Gays in Tech and Travel: A Conversation with Gerry Schneider

By Jude Jones

Gerry Schneider, the Vice President of Events at WeAreDevelopers, a prominent company headquartered in Vienna and acclaimed as Europe’s foremost developer community, engaged in a candid conversation with Jude Jones. A fervent advocate for both travel and technology, Schneider is also a steadfast supporter of the LGBTQ+ business community. In their amicable tête-à-tête, they delved into the contemporary challenges facing various sectors.

As the VP Events, Gerry works to host impactful and inclusive events that connect developers with the latest trends, technologies, and opportunities in the digital software industry. One such event was the WeAreDevelopers World Congress, the largest developer event in Europe which has welcomed over 12,000 participants in both of the last two years.

Outside his work life, however, Gerry is a proud gay man and avid traveller who shares his interests on his personal blog, 123GAY – Gay Travels and Gay Events (@123gay.travel.events). With over 17k followers on Instagram, the account is one of the leading names in gay travel and seeks to connect gay men to queer-inclusive tourism hotspots and events around the world. To celebrate our new partnership with WeAreDevelopers, we decided to chat with Gerry over email about the importance of gay journalism, the “pink economy,” and the best places to holiday in 2024!

Jude: Hi Gerry, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me today! I wanted to begin with something we both have in common: journalism, and specifically queer journalism. Of course, GAY45 is centred on quality queer journalism intersecting various interest areas, however one thing we’re currently lacking is queer travel writing, a cause you take up in your blog, 123GAY. I was wondering if you could just tell me a bit about your interest in journalism, and what you think queer journalism can add to the journalism industry as a whole?

Gerry: What sparks my interest in journalism is looking out into the world and finding different stories that can enlighten, inform, evaluate, expose, debunk and, above all, arouse people’s interest and emotions. So it’s also about helping others by simply being an inspiration. And what is becoming more and more important these days is quality journalism, as dubious or fake news can be spread faster and faster through different channels. 

Queer people deserve to have their stories told, and better representation is a way to fight back against the straight patriarchy in journalism.

The media is a powerful tool to influence the current discourse on certain topics. The LGBTQ+ community has a long history of invisibility. Now, two main directions in representations of the LGBTQ+ community in the media can be identified: queerness as a political issue, and queerness as a culture.

There are different types of queer journalism, most of which focus on lifestyle & fashion. This sort of journalism is quite mainstream and easily consumable. And that’s fine! Even with my 123GAY community we create general content around popular topics like #gaytravel & #gayevents. But we want to create visibility around these topics, show different options and possibilities and thus motivate our community to expand the content they’re consuming.

We live in times in which quality journalism generally is having a hard time. It is therefore all the more pleasing to see that GAY45.eu is committed to queer quality journalism, which is extremely important.

My colleague mentioned to me you saying that you think events – like the WeAreDevelopers World Congress – are paramount in today’s culturescape. What is it about big communal events that are so important, and what does this tell us about the state of the world today?

It’s not about the size of the events. The focus will be on quality rather than quantity for me. Having worked in the events industry for more than 20 years, I know the power and magic of people being together; it demonstrates the value of human interaction and engagement. We build relationships, learn from each other, and enjoy time together. Events let us build communities, and it’s important to remember that humans are communal beings, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. I think the pandemic made us forgot some of this a bit, but now a rethinking is starting to take place.

Putting together an event for developers must be a complicated endeavour, though. What have your experiences as a gay man working in the development/tech world been like? Obviously the perception of the tech world is one dominated by straight white men, but going right back to Alan Turing, gay men have really made their presences known in the tech world, Tim Cook and Sam Altman being the other two big names I really have in mind. 

Organising events can always be an exciting challenge, no matter the target audience. Fortunately, I can say that I have always been able to live and work openly and out in my professional career. That’s why I’ve always done my bit to make my contribution to the community in the past. Among other things, I introduced the rainbow tours at the University of Vienna, where I worked for 12 years and built up and managed the congress and conference area there as an in-house PCO, and implemented them, with Andreas Brunner of QWIEN. In 2015 I also developed and implemented a queer visibility concept for the Rectorate of the University of Vienna. Among other things, the largest staircase in front of the main building was in rainbow colors at the time. 

I’m trying to make my contributions to WeAreDevelopers, too. We are a community that gives underrepresented groups a stage and visibility and encourages and supports them accordingly. I try very hard not to see the topic of diversity broadly. So it’s important to me not just to address the queer topic itself, but I really want to see queer developers on stage who are proud to be part of the community and present their expertise. For me, these are real role models. 

There is also space to discuss cultural aspects, of course. I have a wonderful queer friend who, sometimes in super colorful and eye-catching clothes, takes over the moderation on one of our big stages and is well received by the developers. Last year I also tried something new and hosted a drag karaoke night as an official side event on one of our stages. And guess what: our audience loved it – the stage has never been so crowded throughout the whole day. 

I believe that through such activities you can bring different worlds together and open people’s eyes. It’s so important to have role models, as you mentioned. Again, this is the magic of events, being able to see people and be around others like you. And indeed I really would love to welcome Sam Altman to our WeAreDevelopers World Congress and meet him in person. 

Gerry Schneider with Harald Grabner at Olivier Awards 2024 in London.

The power of the “pink economy” – that is, the buying power of LGBTQ+ officials – is swelling to something that markets can no longer really ignore. Entrepreneur estimated in 2019 that LGBTQ+ adults globally have a combined buying power of almost $4 trillion, which is a staggering number. How do you think the “pink economy” has evolved since then, especially within the developer community and in response to COVID-19? 

Many IT companies cater specifically to the LGBTQ+ audience. A number of prominent firms have recognised the potential of the Pink Euro and began advertising their products directly to the queer community in gay publications. But many of them also really do care for their LGBTQ+ employees as well by creating open and inclusive corporate cultures and different activities, like showing pride flags and joining different pride events. For our WeAreDevelopers World Congress we also do different community & DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) activities where we partner with different IT companies to support the LGBTQ+ community, which of course is also a valuable platform for them. 

I think that Generation Z deals with the topic much more openly and that hopefully things will change for the better in the future so that everyone can live the way they want.

From your Instagram (apologies for the stalking!), I get the vibe that one of your main passions in life, outside of work, is travel and the importance of tourism for gay men. Why do you think travel is such an important part of so many gay men’s lives, and why is it such a big part of your life in particular?

Haha, thanks for this! I have been fascinated by travel since I was a child. At the age of 17 I traveled to Paris alone, at 18 I traveled the USA alone and at 19, instead of the classic Matura trip, I went on a 6-week trip around the world. And those were always the best times: discovering new things, getting to meet like-minded people, discovering and understanding new cultures. And above all else: getting ideas and inspiration, just enjoying life. 

As a gay man, I also – but not exclusively – enjoy attending queer events. Be it festivals, parties or Pride events, which have a political background on the one hand, but also create a sense of community and thus contribute to visibility on the other. And by telling and reporting about it – or rather, as we do with our 123GAY blog – I hope that I can inspire and encourage others a little. So, it’s a perfect combination. 

Question: And lastly, something more light-hearted! Can you give me some of your top queer travel tips for 2024?

I was recently in Berlin at the ITB, one of the largest tourism trade fairs in the world. It was nice to see that pink travel is playing a big role this year. My top four recommendations would be:

  1. Greece, because of EuroPride 2024 in Thessaloniki and because, since the beginning of this year, Greece has been the first and so far only Orthodox country where marriage is possible for gay couples (please do not travel to Santorini though, it’s already overcrowded with tourists!).
  2. Spain, it’s always the go to place.
  3. Taiwan, which is considered as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations in Asia. It’s Pride parade is simply amazing.
  4. Buenos Aires, which also seems to be a very gay-friendly city these days.

Jude Jones (@jude_j0nes2002) is the Managing Editor of GAY45 and is an interdisciplinary student journalist, currently completing an undergraduate degree in History & French at the University of Cambridge. Their writing – covering photography, nightlife, fashion, gallery reviews, interest pieces, and political comments – has also been published by Varsity, The Cambridge Language Collective, DISRUPTION, and the Cambridge Review of Books, among others. 

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