The modern-day fight for equality for the LGBTQ+ community has been raging on since the 1960s when people took to the streets with their banners, signs, and desire to make a change. Although the LGBTQ+ collective continues marching and organizing to fight for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in person, their efforts have become enmeshed in the fabric of the virtual world too. Technology has had a big influence on the development of the LGBTQ rights, but before moving onto how technology has shaped the LGBTQ rights movement, let’s dive into the history of LGBTQ rights.
History of LGBT Rights
Throughout humanity’s short history, LGBTQ+ rights have been questioned constantly; however, people have united time and time again to stand up for their rights, especially in the last century. At the end of the 19th century, the term homosexuality was coined by Karoly Maria Benkert, but many used the term to begin classifying same-sex attraction as a disease or illness, judging it as a lifestyle choice that wasn’t natural or acceptable in society. Moving into the 20th century, smaller and localized LGBT groups started to form and later in the 1960s, the Stonewall uprising gave the movement more momentum, making headway for future generations to continue the LGBTQ social justice movement.
As more LGBTQ+ groups formed in the 1970s, so did the visibility of the community and many countries decriminalized homosexuality thanks to those efforts. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community incurred a heavy loss at the hands of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; people were afraid of this new illness that society associated with the LGBTQ community. However, in the early 2000s, the world was changing and LGBTQ+ social justice was at the forefront. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, making headway for other countries around the world to follow suit. Transgender rights started to gain more attention and visibility at the time, gaining some legal protection from discrimination.
The LGBTQ+ community is still battling for equality all over the world and it’s important to remember how the movement began, acknowledge all current efforts, and keep advancing.
LGBTQ Social Justice
Social justice is the belief that all deserve equal economic, social, and political rights and opportunities and although most of the same social justice issues exist for the LGBTQ+ community, they also vary depending on the nation.
The LGBTQ social justice issues that are occuring in one country are not the same ones that are occurring in another, for example. For this reason and more, the LGBTQ+ community needs to lean heavily on technology to ensure that their push for LGBTQ human rights reaches everyone, no matter their circumstances.
Tech’s role in advancing LGBTQ+ rights
As LGBTQ+ rights continued forward into the 90s and 00s, they saw the possibility to lean into the many ways that technology can benefit them and the cause. Let’s dive in:
Visibility and representation
Thanks to devices and the internet, the LGBTQ+ community has been able to show themselves authentically, becoming more visible and widely understood. In many ways, ignorance and bigotry are because of upbringing and a lack of understanding. Society tells you what to believe and think about a person through what we are taught, but by giving a platform and voice to real people with real stories, many can see, hear, and connect with others.
The internet is a place where LGBTQ+ stories and representation can be easily found and some of the best places include:
Blogs like Medium and Wordpress
Streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus
Online groups and organizations
Elevating LGBTQ+ voices and stories show that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is also a push for human rights for everyone.
Community building and support
Since the Stonewall uprising, the community has worked hard to unite as one group to further the cause; carrying that out can be quite the difficult task without the use of the internet. In the past, word of mouth and printed publications were the only way to notify people of when gatherings, protests, and other meetings would take place. Nevertheless, using the internet, we have access to all the information in the world at the click of a mouse.
Not only can organizations, communities, and groups build LGBTQ networks, but they can also spread information quickly and support both individuals and smaller groups. There is power in connection and numbers and online groups can be a place to find the support and understanding that LGBTQ people can’t find in person. Understanding and support makes people feel linked and connected to a cause and meaning, motivating them to support others and the movement too. Some spaces that support community building include:
Social networks such as Instagram and Facebook
Activism and awareness
Raising awareness and promoting activism can be quite difficult, although the internet highly facilitates it in so many ways. Instead of standing on a corner looking to get signatures for a petition, there are websites such as Change.org that not only help spread the word about injustices, but also give people the opportunity to support them with a signature and money.
Similarly, fundraising websites such as Crowdfunding, can be extremely beneficial in spreading awareness and supporting people on a smaller, more individual scale.
Activism can also be spread through social media campaigns that are oftentimes highly successful; mobilizing people to follow a cause can be as simple as posting a video on TikTok or a story on Instagram and sending it to as many people as possible. Social networks have given people the power to raise their voice and awareness of social injustices to new heights.
Education and resources
One of the best ways to take advantage of technology for social justice is to educate since it gives people the chance to explore, investigate, and learn more about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ+ or a supportive ally. This can take many forms such as:
Podcasts and YouTube videos
Direct classes aside, resources that educate people can be distributed more easily as well. Members of the LGBTQ+ community can access pertinent information about their own lives easily, learning more about themselves, the community, and the vision for equality that the LGBTQ+ community is working so hard to accomplish. Knowledge is power.
Safe spaces and anonymous support
There are many spaces that can seem hostile or dangerous in both the real and virtual world; however, there are online spaces that are accessible from anywhere and can provide anyone with a safe space to express themselves. Since there are many countries that still criminalize LGBTQ+ acts, these safe spaces can be the only opportunity to have a place where they can share their stories.
Another aspect that technology provides for safe spaces is the possibility to stay anonymous.
Technology is integrated into so many parts of our lives and for the LGBTQ+ community; it has been and will continue to be a tool that not only provides them with a judgment-free zone to express themselves and a path to connect with others, but also lifts their voices and spreads their message for social equality. Without technology, the visibility and representation that the LGBTQ+ community has gained wouldn’t have been possible.
If you want to help develop, enhance, and design the websites and apps and help support the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, you can check out our courses page and learn more about how you can support the technology that advances the cause.