 and span the gamut of gender-identities and sexual-orientations in the LGBTQ community (including hundreds of straight allies). Between the membership site and the public-facing, non-membership portion of the site has garnered nearly 3 million page-views.
Among Qommunity’s proudest moments in its first year:
A 64-year old grandmother came out to herself first, and then her friends and family with members’ support
A former biker whose gang rejected him for being supportive of the LGBTQ community came out as bisexual and got a job at a gay club
Sage & Curry have been invited to speak this December to the students at Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan, New York on behalf of Qommunity
“Qommunity has done so much for me and my family,” says Amy Piccirillo, bisexual mother of two, who now home-schools her boys with other parents and teens using Qonnect, Qommunity’s audio/video chat, streaming, and collaboration features.
Many Qommunity members visit several times daily to check-in with friends, make new friends, post photos and videos, Like and Share other people’s posts, and more. Qommunity members can also create pages, post and join events, and create and join groups. There’s even a second free app called Qonnectr containing all of Qonnect’s text/audio/video chat, conferencing, broadcasting, and collaboration features, where some members stay logged in to chat all day.
One key to what makes Qommunity so special is that all members agree, on signing up, to a Member Safety Agreement of:
1) No Bullying or Harassment
2) No Illegal Activity
3) No Pornography
This helps to create an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and respect. “Qommunity is not a free-for-all like other social networks,” says Sage. “It’s more like a private club. Everyone is welcome, but there are bouncers.”
What’s in store for Qommunity in the year ahead? “Well, year one was all about building Qommunity,” says Sage. “Year two will be about getting it out there, making it an increasingly meaningful part of more people’s lives.”
“Qommunity with a Q can only exist with community with a C,” Curry throws in.