How The Internet Can Create Positive Spaces To Counter The Hate It Spreads

Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

In the past eight years (2007 to 2016), the number of people who have experienced cyberbullying has doubled. If this statistic wasn’t disconcerting enough, among students who identified as queer, about half of them reported cyberbullying incidents in 2013. In an age of information, where each word is preserved, and online discourse forms the core of much of politics, the question surrounding the narrative pushed online is a powerful one.

For theorists who have talked about online presence of marginalized groups, the effect of heteronormativity and the power relations exerted by the majority of cissexual, heterosexual people, often acts against the interests and narratives of queer people. For queer teenagers, this lack of narrative creates more confusion about their identities. The confusion is re-asserted by the popular narratives at school playgrounds, at home and at every other space they would be in. Their sexual desires are nullified by the onslaught of particular stories that pertain to a particular gender and sexuality.

Content creators are important in this regard. Pages like “Assigned Male Comics” and “Bart’s Comics”, and YouTubers like “Riley J Dennis” and “Kat Blaque” make lasting impressions. For young queer people from vulnerable spaces, like our country, these content creators provide a space for them to validate themselves. They help them in finding themselves and help them in creating their own narrative.

When I was younger, I found my own narratives represented in groups where role-playing between people of the same gender was quite normal. There, I found myself. The queer narrative that I identified with was not formed only with literature, but, with mutual aid. This is what pages do.

Taking Riley J Dennis and Kat Blaque – both are YouTubers who work towards trans-liberation. Kat’s work for people of color is important and forms a great core for a person trying to find out about their own gender, and learn feminist discourse at the same time. Same for Riley, whose work deals with queer theory and aids people in forming opinions. In a video, Riley also talks about being severely cyberbullied, at the hands of other YouTubers.

For Bart de Graaf-Escuyos, the person behind “Bart’s Comics” on Facebook, online bullying is no longer so rampant a problem. Yet, when it does occur, he makes comics on them. Otherwise, he advises young queer people to try distancing themselves from the abuse – for the abusers don’t deserve their anger or sadness, and to find comfort in loved ones.

This year, Sophie Labelle’s story also made headlines, which increased trans-phobic threats against her, forcing her to go into hiding. Her web-comic “Assigned Male Comics” explicitly deals with prejudice and hatred, and is a lesson in how queer narratives can be formed and used to aid people.

Content creation is necessary in this digital age, where voices are often lost. I can only illustrate my point with a few examples. However, young queer people need role models, they need people who are telling the same stories as them, and perhaps, in some years, we can move beyond the heteronormative narrative that is considered to be ‘normal’.

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