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Queerness in the age of the internet

The internet is an endless well of resources. The rise of the internet and social media is a highly debated topic when it comes to the pros and cons of having so much online access. However, a major “pro” is how it has exposed a new generation to different kinds of underrepresented queer identities.

Queer representation in the media used to be non-existent. Now, it’s not uncommon to have multiple queer characters on a TV show or in a movie. That being said, many of the queer characters in mainstream media are gay men. And although seeing the queer community represented in any way is positive, gay men are a small part of a much bigger community. It’s significantly less common to see gay women, bisexual people, or anyone who is genderqueer.

The internet provides representation in ways that radio, television, and film do not. Mathieu Brault, a queer trans man from the Valley, explains: “I did not know that trans people really existed, nor what it meant to be trans, until I started looking up trans-related content on sites like YouTube and Tumblr.”

He emphasizes that online representation is particularly important in areas like the Valley. “When coming from smaller towns, it is rare to find queer communities in person. Some people are also too scared to seek out in-person support out of fear of judgement.” Having the internet lets people explore and try out new parts of their identity safely: “The internet provides a safe space for queer youth to explore their identities through online communities, and to do so in an anonymous way free of judgment and shame.”

Jay Lloyd, a non-binary person from Hemmingford, had a similar experience as a kid. “Growing up in a small town, I didn’t really know or see anyone like myself.” They observed how the online world could be filled with bullies and harassment for people who were different; however, they eventually found a niche of the internet where they could learn about their identity. “I found influencers and content creators who shared the same views as myself, and over time it came clear to me that I wasn’t straight, and I wasn’t alone.”

Not only is representation important for awareness and education, but for personal acceptance as well. Brault says that “Seeing all these people who were just like me and who were on the other side of the scary ‘coming out’ process helped me start my journey to accepting myself.” Lloyd also mentions that the internet helped them find people that they could look up to, and with whom they could be themself. “Now I have a community of friends and family who are supportive,” they say. Finding that support can be life-changing for queer people.

Though the internet can be a tricky place, it is often a vital part of the personal journeys of queer youth. It’s a medium that allows people to find a community from which they may otherwise be isolated. And though the hope is that mainstream media will continue to diversify, the internet can help provide what is lacking in terms of representation for queer people.

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