The power of words: supporting the LGBTQ+ community online
Cass Turner (they/them/theirs)
Global Co-Chair, TELUS Spectrum LGBTQ+ Community
On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization moved to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. This was an early and important step in acknowledging the equality of the LGBTQ+ community and since then the day has been coined as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Celebrated as a day of victory for the LGBTQ+ population, many come together on this day to share stories of struggles related to being gay, trans or bi and amplify stories of the allies that help the community overcome the discrimination and hate that is all too familiar.
Acceptance and inclusion has long been a struggle; words have been used to harm us for much longer than we have had the ability to march against hate. And now, at a time when we must go virtual in order to come together and stay connected, the power of words in both our physical world and the virtual world is not lost on members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The ability to ‘hide behind the screen’ and perceived anonymity online makes the virtual world ripe for hate and discrimnation toward the LGBTQ+ community (and other minority groups). Fortunately however, we are now at a time in our society when social media platforms have more effective policies to report and block online hate speech. We’ve also seen significant consequences for people's poor choices online - including the suspension of social media accounts of individuals/groups who use their platforms irresponsibly.
There is also a growing trend of positivity and support online, as evidenced by a 557% increase in the use of #TransRightsAreHumanRights in 2020. There were many amazing moments that resulted in this hashtag trending - including when Elliot Page, Canadian actor and producer, came out as trans, or when the BC Courts determined that a father did not have the legal right to deny his transgender son access to life-saving medical care. This powerful hashtag was also used broadly by activists and allies to denounce discrimination and hate targetting the LGBTQ community.
In honour of IDAHOT on May 17, you’re encouraged to use your online platform, words, positivity and support to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Here are some ways you can show your support
Share your pronouns in your online presence - on your social media profiles and in your email signature, for example. You can even download these pronoun backgrounds for your next virtual classroom or meeting.
Common pronouns are:
- he / him / his
- she / her / hers
- they / them / theirs
Share a positive post or news story in support of the LGBTQ+ community and speak up against hate you may see online. This could include reporting negative online behaviour or even privately reaching out to the person targeted to extend your support.
Join an online group to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and how you can extend support and volunteer; with a quick Google search you can find the many local GLAAD, PFLAG and LGBTQ+ community groups in your region.
Join us in this celebration and vocalize your support for equality and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Your efforts and words help create a more inclusive space for all. And remember to download your pronoun background images here.