I owe a lot to the queer people of Twitter. The queer Twitter community is something worth celebrating.
I got the Parallel job because I went to their launch – someone I followed on Tumblr reblogged the advert. Here I met people there that I would later get to know better on Twitter, and spotted the role listing on Twitter afterwards.
So any opportunities I’ve had since can definitely, in part, be attributed to the power of these queer and feminist online communities I’ve belonged to.
In fact, ask any queer millennial where they first met another queer person, or how they figured out they were queer to begin with. Either Tumblr or Twitter are probably involved.
I joined Twitter in 2013, a few months into my first year of university. This was purely to befriend a group of cool queer women I had met through the Feminist Society.
It worked; they’re now my best friends, and several of them met (and chirpsed) their girlfriends the same way.
I hinted but didn’t explicitly say I was bi
Before Twitter there was Tumblr. I learnt the word ‘bisexual’ thanks to Tumblr and realized that’s who I was – and that that was okay – when I spoke to other bisexual girls who had followed me because of a shared interest in Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It wasn’t a particularly grand realization. I just knew that I fancied the Doctor and Amy Pond and I was glad that I now understood how that was possible. I actually soon found out that two of my best friends at school were bisexual. This was perfect!
I hinted to them that I was bi but didn’t say it directly. This was out of fear they could think I just was copying them, or wanted to seem interesting.
14 year old Sophie was clearly riddled with internalized biphobia.
Nonetheless, there were a decent number of queer girls in my high school and they were fairly out and proud about it.
Aside from the occasional unpleasant comment from straight girls, it felt like a pretty accepting environment. This, combined with the little community I was building for myself on Tumblr at the time, made me feel like I wasn’t a bad person.
I still felt scared, being queer seemed like something that was very much a secret, but I didn’t necessarily feel bad about it. I was a little naive.
People were laughing and whispering about me
When I started sixth form I was only 15, having just moved from New Zealand in the middle of a school year, and I made the bold decision to come out to a couple of friendly guys who had taken me under their wing on my first day.
This was the wrong move.
By lunch time I found that word has spread across the school. The popular kids called me over to sit with them. I quickly realized that they were laughing and whispering about me.
One of the girls got up to move away from me.
I looked around the room and other kids were looking at me and whispering. Having come from a fairly liberal all-girls state school, I couldn’t believe teenagers could be so narrow-minded and nasty.
I spent a large part of the next two years eating lunch by myself, or sitting in the library to avoid bullies.
Because of this experience, I tried to push myself back into the closet.
I didn’t talk about it to anyone at school, or to my best friends back in New Zealand. My parents didn’t know. My bisexuality was a side of me that was now reserved for Tumblr.
I get to be queer and I get to be me
When I turned 18, I figured I could have a fresh start. I was off to study literature at university, hopeful in the knowledge that I would be entering the queerest and most radical political space I had ever been part of until that point.
I knew that I was going to be as out and proud as I possibly could. I’m certain that that enthusiastically queer energy is some of the reason why I now find myself with only one or two close straight friends.
Before this point, I had tentatively come out to a few classmates in high school and was completely out on Tumblr (a queer safe haven for my lonely teenage self). But this was the first time I would be out in such a big way.
A year later, I finally came out to my parents, five years after I came out to myself.
I was sort of tricked out really. We were in a debate at the kitchen table about marriage equality (most of which I remember spending staring resolutely at the patterns in the wooden tabletop).
Then my dad asked me, ‘Do you have something to tell us?’
It went down about as well as I anticipated (not very, but not nearly as bad as it could have been). I told my brother a few days later, to which he replied ‘that’s cool’ and showed me a photo of a cute dog.
His is probably the most reassuring reaction I’ve had so far.
Queer Twitter is a liberating and educational space
During this time, the LGBT+ community on Tumblr was my support system. It felt slightly removed from the real world and allowed me to be myself without consequences.
I’ve slowly moved on from that space, and found myself in a larger and louder one on Twitter.
I feel like the LGBT+ community on Twitter is sort of a notch above; I get to be queer and I get to be me. I’m not anonymous – my dad even follows me. I’ve learnt a lot about queer issues and history as well – Pip, Travis and Ellen are some of my informative faves.
Not only has queer Twitter been a liberating and educational space for me, I know I can always rely on queer mutuals to make me laugh.
Recently when Pride in London published a collection of bizarre and alienating quotes from straight people, the queer community used that same format to produce memes that were informative and funny. This let us take the sting out of the anger we felt at the homophobia in the first place. (Pride in London have published an apology for this incident)
My meme folder would be empty without the contributions of queer Twitter.
When LGBT+ spaces felt unsafe, social media was our best outlet
That doesn’t mean we don’t mourn as well. Myself and my closest friends all turned to social media for support, rage and love when the news of the Pulse shooting came out last year.
None of us knew what to say to each other face-to-face because it felt too close to home (quite literally, our shared uni house was distinctly marred by grief). Twitter allowed us to express our fears, prayers and fury to one another. As well as learn what was happening in other queer spaces around the world.
In that time, when LGBT+ spaces suddenly felt so unsafe, social media was our best outlet.
Any time LGBT+ people get together, whether it’s in nightclubs or bookstores or Tumblr or Twitter, we make that space our own.
We debate and educate one another on queer history. Or talk excitedly about the new queer couple on TV or a well-executed trans storyline, joke, cry, and find love and friendship.
The best parts of the community aren’t necessarily individual people. But the culmination of all of our conversations, articles, essays and (especially) memes.
As I’ve said, I owe many of my friendships and the opportunities I’ve had to Twitter. If I had to describe briefly what the queer Twitter community has meant to me, I would quote problematic queer classic Glee: being a part of something special makes you special.
Much like Glee, queer spaces are often rife with transphobia and racism. I don’t think that’s something that should be glossed over.
Our communities are special because they’re a refuge from cisheteronormativity. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work to make them more inclusive and more welcoming, so that everyone – not just white, cis people – is able to find their queer family.