To this day, transsexuals struggle through the processes of acceptance and transitioning while typically facing rejection from family and friends . Members of the LGBTQ+ community, or people still attempting to “come out of the closet”, struggle to face their true identity due to the fear of being discriminated against, not being accepted by others, or simply being judged . One can just imagine the number of social barriers and discrimination a member of the LGBTQ+ community faces throughout their lifespan. However, in order to help overcome the barriers, digital media (television shows, movies, blogs, social media, etc.) has become a part of the solution.
The online world allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to explore, discover, and use self- expression while having the option of being anonymous the entire time. Anonymity allows individuals to openly discuss whatever they may desire without having the fear of being judged later on. The internet is where they can view or read about who they are or might be, find answers, observe behaviours associated with their emerging identities, and continue on with revealing who they truly are to the world around them . This can be very important for individuals struggling to find their identities. Not everyone feels comfortable openly talking about their personal struggles they face within themselves. Interactive media allow LGBTQ+ individuals to look into social relationships through mediated channels that often serve a protective function while discovering their identities on their own terms . LGBTQ+ individuals who interacted with others online in group chats also experience greater self-acceptance and a sense of social acceptance as well. Online interaction with other LGBTQ+ individuals was also found to be beneficial to their psychological well-being as it reduces the inner conflict between the marginalized self-aspect and cultural standards which makes them feel more comfortable in sharing their acknowledged identities with others . Furthermore, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to turn to computer-mediated communication to talk about the sensitive issue on their sexuality rather than family communication in order to reduce feelings of loneliness and effects on their self-esteem . Along with feelings of belonging, interacting with other individuals of marginalized identities increases the feelings of equality as they come to know that they are not the only ones facing similar difficulties understanding or accepting their identities.
Television shows and movies help to unite and create an imagined community where all sexual and gender minorities are accepted, visible, and safe . Although many characters represented in the shows and movies, we watch can be very narrow and stereotypical, the visibility of sexual minorities within them still makes an impact in society as it places sexual minorities in the norm. The more we see the LGBTQ+ community, the more aware everyone is that they do exist and it’s completely normal. Thus, in contradiction to up until 1973, when homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness in the DSM-II. The increased visibility of marginalized LGBTQ+ identities definitely makes it easier for members of the community to “come out of the closet” and assimilate who they truly are. Many popular television shows, such as Modern Family, Will & Grace, The L Word, have represented the LGBTQ+ community in positive ways which aided in increasing visibility and acceptance. Viewers definitely obtain a greater understanding of sexual minorities like the LGBTQ+ community that go beyond the myths and stereotypes about them. For example, one myth is that same-sex couples cannot adopt and take care of a child as well as heterosexual couples can. However, in Modern Family, two men play the role of a gay couple who in fact have an adopted child who they very well take care of and support. The L Word is another great example as it portrays lives of a group of lesbians and bisexuals who eventually reveal their sexual identities after struggling through understanding them in the first place. Representing the community through movies and shows allows the LGBTQ+ community become more visible to the world which enable members of the community feel a sense of belonging and aids in overcoming self-stigma and barriers through the attempts of normalization made by such a widely used source.
As it’s typically known, being a member of a particular sexuality, such as the LGBTQ+ community, creates many barriers for them within the areas of social acceptance, employment, health, education, etc. Digital media’s impact in the area of social change has many upsides as it allows information to spread quickly with the simple press of a button. Digital media allows the LGBTQ+ community to stand unified together through social media and reach out to others seeking for answers and hope. Coming out and expressing one’s sexuality can be difficult, yet the internet allows everyone to anonymously learn and ask questions about who they think or might be. Many are also afraid of not being socially accepted by their peers or others, especially the youth. The media, however, has aided in the social acceptance of the LGTBQ+ community allowing them to prosper in their lives. Digital media itself has created a huge impact as it can easily encourage acts of social movement much easier than trying to make a social change without phones, computers, internet, or media. I, personally, do not believe that social change, awareness, and acceptance amongst the LGBTQ+ community would have improved and would continue to without the use of digital media. Nonetheless, with media being a universal source, eliminating myths and stereotypes about sexual minorities through digital media assists in self-acceptance and reducing barriers one may face. With the use of digital media, we as society are able to place homosexuality in the norm while increasing visibility of the marginalized sexual/gender identities.