Cyberspace is defined as “The interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, and includes the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors”. In simpler terms, cyberspace is the internet, and the many facets of the internet, that create one large interconnected space. Queer cyberspaces are the places in cyberspace where queer people exist, together.
The internet is a powerful tool of globalization. It creates a universal pathway through which people everywhere can find each other. This ability to connect, and the very minimal limits on the extent of the internet’s reach, is bittersweet. However, for the queer community, and other marginalized communities, the internet has offered an incredible opportunity.
For many queer or questioning individuals, there is very little support and information in their surrounding community. Now, more than ever before, information on queerness — the good, bad, correct, and conspiratorial — are all available at a few clicks. This offers young queer people the ability to find their own information and to educate themselves through countless different sources. At this point, trying to find resources to figure one’s identity out, is like the biggest choose your own adventure game out there.
Everyone has different ways of feeling validated and comfortable in their queerness. For me, a large part of that experience was seeing representation in tv and movies. However, the beauty of queer cyberspace is that, like the internet, it is so broad that there is a pocket for everyone who looks.
Lesbian and gay Youtubers have long been a resource for young queer people. With everything from couples videos, informational questions and answers, and vlogs, gay Youtubers are many queer kid’s role models. Getting to see videos of gay people being open about their sexuality and presenting themselves and their personality on Youtube, has been invaluable for many people questioning or exploring their identity. Youtube offered queer storylines, almost like reality tv, before tv shows and movies started to include greater representation.
Movies and TV
One of the most hopeful things I have noticed as a young queer is the increase in representation of queer characters in tv and movies. There has been increased representation in different genres as well as an increase in the variety of queer stories being told. In response to queer people’s desire for queer media, there is an incredible abundance of organized viewer’s guides and lists. A google search of “queer tv shows” or “gay movies,” provides a bounty of links to lists and suggestions.
However, there is still an incredible amount of lack in queer media. There is a disproportionate level of white queerness and male queerness. Although this will likely remain true for a long time to come, I have hope that since queer media is picking up speed, there is going to be more and more inclusive stories being told.
One of the largest and fastest expansions of queer cyberspace has been the invention of social media. Although queer cyberspace has spread across every platform, including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, it has been particularly embraced on Tiktok.
Tiktok, similar to Youtube, has endless folds and passageways to go down. There is within Tiktok both “Straight Tiktok” and “Gay Tiktok”. Each has its own set of characters and its own distinct culture. Gay Tiktok has become instrumental in creating and spreading different aspects of gay culture.
There have always been different categories of lesbians, but gay Tiktok has opened up these “categories,” and created many more. Previously, lesbians were often thought of in terms of “mascs” or “femmes”. The concept of masc and femmes is in itself extremely limiting and heteronormative. However, Tiktok has started to popularize and show more nuanced “types” of lesbians.
One specific style is the “Tiktok lesbian”. Tiktok lesbians often wear button-ups, and sport long hair or sometimes partially shaved heads. They wear rings, beanies, hoodies, and often have piercings and tattoos.
Tiktok has also successfully facilitated the gathering of queer people in the real world. I have seen a number of open calls on social media, where queer women will name a time and a place and invite the entire gay public to go to a “meet up”. In one video, that has over 127,000 likes, a friend group of lesbians gives an open invite to a specific beach in LA. The follow-up videos show the group in a large crowd of gay strangers that met up to hang out, play games, and get to know each other.
In addition, Tiktok culture has given queer women-specific ways to identify each other both online and in person. For example, the question “Do you listen to girl in red?” is equivalent to asking if a girl is gay. Girl in Red is a queer female musician who makes music about being queer and loving women. Since Girl in Red is a common popular artist among lesbians, her music, and what it represents, has gone rampant on Tiktok. With the gained commonality, there is also the ability to identify other queer people, even if they are otherwise a stranger.
Seek and you shall find
What queer cyberspace really is, is queer people finding each other. And, finding in others, a way to validate and discover one’s own identity. Queer cyberspace allows people to explore the gay world outside of their individual town and community. In addition to helping people find the parts of gay culture that they want to participate in, queer cyberspace simultaneously creates that very culture. By allowing gay people to connect to one another, trends, patterns, styles, and language can be discovered, and create new commonalities in queer culture that were never possible before.