A Queer Internet: Are we there yet?

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

What does it mean to be queer? This is a term a lot of individuals do not understand and will never associate with. UC Berkeley’s Gender Equity Resource Center defines ‘Queer’ as a political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid.  Susan Driver in her text Performing Communities Online questions and discusses the way queer youth are self scavengers and attributes this concept to their strong desire for self-representation in the popular sexual orientation. She argues that this leads them through a wide range of media avenues and form of representation. Also, Driver notes that the use of the Internet by youths is not only for the sole purpose of communication, but also to “try out, play with, and perform their identities and desires,” (170). It would seem that in today’s world, certain minority groups and in this instance queer individuals, find a medium of expressing themselves in communities they would not be judged in.

Driver’s thoughts on how queer youths need a semblance of family outside of their physical community resonated deeply with me for the following reasons:

  1. Suicide: The high suicide rates that are tied with the feelings of marginalization and rejection from family and community
  2. Anonymity: An avenue for protecting their identities because the cyber world allows for anonymity to a large extent
  3. Networking: The ability to change the understanding of certain terms like “Queer” for instance.

In as much as the idea of an online community is effective for certain individuals to express themselves, and ultimately gain the confidence to go into the real world, I disagree that cyberspace is the best form. Anonymity in Cyberspace allows to a great extent for racism, anti-Semitism and the use of derogatory terms. I deeply feel that even as the world has evolved and is fully aware and trying to accommodate different ideas, the cyber world has still not evolved in that aspect. Yes, the technology has but the mind set as not.  This is where Driver and my thoughts part ways. I feel she fails to mention the other side of these amazing forums queer youths engage in. From death threats, to hackers, and sexual harassment, the cyber world is not all that safe now. Is it? I do not believe the best place for a young boy or girl to find out one’s sexual preference is online. When did we move from parents and friends supporting one another? The moment we believe that the cyber world is the solution, that is the moment everything afterwards is flawed. Yes the Internet is a great way to meet people and share ideas but it is also the same way to meet unpleasant people and get killed.

The ambiguity of cyberspaces has often set loose new levels of chauvinist discourse, cyber sexual harassment, case in point Anita Sarkeesian, and other problems.  As much as it helps certain individuals, I honestly believe that a world that has still not been understood by experts is not the world I would want to share my issues with. A world were the government does not try to address cyber bullying is not a world for a young individual who is trying to ‘come out’. Susan Driver, who in my opinion is an in-depth analyst of queer girls and how they relate to popular traditions in modern times, delves into the cyber world being the protector of queer youths in coming out and gaining confidence in many aspects of their lives. However is the cyber world the best place to discuss being queer?  That will depend on the answers to the following questions; when will the world be ready to accept queer people and give each individual the peace they deserve? When will harassment stop from weak-minded people that hide behind synapses of the web? Until these questions are resolved favorably, the answer is No.

Moyo A.

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Comments
  1. I agree that taking solace in the cyberworld can definitely be iffy, especially when there is so much more freedom from both parties (supportive and hateful) to say whatever they want with no real boundaries. “Coming out” is, presumably, an extremely difficult thing for any young person who is dealing with a phenomenal amount of confusion to begin with. Throw in a few “different from the norm” feelings and you’ve got yourself an emotional hurricane. I think what Susan means to shed light on is that the very fact that “queer” feelings ARE so different from our social norms is why many of our youth turn to the internet rather than our families and friends because sometimes, being ostracised by random usernames is a lot less hurtful than by our loved ones whose opinions really matter. This is definitely not to say that these random usernames have no impact, but sometimes, it’s better than facing the people that matter.
    There is a positive side, I’d say, to bringing these confusions to the internet. A lot of the time, other users with similar feelings and experiences are there and willing to help new confused members to deal with them and to even gain the strength and courage to “come out” and talk to their families about these issues. Even giving advice on how to stay strong when families don’t react pleasantly, can help save lives and help people to not give up when everyone that matters to them has given up on them.
    I do agree that it would be a lot better if cyberbullying wasn’t a thing, but the weak-minded will never stop, which is what makes them weak-minded. Yes, maybe the cyberworld is not everyone’s first choice to share their intimate feelings and confusions, but I would say it’s better than nothing. Before the internet was there to offer endless possibilities to people with limited ones, there was a lot less LGBTQIA who were “out”…because it was a lot easier for them not to be. The internet has been an outlet (not necessarily a bully-free one, but one nonetheless) for people to help people and to share experiences and advice, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

    – Karyn D.

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