A Safe Web of Community

Dec 8, 2023 | 2024 Winter - Bi+ World Wide Web

By Lara Zielinsky

I’ve been bisexual all my life. I only labeled myself bi, though, after connecting with other people on the World Wide Web. I’m older than the web, grew up in a rural area, and attended a rural college. When I finally got to a city, the web was ubiquitous enough that I found like-minded people online for all sorts of things. The first people I came out to were online. The bulletin boards and forums, email lists, and nascent websites for fanfiction became my community places.

It was only after this online beginning that I found a physical and local Gay and Lesbian Center. There were not a lot of bisexuals, but there were others who struggled with some of the same issues. The fact that I’d found people like me online led me to help the Gay & Lesbian Center’s outreach to bisexuals. I figured there were more people like me, hiding behind screen names or straight-passing in their daily lives, who might be able to become more visible if they felt supported in real life.

For twenty years now, I have lived my authentic self, thanks to the confidence gained from my safe and welcoming start online. Now though, there’s a conservative right-wing nut (not the orange one, but the one in our governor’s mansion) threatening LGBTQ lives and livelihoods, criminalizing our rights to free assembly and free speech, and making real-life spaces unsafe.

My local community canceled several Pride events because they could not be assured by local police or governments that their list of activities wouldn’t bring down the state on their heads. Books about our experiences are being banned from public libraries and schools. School Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) are being disbanded, and teachers are told sponsoring one will lead to dismissal.

I’m also an author and participated in a promo encouraging signups to author newsletters. On social media, I wrote, “Due to book bans, signing up for an author’s newsletter may soon be the only way some writers can reach you with their stories.”

It’s not a comfortable way to live, but at least online we can organize to get our rights back. With open carry laws being what they are now, showing up at a protest in some areas may literally mean someone shooting and killing us. We’ll still do it, but like those who organized the Civil Rights movement, it’s a reality we must prepare for.

The internet has been a safe place for sharing our experiences, circulating books, organizing protests, and so much more community-defining activity. While there are trolls, I find far more love than hate online. I have no doubt that the World Wide Web will serve as an underground railroad for helping those in the queer community (and those who are questioning) move to safer places and bring in those willing to help us fight for our rights.

Lara Zielinsky lives in Orlando, Florida.

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