As a confused, gay teenager, lacking any support from family or peers, I did what any other young member of the LGBTQ community would—I logged onto the internet.
According to the Born This Way Foundation, 62 percent of queer youth go online to find relatable people, opposed to only 40 percent of non-queer youth. We use social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr to find support when we feel alienated.
YouTube played an important role in helping me accept my sexuality. Traditional media, like television and movies, only recently began putting the spotlight on queer characters in films such as Moonlight or Love, Simon. For most of my adolescence, media lacked LGBTQ representation, and the existing representation was based in stereotypes, such as the “gay best friend.”
However, when I logged onto YouTube, I saw a more realistic view of the queer community. Seeing openly queer people such as Kingsley, Hannah Hart, or Troye Sivan living out and proud normalized queerness for me. We need to continue sharing our experiences to comfort and support queer youth.
Many LGBTQ YouTubers post coming out videos, which make the process less scary for those watching from the closet. Telling stories lets queer kids know other people experience similar struggles. When I dealt with coming out, I watched hours of these videos. They made me feel less alone.
LGBTQ couple vlogs such as Two Beeps or V-Squared helped me accept my sexuality by normalizing same-sex couples in the public eye. Growing up, family and media passed down toxic stereotypes about queer people, including the idea that gay men aren’t interested in love, just sex. Watching queer romance thrive online showed me that I can find love in the gay community.
However, most of the couple vlogs I found consisted of only white men, which represents a need for diversity in the online LGBTQ community. Young, queer people of color should also see themselves in YouTubers. While more voices prevail today, we can still diversify the online queer community to make it inclusive and safe for all.
An abundance of educational resources exist online for young, queer people. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, GLSEN, 62 percent of LGBTQ youth search for information about sexuality online. Schools don’t teach students queer issues, so young LGBTQ people turn to the internet to learn about topics like sex education and queer history politics.
However, this gives people the opportunity to cause harm. A plethora of false information exists online, which means older LGBTQ people need to ensure the safety and reliability of online communities.
Many young queer people may lack the media literacy skills to differentiate fact from fiction. This leaves that job to us, the older members of the LGBTQ community. We should avoid contributing to or spreading misinformation and direct younger community members to sources of accurate information.
The internet also allows for LGBTQ people to make friends in the community. According to GLSEN, about half of queer youth have at least one close online friend.
Growing up as one of the only queer people in your school feels scary and isolating. When we meet other queer people who understand our problems, we often feel a sense of support and community for the first time in our lives. Some of my best friends in high school came from the gay community on Tumblr. I would talk about my struggles with my sexual orientation and coming out with them. I could talk about things online that I couldn’t discuss with anyone in my family or at school.