Being Queer Online

Artwork by Tora

Ah! The internet… our beloved place to go to for everything ranging from your homework to underground drug stores on the dark web. From its early days, the internet has a rich history of being a fort for the queer community. Although hate does reign supreme, especially in anonymous message boards like 4chan and Reddit, we have a certain few places where the queer community is relatively safe. From secret Facebook groups which are queer only, WhatsApp groups of queer college students to anonymous queer groups like r/asktransgender (a Q&A forum for transgender people)and r/me_irlgbt (a meme community).

A lot of these spaces are queer moderated and a few of them are not (for instance, some queer & allies groups). And the thing I have noticed clearly and have heard from other queer people is that the spaces with cishet moderators often have an air of safety being at least partially compromised, facing ‘cishet-splaining’ of queer issues to downright domination of queer spaces. I have personally come across an instance of the last kind in the worst possible way when I stumbled into a discord group (discord is an anonymous messaging app originally designed for gaming) for young queer people, where it was a rule that conversations about sexuality and gender identities, especially the non-binary identities were not okay. It is very important to know that these groups are often the first places young queer people go to for support. Having to deal with places like this is another rock the young queer person has to struggle with these days, for god knows the society and family cause us enough trauma. One such time that happened was a cishet person who made an LGBT+ dungeons and dragons discord server and frequently called young queer women odd. So, in my opinion, having cishet people in the moderation circle should be avoided like the plague.

Some queer moderated groups also have issues. There has been a trend, especially in the recent years, of multiple queer run, toxic groups that either engage in outright repression of narratives of one side of the community to subtle exclusionary behaviour. One such group, right here in our own homeland is the Queer Hindu Alliance, which in my opinion hasn’t come out with anything to help the queer Dalit population. Another one of their villainy can be seen in them endorsing the siege of Kashmir stating that the queer people of Kashmir are now ‘free’; as if the human rights violations being committed excludes the queer kashmiris in some miraculous way (which it does not)! Not to mention their horrendous praising of the horrific sedition charge that was put on a queer person for exercising their constitutional right. Another example of this is the subreddit r/LGBDropTheT. Their info section states that as gender and sexuality are separate, the ‘TQ+’ has no place in the LGBTQ+ umbrella. However, they continue to address transwomen as men and transmen as women and often has severely bigoted and transphobic posts, often aimed at trans lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The ‘good’ places are not problem free either. As a transwoman, who interacts in multiple spaces where trans issues are discussed, the conversation is dominated by AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth) people, with AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) folks taking the back seat. There is often that one person in almost every group that brings toxicity into the discussion. This is often taken down by helpful community members and moderators but the fact we have people amongst us who could take the things we gained from us is an issue, and sometimes some of these people occupy the ‘high ranks’ in the community and use their privilege to talk on behalf of the whole community when they are in fact, only representing themselves.

Another problem with our online spaces is our crisis response when some horrible thing happens like Mumbai pride. I noticed how one of the queer groups I am a part of had posts calling for discussions with just one comment – ONE FUCKING COMMENT… responding to a disgraceful sellout of queer people at pride. Another group was half-filled with people praising this horrible act. Seriously, when my identity is political you can’t expect me not to scream and call out when my people are betrayed by their own chosen family. The recent events that led to the arrest of Ardra (they/them) took the same route. It is such a shame that this is the community we live in. Sometimes I ask – are we the same group of people who carried out stonewall?

I said this so that we, as a community can reassess our stands and make our spaces better and more inclusive. We have certainly come a long way and we definitely need to appreciate that. However, treading ahead without addressing these is basically like Achilles going to war without protecting his heel.

Jai Bhim!

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Abigail Silversmith Irfan is an undergraduate student, majoring in physics chemistry and math. She writes poems, does mountain biking and tries to engage in political dialogues about being queer whenever she can. She is trans and goes by she/her pronouns.

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