Democratizing LGBTQ Communities Through New Media

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In a previous blog of mine titled, Doubting the Democratization Potential of the Internet, I expressed that the cyberworld is merely a remapping of the social structure and hierarchy from the corporeal world to a virtual one.  I believe that increasing presence of queer and trans-blogging has impacted the LGBTQ communities in a positive way, like that of feminist movements, by being able to organize across vast spatial dimensions and in an environment that does not inhibit full freedom of expression.  Nevertheless, lack of equal access to the internet, fails to allow the full participation of those who are affected by such issues.

Elisabeth Jay Friedman‘s article The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America, also challenges the idea of new media leading to successful democratization and effectiveness but does not altogether dismiss it’s usefulness and advantages if utilized effectively.   Friedman brings up the idea of “digital divides” between race, class and gender due to it’s inaccessibility or lack of priority in impoverished communities.  This leads me to question: if we are still struggling to cross both generational and social barriers to make sure there is equal access to internet technology, how can we expect the dissemination of information exclusively or even, primarily through this medium when it does not reach many of who it applies to?

I argue that LGBTQ online presence creates additional challenges such as how to sustain a coherent and focused intention as priorities vary to to a great extent on a global level.  The internet can also lead to misinterpretation, lack of consistent commitment or as Fieldman points out, “information overload”.

On the other hand, Mitra Gajjala mentions in her article, Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas: A Dialogic Encounter, the successful potential of weblogging by allowing for “certain kinds of self-expression while also shaping their performance of sexuality in these spaces”.  While this may create a visible and un-ihibited online presence, ideologically structured by those who are involved, there is a much greater challenge to translate this influence into an effective political voice.

Power is thus negotiated and ultimately accepted on various levels between the private sphere of the internet and the public or “offline” sphere.  Friedman views the internet as a “unique means to express and transmit often ostracized ideas and identities”, but examines whether or not this necessarily guarantees the same effectiveness and acceptance offline.  Therefore, has new media enabled societies to transgress prejudices, misunderstandings and stereotypes of this community?  While online communities seek to address the language of the LGBTQ community and provide a framework of understanding the diversified identities of both gender and sex within, it is variable as to the degree of social awareness it is creating.

Nevertheless, this framework provides crucial and beneficial information towards understanding the needs of the LGBTQ community, especially for those who provide health care services.  However, recent transgender findings by Gretchen P. Kenagy, indicate that transgender health care is still very much an issue in terms of basic access and/or acceptance.  While queer and trans-blogging likely contribute greatly towards creating a bridge of understanding, it is the additional ability of internet technology and instant communication to link these efforts to the external or “offline” communities and mobilize change.

In reflection, I would argue that there is no single medium of communication or use of technology that works flawlessly on its own.  It is the organized integration of various approaches that drive the individual communities towards a global movement, from online bloggers to offline grassroot organizations.  We cannot overlook the importance of those who are not connected to modern technology nor put preference on those who do.  All efforts towards achieving basic human rights should be considered with equal priority, as the success and accomplishments of one are the success and accomplishments for all.

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