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As we enter a new decade, bringing with it hundreds of changes to the way we interact with social media and the internet, more and more queer people are creating online communities to support each other and to find a place for themselves. But why do queer people flock to online spaces, and why are they so important?
In a world that can still be openly hostile to queer people, online spaces can be used to organise, spread information, and to advocate for yourself and others. There is a rich culture of queer creators on YouTube, Instagram and more, who are able to make content centering around queer people which might not be available otherwise – inclusive comedy, shows about gay couples, or discussions of queer history, to name a few. People can share information about being queer to educate and foster understanding as well as to reach out to anyone else who is feeling the same way.
Online spaces can create a rich community where before there may have been isolated individuals who didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with them – in particular, the aromantic and asexual spectrum communities have sprung up over sites such as AVEN and Tumblr, with Asexual Awareness Week (in October) being created in 2010, and Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week (in February) being created in 2014.
Parents, peers, or unsafe environments can sadly still be a prominent risk for queer youth, leaving them without a safe space in which to express themselves or speak openly about their experiences with gender or sexuality. Creating a sense of belonging for those who might not feel it offline can help with mental health and can encourage people to accept themselves. Being able to treat who you are as who you are instead of treating it as a secret can mean the world.
Those who feel trapped in a homophobic or transphobic space may be able to find a way out of this space online, through LGBTQ+ charities or services, or through encouragement or direct help from others.
Accessibility can also be made much easier online. Some online calling services, such as Microsoft Teams, offer live subtitles (although they may not be 100% accurate), and having a chat function allows people to speak without having to use a microphone. Though not having a physical space has its own challenges, especially for those who struggle with technology or those who can’t afford good internet, so this doesn’t in any way mean that hosting something online inherently makes it more accessible.
There are so many more benefits to taking advantage of online spaces; from the creation of new terms to the ease of sharing information, and I look forward to seeing how these shape the LGBTQ+ community as we know it over the next few years. If you want to join an online community of LGBTQ+ students at Lancaster University, you can message the LGBTQ+ Forum on Facebook or Instagram (@LancasterLGBTQ) for a link to join our Discord server.