Finding Community Online
Navigating a heterosexual and cisgender society can be difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Alienated from their family, condemned by their community, and isolated from their friends, many LGBTQ+ people turn to the internet for solidarity.
With just the click of a button, they can escape their physical surroundings and immediately be transported to a place filled with like-minded, accepting people. There, they can seek guidance about coming out, ask questions about queer specific topics, and better understand their sexualities and gender identities.
Simply put, the internet facilities a sense of community among LGBTQ+ people, regardless of their physical proximity to one another.
“The internet and social media are essential to connecting individuals to information and people of the LGBT+ community,” states Mara,* who’s bisexual/pansexual.** “[It provides] spaces for them to find acceptance, community, and support. It is extremely important to keep these connections alive.”
Since the suicide rate for LGBTQ+ youth is substantially higher than that of their heterosexual and cisgender peers, the internet can literally become life-saving.
“There are so many wonderful support groups that help so much, they seriously saved my life and made my search for my identity so much easier,” recounts Mariela, a lesbian.
“[The internet is] definitely a great information sharer for our sometimes disjointed community, especially in rural areas,” says Blair, who’s genderqueer/non-binary.*** “Lots of my trans identity was discerned through language I accessed online as well as looking at other trans narratives online.”
The Dark Side of the Web
However, the internet can also be an intimidating and dangerous place. Just read the comments on any viral social media post and you’ll see a slew of insults and misdirected aggression.
Considering the fact that a large portion of these hateful comments include homophobic and sometimes even biphobic slurs, the internet is especially threatening to the LGBTQ+ community.
"I feel like there is a significant amount of intolerance from within the LGBTQ community" explained Gill, a genderqueer lesbian. "I've honestly been attacked more from within the community than outside of it."
Given this ugly reality, we believe it is essential that all LGBTQ+ people know how to defend and protect themselves online. Therefore, we created this guide to minimize your personal exposure to online bullying and harassment.
It’s important for us to note that some of the advice here is aimed at people who do not feel safe enough to come out, or who prefer not to reveal certain aspects of their identity if they feel threatened. It is by no means an encouragement to stay closeted.
We also want to acknowledge the downsides of playing it safe. According to our survey, while self-identified gay people responded that they felt safest online, some believe it’s because they’re overly cautious about their internet activity.
“I haven't experienced anything negative online,” explains Harris, who’s genderqueer and gay. “[But it’s] because I've worked very hard to not put myself in situations where I might be vulnerable to attack. This sort of extra mental effort keeps me safe online, but it does come at a price.”
It is our hope that one day none of this will be relevant, and all people, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, will feel free to express themselves online in any way they see fit, without fear.
Read the full blog post here: