Rainbow in the Cloud
By – Tanisha
Social Media as a platform for the proverbial coming out of the queer community is gaining more and more traction by the day. Not only does it provide a voice to the often marginalized but also offers a host of other uses.
But first, what was it like before the era of Social Media?
Manvendra Singh Gohil, an Indian prince from Gujarat, shares his experience in an exclusive interview. Being the first openly gay prince in the world, his coming out broke several stereotypes. On being asked what motivated him to take this step Gohil emphasized that it was the hypocrisy in India.
“We have a chapter in our Kamasutra texts dedicated to homosexuality and the magnificent Khajuraho temples too boast of homo-erotic depictions. Despite being the creators of Kamasutra and having such a rich culture of sex since centuries, the sheer neglect and stigma attached to this topic irked me.” He came out a decade ago and the backlash as expected was significant and severe. His parents brought out a newspaper ad disowning him, his effigies were burnt in fire by residents of the town he belonged to. Everybody felt he brought shame to the family and should be exiled.
Yet, Manvendra never lost hope. He knew he was going against the current and was ready to face the brunt of it. He even went to the extent of saying that he does not blame the people for their reactions but their ignorance. “I believed I had an important tool with me- Honesty. I have always been deeply inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his ideologies. As long as I knew I was on the side of truth, I will come out victorious.” – Gohil conveyed.
The gay icon knew that someone of such high stature in the royal family breaking their silence would have set the ball rolling for social change. And boy, was he right. Since then, the LGBTQ+ have garnered significant support from allies and gained more recognition legally as well as socially. Lakshya Trust, an independent initiative by the prince too works in creating a safer space for this section of society.
Social Media As A Catalyst
As technology continues to progress, queer digital spaces are keeping pace. In the past coming out tended to be an extremely private experience wherein these details were shared with close friends and family. While people are still wary of what they choose to share, platforms such as Instagram, Youtube and Twitter are being used more widely as a way to express their sexuality.
The research study, conducted by dating app Tinder, found that 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people are coming out online globally. A whopping 75% of Gen-Z respondents in the survey came out on social media first and later to their loved ones.
Another analysis of internet users conducted by the United Kingdom (UK) government observed that LGBTQ+ members were twice as likely as straight people to use Instagram or Twitter.
Why does one choose to come out online?
It is often believed that people resort to social media as a platform when they feel a lack of support in other spheres of their lives. While that tends to be true in most cases, the act of breaking one’s silence can prove to be invigorating. They have the choice to express their stories the way they believe. Coming out via news channels or the media might often lead to the true essence not being conveyed or even misinterpreted.
“‘It helps reach out to a larger audience in a short duration and at barely any cost”- believes Manvendra Singh’ aptly summing up the key advantages of this forum. Obtaining a wide range of accurate information anonymously without fear of being judged is also made easier. This is important for people who are still exploring their identities and trying to understand themselves better.
However, one must also be ready to face the backlash. Just as a lot of positivity and support is provided by the viewers, homophobic and hate comments too are the harsh reality. As long as one chooses to focus on their own narrative and are comfortable with their choice, social media can be an effective way to express one’s sexuality. One needs to be wary of privacy and safety concerns. Incidents of social media surveillance leading to LGBTQ+ abuse are on the rise and cannot be ignored.
Out In The Open
The coming out story of Aakash Rawat, a 21-year-old student from Delhi–
“I first came out to myself in 2017. Social media was not that important for me then, but it all changed next year when I became a frequent user of Instagram. I started to follow people from the LGBTQ+ segment I looked up to and that gave me a lot of confidence. I used to go to prides wearing whatever I felt comfortable in. One fine day, I decided to post those pictures on my feed. That was my version of coming out and how people got to know. Social media is now an integral part of my life and my experience has helped me understand why others too choose it to voice their identity.” shares Rawat.
He received an immense amount of love and support from his friends and even strangers who shared their own stories and began considering him an inspiration. All this empowered him and gave him the confidence he needed to start his own meme page, Desi Queer Memes on Instagram.
He identified and decided to fill a gap in the meme industry of a quintessential Indian LGBTQ+ page. It is now doing well with nearly 20k followers and has even reached celebrities like Jacqueline Fernandez. He is currently on the search for content writers in a hope to expand his endeavor even further.
Social media can act as an encouraging tool as it provides instant validation. LGBTQ+ community members often use it as a safe space to explore their talents and often convert them into means of living. One can try out new things that they otherwise feel they would be judged for in front of a general public. This avenue thus provides the option to cater oneself to a specific audience. Several queers are continuing to break “gender” norms with their fabulous content and helping normalize their community and experiences.
For Aakash, his meme page is a coping mechanism to the struggles he often faces in his daily life. He thus tries to create the same positive and happy vibe through his account for others. His hilarious content makes viewers feel prouder and more comfortable in their chosen identities.
Queer dating is another aspect made simpler through this medium. The conventional ways of flirting have now converted to sliding in the DM’s of those one finds attractive. This is useful for the LGBTQ+ segment. “It is hard for us to randomly go up to someone in person and ask them out. Online, we can be more confident of their identity and can hence, hit them up”, Rawat opined
Social media for the LGTBQ+ demographic has proven to be a great platform. They can also more often than not express themselves freely. However queer rights cannot be partly restricted to the internet. They need to see the light of day in casual discourse among Indian families. Acceptance, respect and understanding of their freedom is required nationwide. Only then could India truly be considered LGTBQ+ friendly.