Maricoin, the world’s first LGBT+ cryptocurrency, officially launched last Friday in a week-long pilot test in Chueca, an LGBT+ neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.
Although the pilot test only involves 10 businesses, Maricoin backers are hoping for the cryptocurrency to start trading early this year. Under their plans, Maricoin will be accepted as payment in restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels, and other businesses.
“Since we move this economy, why shouldn’t our community profit from it, instead of banks, insurance companies, or big corporations that often don’t help LGBT+ people?” Maricoin co-founder Juan Belmonte, said in a phone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A hairdresser and entrepreneur, Belmonte revealed that the idea of creating an LGBT+ cryptocurrency came to him while he was partying with friends at Madrid’s Pride event last July. He, however, noted that the project’s origin dates back to 2017, when HazteOir, an ultra-conservative Catholic group, started a campaign against transgender rights in Spain, which involved sending a bus around the country bearing the words, “Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Do not be fooled.”
Though HazteOir was quickly banned by Spanish authorities, Belmonte said the discriminatory campaign made him realize that he “had to do something” to use the LGBT+ community’s economic clout in the fight against homophobia.
While it might sound like a marketing gimmick to some, Belmonte’s idea is no joke, as one research by Swiss bank Credit Suisse suggests that the LGBT+ market would actually rank as the world’s fourth-largest economy, just behind Japan and ahead of Germany when it comes to purchasing power.
Furthermore, a 2018 study conducted by Kantar Consulting and LGBT+ social network Hornet estimated that the community’s buying power in the U.S. alone was at $1 trillion in 2016 – almost equivalent to that of African-American or Hispanic consumers.
According to Maricoin’s Chief Executive Francisco Alvarez, there are already 8,000 people waiting to buy the cryptocurrency before it starts trading. Backed by Miami-based venture capital firm Borderless Capital, the initiative aims to have Maricoin be used as payment in establishments that will sign an “equality manifesto.” The said manifesto basically defends the rights of LGBT+ people and “everyone suffering from exclusion, and advocates a “social, ethical, transversal and transparent economy.”
“The establishments that accept our coin will be listed on our map, which will work as an LGBTI guide for anyone visiting any city in the world,” Alvarez said. “If they violate any of the points of our anti-discrimination manifesto, for example, if they fire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, they will be expelled from Maricoin.”
A play on words taken from a homophobic slur in Spanish, Maricoin will also have its own LGBT-related language. For example, transfers between Maricoin users are called “trans.”
Both Alvarez and Belmonte are also hoping that Maricoin can create a source of financing for LGBT+ businesses and community initiatives across the world. For instance, Belmonte said that they may be able to give microcredits for people to set up a small LGBTI-friendly cafe in Colombia or support projects helping queer refugees flee countries where they’d be stoned to death. “We’re looking forward to changing the world,” he said.