Finding your place in the world is one of the joys of the internet. As a fairly introverted person, it’s always been easier to make friends in spaces where you already know everybody shares the same interests. It’s easy to go to a video game chat room and find several other people who enjoy the same game as you. What’s always been less easy for me has been finding queer groups. Gay bars and clubs might be perfect gathering spots for some people, but to me, they’re just too overwhelming. They’re loud and crowded, and I don’t drink. They’re still necessary environments, but they are not for me. I prefer to stay online, but even then, there’s been a difficulty in finding the right spot for me.
My high school, in 2007, didn’t have any sort of LGBT group, and past that, I didn’t even know anybody who was out. There was an LGBT organization at my college, but when I tried to join it, it was going through an upheaval of leadership. Even once that settled down, the group primarily focused on queer stuff, and coming out as trans, I again found myself lost. So after college, I mostly turned to social media, which was fine for learning stuff, but can never really become a community. I didn’t need a support group—I just wanted a space with people like me, which included sharing some of my interests past queerness.
As Discord became more prominent, I joined video game fandom chat rooms and started to find more LGBT people in them. But even in a chat room full of them, it still felt like an anomaly. If you mention HRT, somebody will try to figure out what the acronym means instead of knowing. People keep a lot of information close to themselves, meaning the mentioning of same-gender partners or nonconforming gender identity happens occasionally, but it’s not the purpose of the server. Most of all, when I posted memes about transness, they tended to be met with confusion or silence. It was acceptable to be queer but would not be met with more than acknowledgment.
Recently, I joined a Discord server for a trans streamer I enjoy, which has been a significant revelation. There has always been a block before, a feel like not everybody was on the same page. This is one of the first times I’ve seen a community so fully open about trans and queer experiences. When I joined, the first thing I was asked was what my pronouns were. For the longest time, the norm online has been not knowing people’s pronouns, and even providing that information has become more widespread. I have not seen a single person on this server who doesn’t easily have their pronouns at the ready. When somebody announces they are getting on HRT soon, there is a reverberation of that excitement that ripples through the community. People will openly discuss coming to terms with their gender identities, highs, and lows. I’ve never been in a place where, so thoroughly, cisgender heterosexuality is not the norm. There is nothing against it, there certainly are cishet people here, but they are fully the minority.
There is something so wonderful about social spaces where your presence is automatically accepted. There are no feelings of alienation from others, no pressure to hide yourself or the things happening in your life, and no indication that your inclusion is an inconvenient afterthought to others. It can be hard to find communities like this that aren’t solely about inclusion, and being able to bond with people over shared interests and hobbies with total confidence that your whole self is not just tolerated but truly normalized is something I’ve never had access to before.
That makes this community special – it isn’t a place built specifically for LGBT people. It’s just a community that fosters a space for people to be open and feel safe, and with that safety comes the ability to talk very openly about queer identity. While this may look different in children’s spaces, a place where kids can freely talk about themselves and their interests with no judgment can be an important place for them. I know for me that that kind of space would’ve made me feel so much more comfortable in my skin, so much more safe and supported in my relationships. No one likes feeling alienated from the communities they participate in, especially during the hard school years. Knowing who I was and the story I carried was common; having people in my life who accommodated me, nurtured my relationship with myself, and helped me grow would have been so meaningful to me then. And it is all the more meaningful to me now for having gone so long without it. I find myself hoping that it’s a sign of progress, of more and more spaces like this coming into being as we work towards equality and acceptance. We all deserve to have communities that truly welcome every part of us.