75% of queer gen Zers come out online first
The internet remains the foremost safe space for LGBTQ+ people looking to express themselves.
Still from Boy Erased
A study by Tinder — recently brought to light by Nyx Cosmetics as a reaction to their new Safe Space Sessions initiative to help queer people discuss the semantics of ‘coming out’ in 2020 — shows that 75% of LGBTQ+ generation Z-ers choose to make their queerness public online before they do in person.
Yesterday, in the UK and US, was National Coming Out Day. If you spent any time on social media, you will have noticed the variety of stories being recounted by people of all sexualities and gender identities -- no two the same. Coming out, for queer people, is a process. Sometimes it’s lengthy, drawn out by self doubt, the affliction of affecting others around you, and the continued threat of life changing after you’ve vocalised how you feel.
For others, it’s a moment that occurs out of their control: stolen from them by mouthy school friends or prying parents. But for many queer people, it’s something they’ve not yet experienced -- either out of fear of rejection or the circumstances making being openly queer a volatile, life-threatening situation. Perhaps that’s why so many of us ease into it at first, seeking solace in the internet instead.
It’s hardly surprising. The covert nature of queerness -- once expressed in secret letters or paintings, or in public rendezvous in places off the beaten path -- has been associated with survival. We pad ourselves in bubble wrap for our formative years, before we know the world around us is ready to accept us for who we are. The advent of the internet made this easier, particularly for younger queers who didn’t have the freedom to forge connections in person, but were often left to their own devices with a laptop, and could spend hours scrawling message boards and Tumblr making sense of themselves.
The internet is framed as a terrifying place for queer people, and rightly so: in some weird subsects of it, queer people are victimised or villainised, framed as dangerous people. But there are just as many, if not more places in which the LGBTQ+ community gather. As younger and younger teenagers own smartphones and other tech, there are more opportunities for them to feel less afraid, meeting others their age who are in similar situations, afraid to speak out. But the shared reliance that’s born from that often helps them come out earlier, allowing them to live life more joyously from that point forward.
And for those who can’t risk the possibility of coming out as queer while under the same roof as their parents, that suffocating feeling of keeping your identity locked up is lifted when you find someone on the internet who’s in the same situation that you are. Maybe the long-term plan is not only to create a world in which understanding your queerness at a young age is normalised, but to protect those pre-existing spaces that help those not lucky enough to have the opportunity to come out to their relatives, due to precarious living situations or their carers’ beliefs. It might be a first step for some, but for others, it’s their only precious outlet for the foreseeable future.