Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
The ways in which open internet access has enabled queer identity formation have changed significantly over the past ten years. Prior to the genesis of widespread, interconnected internet communities, people were restricted to local sources of information - sources that were often dated, biased, and required a physical component of access, whether through another person or through a local library. This localization allows for the disproportionate representation of a few dominant perspectives on queer issues, skewing discourse surrounding the question of what defines queerness, and the closed community can make it difficult for questioning youth to overcome gatekeeping behaviors, such as the holding of queer events in 18+ spaces. The physical component, whether it be a library book or a LGBTQ+ mentor, carries with it the risk of outing - one’s search history is considerably easier to keep hidden than visits to the local GSA. In comparison, with the introduction and widespread acceptance of personal computing devices, youths are able to connect to one another and discover camaraderie through online communities in a way previously unimaginable. Meeting people no longer requires them to live within one’s town, or even one’s country, while even barriers such as language can be easily overcome with translation services. In addition to the ease of finding queer communities, the vast variety of choices means that the chances of finding one that services one’s personal interests is significantly higher - a queer knitting club, while difficult to establish in the offline, can have hundreds of members spread out over North America when organized online. Online often also means anonymous, and while anonymity has been one of the double-edged swords of online interaction, for people just starting to explore their sexual and gender identities, it can often be a way to safely voice their concerns and questions without the repercussions that ‘experimentation’ can have offline. This ability to carry in-depth discussion, unrestricted by issues of embodiment or temporality, has lead to significant amounts of discourse generated about queer issues, one of which includes queer identities. Queer identities - a category whose turbulence can easily be seen in debates over whether LGBT or MOGAI1 or ‘Queer’ are the most inclusive terms - are experiencing a proliferation through the open access that internet-based communications have allowed, and online debates center around the validity and means of creating improved terminology.