The struggle for LGBT rights is the Civil Rights Movement of our era—at least in some ways. Obviously, race and sexual orientation are traits that present themselves in different ways and on different levels, but the movements and their goals are undeniably similar. They both aim to gain rights, privileges, and protections that are not available to a certain group of people and essentially seek to eradicate discrimination that is centered on hate, bias, and intolerance.
Long gone are the days when the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, but subjugation and oppression—not to mention the lack of legal support and protection for members of the LGBT community in a vast majority of the states—still stand strong. Fortunately, though, a few things have changed in the 60 or so years since the Civil Rights Movement. Technological advancements make today’s movement for LGBT rights futuristic in comparison to those before it, and society’s rapidly evolving views have allowed the effort to move faster than a girl untagging herself from a bad picture. There are still a number of battles to be fought, but the movement has made unbelievable strides in the past decade and social media has exponentially sped up the process. Here’s how:
1. Social media platforms encourage people to create and discuss.
Blogs, videos, pictures, and tweets have all allowed those in the creators’ networks or in surrounding networks to continually participate in the conversation—whether that conversation is about sports, TV, fashion, cats, fashionable cats, or in this case, human rights. The more a subject is discussed, the more it is in the public domain and the more people are exposed to (and, in turn, consider) opinions that may not necessarily be their own.
2. Social media is about telling stories.
Whether they are in the process of coming out, are struggling with the repercussions of doing so, or are living the life they never imagined possible, the LGBT community on the Internet, most especially YouTube, has been integral in terms of support and solidarity. The It Gets Better Project on YouTube has even allowed allies to get involved and share their messages with anyone who wants to watch. Now that social media is so prevalent in everyone’s lives, those who are struggling are able to actually see examples of so many people who have gone through what they have. YouTube has put a face (well, many faces) to this entire movement and allowed anyone who has a story to share it with the world.
3. Social media allows people to easily unite for a cause.
Movements are all about the numbers and the passion—they require people to communicate, gather together, and fight. And do you know what attracts large groups of people? Organizations. And do you know what attracts even larger groups of people? Organizations that are all over social media. Some of my favorite LGBT organizations are the It Gets Better Project, the Human Rights Campaign, the Trevor Project, and the NOH8 Campaign—all extremely successful endeavors. However, these organizations would not be half as effective as they are if not for the powers of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and even Tumblr. Getting the message out to as many people as possible is essential, and social media allows for just that. Think about the current situation with Chick-fil-A, or how much backlash North Carolina endured back in May for passing Amendment One. Even Facebook and Emoji have designed icons for same-sex couples. When people are passionate about something and have social media as a vehicle through which to express these passions, there is little they can’t achieve.
The rate at which movements like this one can spread is exactly why I love social media—not to mention the number of lives a positive message like “it gets better” can change or even save.
Because of social media, change is coming at a speed that would never have existed otherwise. One day, we will revisit, with slightly ashamed bemusement, the time when people seriously debated the morality of same-gender couples falling in love, or the time when only 8 states allowed LGBT residents to get married. We will chuckle when pondering the fact that any person or group of people came up with anything as ridiculous as the gay blood ban or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and we will cringe when we look back on how anyone ever believed sexual orientation could tell us anything about another person’s worth. We will realize that, at the heart of it all, we are human. Not gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, or anything in between. Just human.
Here are some links! Check them out:
Human Rights Campaign
It Gets Better Project
The Trevor Project
In what ways do you think social media has impacted other movements? Share your thoughts in the comments below!