Cyberbullying Experiences Among The Non-Binaries
By – Saumya
Harassment, with its horrifying physical and emotional impact has been able to follow human footsteps and ventured into the online arena taking many shapes and forms. As much as we have enjoyed building online communities which are diverse yet bound by similar interests and ideas, harassment has crept in to turn the experience traumatic time and again. Although anyone with an online presence is at the risk of facing one or the other kind of bullying, socially vulnerable groups have been targeted more often than others. Women, people of colour, gender non-confirming identities and economically vulnerable people are at the receiving end of online violence in America according to a study by Pew Research Centre conducted in 2017 . Similar trends of cyberbullying are reflected in other countries as well where socially and economically vulnerable communities are at higher risk. One of such socially vulnerable group is the non-binary community, people who do not confirm to the patriarchal-heteronormative idea of gender solely consisting of male and female identities, and the respective social roles ssigned to them. Their online experience has been similar to their offline existence, constantly experiencing bias and prejudice for their gender identity and countless attempts to fight against it.
SOCIAL EXCLUSIVITY AND CYBER BULLYING
The dominant heteronormativity around gender has always pushed people with non-confirming identities to the margins. Years of patriarchal mindset has constantly eroded their platforms, denied them spaces, invisibilized their struggles and neglected their right to assert their identity into the forefront in every way possible. The advent of cyberspace guaranteed that people could come together, build a community, however virtual. based on their identities, ideas and interest. It has definitely done an exemplary job in providing spaces and voices to the gender non-confirming people but the malice of cyber bullying still looms over their online presence fuelled by the violent notion of heteronormativity.
The harassment faced by a person who has been instructed to live off the margins is not only a violent sadism by the patriarchy in order to claim the mainstream but also denying them the right to assert their identity and claim equal share of social and physical spaces.
Harassment faced online is even more detrimental because most of the times the abuser is anonymous or physically distant which makes the victim feel helpless. Online harassment towards non-binaries is nothing but reflection of social prejudices against them in society which ought to be called out and eradicated by social media platforms as well as by us, as active social media users.
DIGITAL FREEDOM IS AN LGBTQIA+ ISSUE
Digital freedom, where everyone enjoys the right to express their ideas and interests if they do not violate community guidelines, becomes an LGBTQIA+ issue and an integral part of the movement because digital space has now taken an unprecedented importance. It is a platform for debating, engaging, enraging, revolting, rebelling, building friendships, falling in love and creating a movement. It has also provided an alternative to celebrate one’s existence as a queer, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, lesbian and other identities when they are openly repelled and unaccepted in their homes and society in general.
Individual experiences of online harassment have a long lasting impact on one’s mental health even if the attack was not personal. Coming across a homophobic or transphobis slur used for someone else or in a genral statement leads to pernicious mental health, making them feel hopeless and insecure about their gender identity and sexual inclinations.
It doesn’t end here, the free space to call out injustices is not accessible to the non-binary people as guaranteed by social-media platforms. The calling out culture propagated by social media platforms like twitter and instagram serves the non-binaries differently. Any act of calling out or voicing their concerns ends up inviting more anti-trans and anti-homo crowd which again participates in targeted violence against them. This creates a vicious loop of harassment and mental exhaustion, again leaving the entire community devoid to justice and right to express oneself.
For a society as inherently patriarchal as ours, which has incessantly been denying equal rights and opportunities to the minorities since ages, time has come to reform and restructure our beliefs which are reflected in our society, online as well as offline. Our obsession with heteronormativity has been time and again ruinous for the existence of people who don’t conform with the idea. Online harassment resulting out of such age old rigid concepts adds to the injustices that the non-binary community. consisting of various gender identities within itself, has been facing. Legal redressals are a step forward but not only are they short-sighted and individual centric but also unable to bring larger changes.
Time has come that we, as a society collectively discard the rigid binary nature of gender making our society more inclusive and accepting. Online behaviours are both, a product of societal mindset as well as a means to change it. So, this pride month, instead of partaking in the capitalist tendency to profit off from the movement, let us educate towards eradicating each and every form of violence, both offline and online.