Queerness and Social Media: What it means to be LGBTQIA+ on the internet today | Editorji
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Queerness and Social Media: What it means to be LGBTQIA+ on the internet today

Jun 09, 2021 12:16 IST | By Shireen Parhee

What would we do without social media? Hard to even imagine, right? These platforms have become such an intrinsic part of our lives and have given a space to the LGBTQIA+ community to say, “we’re queer and we’re here!” Opening platforms for dialogue, activism, and identity creation, individuals have now found a (relatively) safe space to explore gender, sexuality, existence and pain.

The queer community in India has seen a surge in social media adopters to create spaces that represent the community’s needs and wants, bringing them to the forefront. 

"Social media does play an important role for me to connect with folks more like me, to actually build a community above everything else. And I think especially during Pride month since social media has taken off in India, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, any of these social media platforms, or even Clubhouse for that matter now. It is great that we are able to have these spaces where we can talk about what we are going through, our personal journey and we can look at someone else who has gone through a similar journey and learn a lot from their journey and they can learn a lot from us as well." (Anwesh Sahoo- Visual Designer)  

Through the internet, people can now express themselves in ways that are truer to themselves and use it as a medium to challenge the age-old draconian social boundaries.

Video as a medium was once the playground of only Bollywood, where often queer characters were used as comic elements, meant to garner some laughs through slapstick comedy. With the plethora of video (and audio) platforms available today, and the rise of influencers, we are now seeing ‘real’ voices emerging from within the community to accurately depict their lives and help others to come out of the darkness and into the light, by extending support through conversations and interactions. Every little step taken on social media has such a huge real-time impact, that one cannot help but jump with joy when young children are able to access role models that represent their (often) suppressed inner selves.

These influencers use a blend of art, fashion, comedy, soundtracks, and podcasts as some of the forms of expression to convey views and raise awareness about gender identity. Popular LGBTQIA+ activist, Sushant Divgikar can be seen using several platforms to bring 'drag' to the forefront as a more accessible form of art. A performer and singer, he actively uses his voice to lobby for equality and rights. One of the rising social media influencers, Anwesh Sahoo creates beautiful art illustrations to depict and raise awareness on gender non-conformity.  

" I do think that a lot of my work does encompass the idea of the gender spectrum, celebrating gender spectrum, celebrating nonbinary identities, celebrating queer femme folks, and bringing in a healthier representation of them through the popular media. So, I think whatever little popularity or presence I have on the internet, I use it to bring in that positive representation. Because it is missing, let's face it." (Anwesh Sahoo) 

Maitraynee Mahanta is another such influencer whose works reflect a very bold and empowering perspective on queerness.

Apart from being able to create social awareness, the internet platforms like Instagram and Facebook have also aided in developing personal relationships with other LGBTQIA+ individuals and helped create a large virtual family. When queer people are discriminated against at many points in life, the internet has succeeded in providing both the physical and emotional care required to thrive with confidence in online circles. Unrestrained by any boundaries, the LGBTQIA+ have finally found a space through social media and are owning it, one post, live and story at a time.

However, we must add, that while social media is a great space for self-expression, it can also often disappoint.

"There are very mean things that sometimes people say especially when you put forth your political views and people just downright brush it off by saying you are a fifty-fifty or why don't you just first decide whether you are a man or a woman and some very insensitive things that people say. Sometimes, I also receive a lot of rape threats which is extremely problematic. I hope that we sort of learn to walk out of that world where we think it is okay for people to or to walk out of a world where we trivialize rape threats, and that's not a good thing to do. We should really be kind to people everywhere, no matter where we meet them, whether offline or online." (Anwesh Sahoo) 

These platforms must work on bettering their policies in order to ensure that trolling, hate comments and violent commentary made against any community is met with stern action.

 

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