The Channels

Social media is a refuge for LGBTQ+ youth to be themselves

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Lucy Marx, Staff Writer

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I have spent most of my life keeping a giant, life-changing secret.

It was the kind of secret that gnaws at your chest, weighs you down, and makes you feel like no one truly knows and understands you.

No, I had never done anything really wrong or lied to the people I care about.

The truth is that I am queer.

This secret I kept drove an imaginary wedge between me and the people who loved me. I felt as though I had done something wrong, as if my friends and family would immediately abandon me if they knew.

However, feeling lonely with myself throughout middle and high school led me to seek refuge away from school, friends, and family in a place where I could remain entirely anonymous— the internet.

I eventually gathered the courage to slowly begin telling my secret over the last few years and I am so fortunate and happy to say that everyone I care about has stuck by me.

Social media gave me the community and support system that I didn’t have access to as a closeted kid in a largely conservative, religious community. It became something of a refuge for me to explore my identity without fear of being rejected.

I made a Tumblr account when I was thirteen, and it felt like I finally had a place to be real and honest without needing to hide behind strategically placed walls. The website provided me with access to a whole world of people like me, experiencing the same identity struggles and confusing feelings.

The anonymity of social media allowed me and many of my online peers to be open without the fear of being found out by anyone in my real life. In fact, nearly one third of LGBTQ+ youth say that they are more honest about themselves online than in real life.

I made long-time friends while seeking refuge on social media, including some who had been through what I was struggling with and could give me advice and reassurance. I found mutual support and trust within my internet-based relationships.

Seeing the causal, normalized LGBTQ+ culture represented online helped me battle internalized homophobia I had developed over years of being in an unsupportive community.

Maybe there was nothing wrong with liking girls.

Maybe it wasn’t disgraceful, weird and gross.

I began to be so much happier and comfortable once I realized this.

I am so glad I was able to find a supportive community online when I needed it the most, and I sincerely believe that social media is an invaluable resource for queer teens.

A support system is unfortunately hard to come by for millions of LGBTQ+ youth in the United States, and social media offers an alternative to in-person support. Without social media, I am sure that I would not be as self-accepting or confident in my identity as I am today.

And to the teens out there who are unable to come out yet— don’t worry, it really does get better. There are people out there who will love and support you for exactly who you are.

But in the meantime, consider making a Tumblr account, I’ll follow you.

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Social media is a refuge for LGBTQ+ youth to be themselves