“Being non-poor white queers does not legitimize us to appropriate any discourse.” Ramon Porteiro insists on this idea to explain a project that seeks to prove that empathy is an effective tool against LGBTphobia. Two years ago, Porteiro, a Brazilian industrial designer, and the Spanish producer Daniel Ramos had the opportunity to use a small space to make LGBTphobia visible in Spain, where crimes against sexual orientation have increased by almost 70% in the last year. 8.5% of LGBTQ+ people have suffered physical attacks in the last decade, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Fed up with shocking but ineffective headlines, the couple considered how to communicate the terror that victims experience. That was the seed of Ponte en mi Piel, or Put Yourself in my Skin, a virtual reality project that allows viewers to experience first-hand discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The couple conducted research to create the three stories that make up the project, reflecting what a lesbian teenager, a gay couple and a transgender person may face on a daily basis. The 12-minute experience goes through three stages of each character’s life to show viewers that hate is as timeless as it is impactful.
Daniel and Ramon are a couple both professionally and romantically. Two years ago they created Deloscobos, a creative and audiovisual production company that has done projects for Levi’s, Zalando, Reebok, Mahou and M&M. “Before the pandemic I received a proposal. We started to think together, and we realized that, despite having grown up on different continents, we shared audiovisual references, ideas, and points of view. So we joined my creative production side to his more strategic, architectural head, and we started creating experiences,” explains Ramos.
Deloscobos does not focus on LGBTQ+ issues, but the couple returns to the subject over and over. Once the initial exhibition ended, they asked the organization that commissioned it for permission to take the experience on the road. Ponte en mi Piel has been all over Spain, from Valencia, Madrid, Oviedo to Llanera, Asturias, but they stopped the tour out of fear of political changes after the announcement of general elections in July. Now, Ramos and Porteiro are negotiating with city councils in order to recover their idea of bringing the experience to more cities. “It is not a political project, but, unfortunately, it is still a complex issue depending on the political party,” Ramos laments.
Once you put on the virtual reality glasses, it is impossible not to feel the panic of a lesbian teenager or the helplessness when witnessing a couple being beaten for being gay. Those feelings are universal. However, after months of touring, Porteiro believes that the capacity for empathy among people between the ages of 60 and 80 is greater than among young people. “I don’t know how to explain it. Without sounding pessimistic, I think there is a regression.” To combat that point of view, Porteiro and Ramos want to take the project further. While they offer the experience to schools, institutes, city councils and companies, they are looking for a way to reach Apple and turn it into a mixed-reality experience.
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