In online spaces, it’s currently open season for attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.
(In offline spaces too. Over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the U.S.)
These attacks include outright online harassment as well as an avalanche of social media posts spreading misinformation and slurs against LGBTQ+ people, many of which focus on the myth that queer people are pedophiles who groom children for sex.
(True story… all of the actual pedophiles I’ve known were straight, white men. Research supports that as being fact.)
According the the Center for Countering Digital Hate, this has led to…
- A 406% rise in tweets labeling LGBTQ+ people as “Groomers.”
- The “grooming” slur being spread via tweets which received at least 72 million views.
- Fifty nine ads that promoted the “grooming” slur on Facebook which received 2.1 million views.
Add to this a sea of trans-phobic sentiments and misinformation, (from misgendering or deadnaming trans people to straight up framing them for murder) and it’s no wonder why 40% of LGBTQ+ adults, as well as 49% of transgender and nonbinary people, do not feel welcomed and safe on social media.
Does this make you angry? It should.
As Nancy Lyons recently put it, “straight white people need to step out of their straight white bubbles and pay attention.”
I couldn’t agree more.
We should also take one step further and starting doing something too.
Unfortunately, as with racial justice work, (or any other work that upsets us, but doesn’t directly threaten us) we CisHet white folk usually start by asking members of marginalized communities to give us an assignment.
That’s a misstep, akin to walking up to a firefighter standing in a room engulfed in flames, tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “Um…could you give me some context on how this fire started, what you’ve done so far to put it out, and tell me exactly how I can help without getting burned? Also, I have Pilates at 4:00, so I need be done in like an hour.”
Roll up your sleeves and do ANYTHING
Since my focus in on digital wellness, here are four ideas on how we can make online spaces more healthy, welcoming and safe for our LGBTQ+ friend and family.
- First, we can simply recognize that the experiences we have online are not the same as members of marginalized communities. Many of us operate online in a bubble, cushioned by some sweet ass privilege. If that sounds like a vast generalization, maybe do some homework around that topic. What you find may surprise you.
- Secondly, as with any online misinformation or disinformation, we can be truth warriors and actively report garbage whenever we see it. This link includes step by step instructions on how to do that in all the major platforms.
- Thirdly, we can sign CCDH’s petition to call on Twitter and Meta to act on anti-LGBTQ+ hate and to stop hosting harmful slurs. Because, “Both Facebook and Twitter are known to algorithmically amplify hate and fail to act on abuse, inauthentic behavior, and content that violates their policies. “
- Fourth, If we see disinformation pop up in our feed next to an ad for a big retailer, we should take a screen grab of the two images co-existing on our screen and drop it into an email or tweet to the advertiser’s headquarters (i.e. “Hey Dairy Queen, your ad is on my FB screen next to a post about how trans people are rapists in disguise. Are you cool with that?”)
- Fifth we should be an ACTIVE ally, whenever possible. We can back up our LGBTQ+ friends and family in online conversations, share info with friends and family on how to respectfully refer to member of the LGBTQ+ community, amplify LGBTQ+ words of wisdom, and share any resources that might be helpful to them. (For instance, the Path2FamilyEquality app, a safe, online tool that includes answers to LGBTQ+ families most pressing questions, resources, and info on the current legal landscape.)
Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I’d love to hear more in the comments!
Lastly, don’t forget to vote on November 8! Support candidates who are respectful to the people you respect.
Photo credit: Raphel Renter via Unsplash