Stans of OITNB (or Meghan Markle) will know who Laverne Cox is, those who don’t, here’s a crash course. Laverne is the transgender woman who cut a swath through stereotypes and glass ceilings. Why choose her as the introduction? Because she is one of the LGBTQ+ advocates leveraging social media platforms to give voice to marginalized groups.
Her piece in the September Issue of British Vogue is just one of the recent instances.
The Impact Of Social Media On The LGBTQ+ Movement
We readily accept that technology has transformed our world. What is rarely discussed and often not clear is how it has empowered the LGBTQ+ communities.
That’s our topic today – how a predominantly heteronormative society has become more aware (and need we say more accepting) of the LGBTQ+ community and in no small part due to social media.
Flouting Of The Stereotypes
The internet, the smartphones and the apps that thrive on it have shifted the attitude of the population towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folx, but it began with TV.
Ellen DeGeneres (all hail, queen of kindness and humour) said to the world “Yep, I’m gay” through her sitcom, Ellen, 22 years ago. Since then, TV, especially American sitcoms, have depicted lesbian and gay people with regularity. From Will & Grace to Modern Family, from Neil Patrick Harris to Tan France, it has become par for the course to see LGBT celebrities or characters on TV.
Networking Platforms Further Awareness
If TV broke the stereotype “only straight men and women exist in the world and have a place on the table,” it was social media that furthered the awareness.
Watching the portrayals of LGBTQ roles on TV was not enough. Why? because it kept the issue behind ‘the screen.’ There was no personal bond. Networks like Twitter and Tumblr not only amplified the volume and made it one’s own. How? Through a number of ways:
By Breaking Boundaries
For a long time, a person questioning their self-identity or sexual orientation was limited to the neighbourhood or town for support and knowledge. The rise of social media broke those borders. A person sitting in Bhatinda wondering over their identity could find support from a group or person in Birmingham because the dominance of physical boundaries doesn’t apply to the internet.
Widening of the world is just one part; these platforms offer a surfeit of resources. If 140 characters are not comfortable, then switch to Tumblr or even YouTube to express yourself better. If finding a positive Twitter handle is getting hard, look for a page or group on Facebook. In the end, at least one network would #comethrough.
By Providing An Outlet For Conversations
Internet and the concomitant rise of social media gave the LGBTQ+ an outlet, a platform to discuss any topic openly. The stories where people were out on Twitter and not in real life are legion. The digital space for the LGBTQ+ became a safe space and an ally.
Why? Because the online forums allow a person to be anonymous, to some extent, which translates to protection. Plus, curating the community to include only people who champion the cause is a possibility.
The conversations within the community had an unintended but constructive outcome. A monologue turned into a dialogue and then into a discourse because social media encourages others to participate in conversations.
When one person spoke of same-sex marriage or Section 377 on a public platform, others read it or chimed in. For some, it became an introduction to a topic they never heard of and for others, it built upon their knowledge. Ultimately, people outside a specific social circle become exposed to the plight of LGBT.
By Offering An Outpouring Of Support
You can count the little, big ways the digital space become instrumental in supporting the marginalised community. But the one that made the most impact was the mobilization of diverse support groups for different LGBT initiatives. One example is the It Gets Better Project.
A social media campaign that began nine years back with Dan Savage and Terry Miller turned into a platform of its own filled with inspiring stories of people. Through the power of social networks, the real-life partners encouraged LGBT youth not to give up and have hope because, as they say, life gets better.
Like conversations, the support isn’t restricted to the community. When YouTube Snafued by not monetizing the content of LGBT YouTubers as it was “deemed inappropriate for advertisers,” a public outrage sparked. The result?
YouTube apologised. Through social media.
By Allowing Influencers To Speak Up
It matters greatly when celebrities, influencers and pundits speak up. It gives the emotions of the average person a purpose and the strength to raise their own voice.
A single post from Taylor Swift…
…and the petition got 488,255 signs!
The singer is not the sole celebrity lending their voice to the LGBTQ+ community through social media. From Sonam Kapoor to Beyoncé, many have spoken on it, and with each influencer, the impact increases.
Bringing A Socio-political Change
First stereotypes were broken. Next, awareness expanded. Then a socio-political wind blew away the remaining cobwebs.
We use an example, close to our hearts, to explain how networking sites played their part. On 6 September 2018 Section 377 was decriminalised thanks to the efforts of Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju. While the wonder couple did the actual work, the mass support from social media helped it along.
It Blossomed Creative Freedom
Finally, we reached a stage where networking apps are more than just podiums for the LGBTQ community. They have become a base where creativity can blossom.
How so? Take a look at the YouTube Channel of Patrickstarrr. Born Patrick Simondac, the makeup artist uses social networks as a trampoline to increase LGBT awareness while working on exploring his creativity and craft.
(Fyi, he is one of the people who introduced to the world that gay men can sport a complete warpaint, too.)
Supporting LGBTQ+ Rights On Social Media: DYT’s Elfin Part
We’ve seen how online platforms have paved the passage for equal right for LGBTQ+ individuals. We’ve seen how Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. have positively shaped the attitude of digital natives. And we want to be a part of it.
Do Your Thng not only supports the LGBT community but wants to be the tool that furthers their civil rights movement. We can help by giving you the freedom to choose a campaign on our App that touches upon a related topic and then use your social profile to promote. Inversely, you can use an image on your camera-roll that supports LGBTQ+ and then use it for a campaign on DYT.
As we close our dialogue today, we’d like to end with one caveat. The LGBTQ+ community is as diverse as it is profound. We are well aware that these measly 1200 words don’t do it justice. We endeavoured to throw light on how social media has become the community’s unsung hero. Much, much more has to be done and we hope DYT can play a small part in it.