Int. Day for Countering Hate Speech: Why We Need a Safe Online Space for the LGBTIQ+ Community
TW: Explicit language referring to hate speech, violence, and sexual assault.
We want to take the opportunity this day on 18th of June to raise awareness about all the hate that continues to target our friends, families, colleagues, and fellow human beings. Hate speech is any type of communication–whether in writing, speech, or behavior–that uses derogatory language or attacks someone based on traits such as gender, disability, race, ethnicity, nationality, color, and other attributes that make up a person.
Hate speech typically targets already vulnerable groups, aiming to further stigmatize who they are. This is even more important in the current context, where hatred can be easily spread online and can easily be dismissed on the basis of it being “just a comment.”
However, these are not simple comments. Attacking someone because of their identity is never acceptable, as it leads to detrimental effects on their well-being and makes the internet less welcoming and more hostile for marginalized groups. Yet, it continues to happen on a daily basis, and the LGBTIQ+ communities are among the most targeted groups. But identifying as queer can attract hate beyond queerness. Being queer and anything else outside of the social norms of “normality” places someone at increased risk for hate speech.
To shed light on the complexity of intersectionality, the strength of human beings, and the beauty of resilience, we are bringing you interviews with LGBTIQ+ individuals who talk about their experiences with the online space. Their thoughts unveil not only the harm made through hate speech, but also how the internet could become a safer space for queer people.
🎙 Thanyok Tawanrat (They/Them)
“Many years ago, I submitted my picture to be displayed at an exhibition for queer people, together with the story of my coming out as a non-binary person, and it was reported online by the press. At the time, very few people were familiar with the non-binary identity, and I also suffered from depression. That made it more difficult for people to understand that my non-binary identity did not result from my depression.
I remember that when my picture was published online, it was met with an overwhelming number of hate comments. I was only able to read a couple of them because they were so hurtful. I had to leave social media for one or two weeks after that.
A comment said: “No wonder you are this way. You seem truly crazy.” It is horrible. The point of telling a story about my identity as a non-binary person who has depression was to communicate that my mental illness has nothing to do with me being non-binary. For me, mental illnesses and gender identities are separated. I want to dismantle the stigma attached to them. The fact that I have a mental illness should not be weaponized to deny or disregard my identity; if you label being non-binary as a mental illness, you are disrespecting my identity.
Online space should be tolerant and free of judgment. None of us was born with hatred towards LGBTIQ+ people, but this hatred is embedded in all aspects of our society, and we grow up with it. All of us can reflect on our prejudice and ask ourselves what influences it. If we are aware of this, we can end the cycle of violence and bring change.
It is impossible for online space to change as society evolves. Each of us has the power to initiate change in different areas of the social structure. Then, the digital space will be more welcoming of diversity and more sensitive. Policies that guarantee online safety will follow.
Whenever I saw violence against LGBTIQ+ people in online space, I reported it to the platform, but the feedback I received was that the platform did not recognize it as “violence.” For the LGBTIQ+ community, it is clear which action is violence.
Social media platforms must be more sensitive in dealing with gender-based violence online. The most effective method, in my view, is to ensure that the employees at tech companies are diverse. With a diversity in identities, we will see an improvement in sensitivity, not only in gender and sexuality.”
🎙 Tanruthai ‘Pim’ Thanrut (She/Her)
“I was part of a group that performed the Thai version of “A Rapist in Your Path.” During the time that video was published, awareness of gender and sexuality was not yet widespread, and most of the comments were hateful. That’s why I decided to leave a comment about my personal experience.
I shared what it is like to face violence as an LGBTIQ+ person and how hostile the world is towards us. My family doesn’t understand who I am. I was physically abused by my brother. On top of that, I survived an attempted rape by a man who wanted to “turn me straight.” He didn’t believe I am a lesbian and insisted that I identify this way because I haven’t found the right man.
In the replies to my comment, I was told that it happened because I was a bad person. I was asked: “Did you give him signs?”; another person said: “You deserved it.” I was blamed for what happened. My goal has always been for my case to be the last one.
The internet should be a place where we respect one another, no matter our beliefs. People from many generations are online and they have invoked their age to silence others. I’ve witnessed the older generations saying that we must listen to them because they are older, but having any discussion should be based on mutual respect.
Exchanging stories or ideas would be easier if respect is promoted. This is especially important since many people can benefit from the experiences that are shared online. Once online space is more respectful, more and more people will be willing to share their stories.
There is pain and courage in every story. In conveying it to other people, you can be healed, and the response you receive might also offer you emotional support. The internet will be a much more compassionate place if we feel safer to be vocal about our struggles.”
