The Value of a Space to Breathe Online for LGBTQ+ Community

Artist Credit: MEITING SONG @mad.lizzard 

The year is 2021 and it’s LGBTQ+ history month, and what has this year brought to the community? In my opinion, history month is all about understanding the importance of community and power and how the education of LGBTQ+ rights is not only a celebration but a revolution and resistance. 

Listen to the audio here!

The LGBTQ+ community has been deeply affected by the pandemic, with many individuals not receiving adequate support, instead being neglected and disregarded. If this year hasn’t taught us that critical issues are not highlighted in the LGBTQ+ community, it is time for re-evaluation. QTIPOC have paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights, and the ways people can support the communities are endless, from facilitating a discussion in your workplace about being QTIPOC to simply donating to QTIPOC-focused charities and initiatives. 

For me and many others in the queer community, online space can be a lifeline: you can find help and speak to different members of your community, reach out to others who need help, and most importantly be yourself without judgment or hate. The importance of inclusive LGBTQ+ spaces online has grown indefinitely for many young people in the past decade. Now with the pandemic shifting our lives, the space of the online queer community may be the only way to connect and feel a sense of relief during isolation. However, a study of LGBTQ people’s experience during the pandemic, by University College London (UCL) and Sussex University, found that 69% of respondents suffered with depressive symptoms, rising to about 90% of those who had experienced homophobia or transphobia. In this case, not all spaces or events are accessible to many people, especially for older people or rural communities who may not have reliable internet connections, or for disabled people who need to use adapted technology.

The LGBTQ+ and QTIPOC communities are in dire need of more digital safe spaces online that they can access at home, or in their immediate surroundings. Luckily, there are many events, spaces and resources that can be shared offline and online for those who need it the most. 

Letting my hair down 

Growing up with late-night telly and the magical world of IMVU and endless cyberspace, the world of the internet was open for all. As a middle-eastern/Swana queer person, being myself in my immediate surroundings is complex- going out to queer-friendly events, fundraisers and shows were a vital sense of release for me, pre-pandemic. Getting ready in my friend’s kitchen, drinking cheap rosé and watching all of us paint our faces with shapes and expressions that, after layer and layer of makeup became a uniform that we would put on, a uniform that made us feel powerful and care-free.  

The pandemic has deeply affected queer events and physical community safe spaces, which has left many people stranded and isolated.  The queer nightlife-community is more than just dancing and drinking in Heaven- it’s about meeting people and growing a network, supporting iconic venues that have survived decades of abuse, and most significantly, being a physical space for people to socialise. Nevertheless many have used the online party community in favour of fundraising nights to support local and international communities and sharing their love for music on zoom till late in the evening. The people behind Queer House Party and Club Quarantine have provided spaces for musicians, performers and artists to showcase their talents and more importantly raise funds for numerous organisations such as LGBTQ+ Outside, African Rainbow Family and more!

Credit: Queer House Party

Breathing

One Sunday morning I found myself joining a workshop that quite frankly, changed how I view my life.  Create Space is a pay if you can/free global retreat and workshop that is ran by professors, creatives, activists, and therapists that have helped create an experience that is unique and transformative. Each programme is designed to inspire, empower, and build a more supportive community. With a coffee and workshop guide to help guide you along the way, each speaker brings a different insight into purpose and philosophy. I'm not alone in saying that exploring my purpose is a sensitive and delicate matter, I have suffered a lot of identity and mental health issues and to know that many of us are not alone is empowering and extremely comforting.

The workshops are 4 hours, comprised of various creative tasks where you will be able to speak to people and participants from various ages, ethnicities, identities and perspectives. Also, a big note is that you are not allowed to take photos or videos as safety is of utmost importance. One of the speakers (Michael Stephens), speaks through a picture, as I close my eyes and listen through this state of meditation and journey, I begin to feel an overwhelming sense of emotion and power. As I started feeling this intense emotion, tears were rolling down my face and I felt like a big weight had been lifted. It is that change in perspective, and appreciation of how amazing and special it is to just BE yourself. Being at one with our perspective and presence, and more importantly how as a community we can support each other in unimaginable ways.

Being proud and present with ourselves is something we are all still discovering at many stages of our lives. And that is ok. 

Credit: We Create Space 

Nonetheless, I don't want to glamourise the internet as a magical safe space where everyone is welcome, because trolls, transphobes, homophobes, and racists still manage to tear people down. Yet the world of the internet is helpful and full of endless support, and as online communities grow it shows the increase in mental health issues and need for the right support. The LGBT Foundation has compiled endless resources for healing, helplines, financial support and more. Most of the resources are free and are encouraged to be used online and offline. There are also specific resources for all parts of the spectrum including trans and non-binary groups. As well as free resources, some therapists and councillors are a part of the community. However, if you feel like you need immediate help please speak to your GP or call 116 123 (free from any phone!) for the Samaritans. 

If you use this month to do something for yourself or the LGBTQ+ community, create a safe space, educate others, listen to someone’s story and more importantly give yourself some time offline. We all need to breathe and if you can, stepping away from our screens and into ourselves is a great way to do just that. 

For help, please do not hesitate to reach out to those who you trust, or organisations that can help direct you to what you need. Gendered Intelligence has a resource list filled with self-care tips, fundraisers, emotional support for specific groups and more!

 

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