Pride month is right around the corner, and because of this, we wanted to see and learn how queer youth use the internet as a safe space and a platform to express themselves. As an older queer Gen Z, the internet played an integral part in my coming out journey, and it allowed me the space I needed to learn more about how I was feeling.
See, the internet isn’t all that bad; well, it isn’t a hellscape or one of the seven circles of hell from time to time. I’d like to think that most of us queer kids out there have taken the “Am I Gay” quiz, and this warms my heart in a way.
And if you had to take that quiz, the chances are that you are, in fact, some flavor of the LGBTQIA2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, 2 Spirits+) community. So, without further ado, let’s dive further into this blog and learn how queer youths are using the internet as a safe space.
1. A space to explore their identity
According to a 2017 study conducted by Stonewall School Report, 90% of young LGBTQIA2S+ people say that they found themselves online, and this is why most of us queer people believe the internet acts as a safe space for our community. It is a place where people can explore content that they find inspiring and identify with.
For most of us queer people, seeing content that celebrates us can be reassuring and is something we thrive on seeing in the “real world”. The internet is an integral space for queer youth to express themselves in the content they create and share. Young trans and non-binary kids may also feel more able to represent their true selves online, even if they may do it in their offline life.
2. Being part of something
As high-schooler, a lot of you felt lonely, especially if you were the only out queer kid at school. And loneliness has for far too long been part of the queer experience, especially when you are younger and can’t travel to safe queer spaces. Most queer youth who live in conservative areas don’t feel that they have anyone else around them who they can identify with and are going on the same journey as them.
This is why many young LGBTQIA2S+ people use the internet as a safe space where they can feel part of a community and find people who share the same experience as them. It is also a supportive online community that helps other queer people blossom into their authentic selves. Queer forums or groups and conversations are a big aspect of this.
3. Space for guidance, help, and education
Being queer comes with its challenges, from social exclusion to being disowned by your parents (it isn’t a fun experience, trust me on this one). Coming to terms with who you are in a society that doesn’t always accept you isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. There is always the fear of being not accepted, discrimination, and even rejection.
As queer people, we aren’t usually born in our community, and this is why we need the internet to learn the history of our people that is far too often not taught at school. The internet was a way for me to learn about the AIDS epidemic, Stonewall, the Matthew Shepard case, and so much more.
It was a way for me to connect with my community, and like me, 96% of young queer people say that the internet helped them understand their sexuality and/or gender identity. The internet is an important source of education information that can provide us with information that we weren’t taught at school.
4. Space for change
It is important to remember where we came from and what we have yet to achieve. So, despite the progress we’ve made, there is still a long way to go in order to attain true equality. Queer people still face discrimination because of who they love or how they look. The internet is a way for us to use our voice and fight for queer causes we care about.
It allows us to communicate with a large audience online, and this, in many cases, can lead to positive change both on and offline. Campaigning is an empowering and meaningful part of young queer people’s lives online, which helps them be included and listened to.
Representation matters, and as queer people, we have far too much been on the fringes of society, and this needs to change. Thanks to the evolution of technology and the internet, we are getting the representation that we deserve. It contributes to our ongoing fight for greater representations of minority groups. One example o this is the inclusion of new, more inclusive emojis that have gender-neutral characters and even same-sex couples and families.
The internet allows us to find role models that look and identify like us online more than we do in our offline lives. According to the same 2017 Stonewall School Report, 95% of young LGBTQIA2S+ people say that the internet has helped them find a positive role model. This highlights the fact that the importance of seeing people who identify with you or how you look can and should never be underestimated.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us what you want to read next and if you want to read more about queer safe spaces and the internet.