People do go on about the ‘power of the internet’ these days.
It is in turns instrumental in bringing down dictatorships, spreading news and information at lightning speed and has single handily contributed down to the downfall of face to face communication and the decline of society itself.
However, the ease with which people can spread information anonymously now has created a huge opportunity to spread messages all over the world.
LGBT rights are not normally highly prioritised in so many different places around the world. In 69 countries around the world it is still illegal. In 7 it carries the death penalty. In countries like Uganda it might as well be.
Even in the countries where homosexuality is legal and accepted by wider society there are still unfair restrictions and prejudice against them. In America, the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ military policy will come into full effect tomorrow ending decades of discrimination against LGBT soldiers.
LBGTs all over the world can expect to feel out-of-place, unwanted and victimised at some point in their lives. However, the internet is increasingly giving the hidden LBGT community a way to communicate with each other and the wider world about how they feel and the oppression they face. A group of gay men and lesbian women in Iran, where homosexual acts can even be tried as a capital offence, have created an anonymous Facebook page called ‘We Are Everywhere’, designed to encourage members to share their stories life as a gay person in the Middle East.
One video posted on the page from an Iranian gay man living in Turkey says “I am an Iranian gay. I fear to show my real face, I fled Iran, I escaped from my own family, I was driven away from my country. Now, I am a gay refugee in Turkey and count the days, we are everywhere.”
In Turkey homosexuality is legal but there is little official protection from the state and no recognition of same-sex couples.
In America, a country where some of its states even allow same-sex marriage but others can still be extremely homophobic such as in the South, the It Gets Better Project has spread over the internet in the past few years sending videos and messages from celebrities to gay teens who are struggling with their sexuality and bullying they may be experiencing in high school.
Similarly the 2010 Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend To The Prom campaign received so much support on its original Facebook page that it was reported in the international media and overturned the decision by Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi to cancel their annual high school prom rather than let a same-sex couple attend. The girl who started the original campaign, Constance McMillen, is now a gay rights activist.
The internet gives any minority around the world the power to have their voices heard by bypassing the traditional channels of authority and media. By engaging with each other and the international community it finally gives the gay rights movement the clout to pressurize governments into giving them the recognition and protection they deserve. The technological advances of the 21st century are finally bringing social attitudes into at least the 20th.