THE BLOG
16/07/2018 11:50 SAST | Updated 16/07/2018 11:50 SAST

OPINION: LGBTQ+ Community Using Social Media To Empower Itself

The internet, despite its negatives, has become a popular space for the LGBTQ+ community to have a voice.

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Being a queer individual has always been a challenge in a predominantly heteronormative society, and with the rise of far-right groups around the world, it is difficult for many queer individuals to be themselves.

However, social media has become a powerful tool for those in the LGBTQ+ community to connect with one another and express themselves. Despite discrimination and intolerance, queer individuals are banding together to empower each other using campaigns, hashtags, pages and groups on social media platforms.

Twitter

Twitter is one of the most active platforms for the LGBTQ+ community — the platform is used as a brave space for queer individuals to be themselves. Twitter itself has its own account to support initiatives such as Pride Month.

In addition, Twitter user Mary Madinabeytia hosts weekly hashtags for the LGBTQ+ community that trend worldwide , with members of the community encouraged to post selfies. It allows queer individuals to express themselves and love and support each other. Mary (17) says: "The hashtags have been able to bring people in the LGBTQ+ community together, to make friends, partners and ultimately spread positivity".

Twitter also allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn and grow too. "I learned a lot about the community and feminism on Twitter," says Mary. "I decided that I wanted to make a change and fight for what I believe in. I also don't want people to go through what I went through when I was figuring out my sexuality. I believe we can and will make a change for future generations, and social media has helped me do that."

There is no doubt that social media is playing a role in empowering and assisting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Facebook

Recent studies have shown that closeted LGBTQ+ youth are less likely to use Facebook. However, LGBTQ+ themed pages and groups exist on which members share memes, posts and stories that queer individuals can relate to and be inspired by.

A well-known meme page, Superficial, is owned by Will McGuinness (20), an openly gay individual who says: "It's important to have pages like Superficial for LGBTQ+ individuals, so they can feel more included and loved." He says that the page receives, "countless messages daily from people expressing how the page brightens their day and makes them smile".

"Superficial is a safe place for many people to get away from the bad stuff that goes on in the real world. They come to Superficial for a laugh and to smile," says Will. The page has garnered nearly a million likes and has an extremely active following in the LGBTQ+ community.

Instagram

Recently, Instagram has apologised for "mistakenly" removing LGBTQ+ content from the platform. This has not stopped LGBTQ+ individuals using the social media space for themselves. Using various hashtags such as #Pride — which displays in the rainbow colours — queer individuals have been sharing content and photos of themselves.

Celebrities have also used the platform to show their love and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Harry Styles often shares photos of himself holding up LGBTQ+ pride flags, bisexual flags and trans flags.

YouTube

Although YouTube itself has been criticised for homophobic policies — such as allowing anti-LGBT ads to show during pride month — the platform is used by many queer individuals. In fact, some of the best YouTube content creators are LGBTQ+, and have been praised for being vocal about who they are.

Their platforms and coming-out stories have been inspiring for queer individuals, especially those who are battling to come to terms with who they are. Coming-out videos continue to be extremely popular on Youtube.

Yes, there are controversies involved in many of the platforms, but the number of queer individuals using them to empower themselves outweighs the defects.

Tumblr

Possibly one of the queerest, bravest spaces on social media, Tumblr has been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. For years, the microblogging platform has openly supported LGBTQ+ initiatives, and it often invites queer artists such as Hayley Kiyoko to answer users' questions.

It's been reported that LGBTQ+ youth use Tumblr quite frequently, and have been sharing empowering, inclusive content on the site.

There is no doubt that social media is playing a role in empowering and assisting members of the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, there are controversies involved in many of the platforms, but the number of queer individuals using them to empower themselves outweighs the defects.