🎙 Wutthichai ‘Peach’ Phomasorn (She/Her)
“I cannot deny that I have faced discrimination in online space. When I finished my teaching degree, I posted a picture to celebrate my achievement, and a comment I received was: “If this is how the teacher acts, how would the students behave?”
It is believed that to be a teacher, you must comply with societal norms and be a role model. They are worried that I will teach students to become like me. For people outside the community, this may not seem serious, but as part of the LGBTIQ+ community, this is not okay.
For the first few times I received these comments, they really let me down. They were insulting and stigmatizing. I started to doubt if I should be a teacher and thought that I may not be a good fit for this role because I am non-binary.
But as I became immersed more in the work for human rights and advocate with the LGBTIQ+ community, I have been able to look at the hate comments as motivation to move forward and to show them that I am capable.
Online hate speech, like the one I faced, will definitely have an impact on LGBTIQ+ people, especially those in fields related to education. Not everyone has a strong defense mechanism. Beyond negative effects on their emotions, hate speech might also affect their work.
In my imagination, a safe space is a space where everyone’s humanity is respected. I would like people in the LGBTIQ+ community to be seen equally as humans. When I post a picture of myself, I want to be regarded as a person who is a teacher. Not a queer teacher, but a teacher who is free to express herself.
Change has to start with us. If we recognize that this behavior is harmful to us, we should not do it to someone else because it will also be harmful to them. We should start small and then move to a bigger scale.”
🎙 Harid ‘Ice’ Wiriyaareetham (She/Her)
“Most recently, I joined a Pride Parade in Chiang Mai, and a picture of it was posted on social media. In that post, someone commented: “You’re not real men or women. Why are you asking for rights?”. Fortunately, many replied, asking the person to be more open-minded and that the world has progressed beyond that.
Many of my friends who are transgender have also experienced transphobia and hate online. It is especially the case for my transgender friends who are sex workers. They told me that their pictures were posted in a private group for people to bully and verbally harass them.
In the past, online space was much less friendly for LGBTIQ+ people, but the situation is better now. We used to have to hide because we were scared of criticism, but there is more tolerance today.
If there were no transgender people who opened themselves online, I might not have the same courage to express my true self, as I would be unsure of the feedback. But thanks to transgender influencers, I have learned a lot from their experiences.
To me, a safe online space is a safe zone where everyone is accepted and hate is completely eliminated. It is a place where we, LGBTIQ+ people, live to our full potential.
For online space to be safe, we have to encourage the acceptance of diversity. When online space is truly safe and welcomes more than cisgender heterosexual people, LGBTIQ+ would feel more comfortable in expressing themselves.
I want to ask my friends and family members who do not completely understand who I am to keep an open mind and realize that diversity exists. I don’t want to be seen as different. I want to be recognized and respected just like anybody else.”
#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings
✊🏻 Manushya Foundation stands in solidarity with victims of cyberbullying, hate speech, and hate crime online, and with the LGBTIQ+ community.
While you’re here, have a look at some of our previous work on hate speech and LGBTIQ+ issues, equality, and human rights:
It’s #PrideMonth!, June 1, 2023
Lesbian Visibility Day, April 26, 2023
Informative post on Why Family Acceptance for LGBTIQ+ Youth Matters, April 25, 2023
Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2023
Informative video on What It Is Like to be Southeast Asian and LGBTIQ+ in the Digital Space, March 2, 2023
Recap from 'LGBTQI Digital Media Activism and Counter-hate Speech – Experiences from Asia & Europe', December 15, 2022
#HateSpeech: How is online hate speech hurting feminist activists today?, September 25, 2022
International Day for Countering Hate Speech, June 18, 2022
#BiVisibilityDay: Let's talk about the "B" in LGBTQIA+, September 22, 2022
Raising awareness about How Representation of LGBTIQ+ Relationships in Thai Media Might Hurt Real Communities, February 15, 2022
SLAPPs target everyone, including an LGBTIQ+ Activist Threatened to be Sued for Defamation, January 13, 2022
Why We Must Support 1448: the difference between marriage equality and civil partnership, December 19, 2021
Thailand UPR III Factsheet on the Situation of LGBTIQ+ Persons, including Youth and Children, September 29, 2021
Thailand UPR III Joint Submission on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Rights in Thailand, March 21, 2021
UN, International Day for Countering Hate Speech, 18 June, available at: https://www.un.org/en/observances/countering-hate-speech
UN, Marking International Day for Countering Hate Speech, Secretary-General Calls for Renewed Efforts Promoting Peaceful, Just Societies, (June 9, 2023), available at: https://press.un.org/en/2023/sgsm21828.doc.htm
The Alan Turing Institute, Detecting East Asian prejudice on social media, (May 8, 2020), available at: https://www.turing.ac.uk/research/research-projects/hate-speech-measures-and-counter-measures/detecting-east-asian-prejudice-social-media