Because cyberbullying is even more dangerous for LGBT + people

Because cyberbullying is even more dangerous for LGBT + people

Online violence weighs more on LGBT + youth, often forced into double profiles or potentially devastating outings. Here's how to defend yourself

(photo: Unsplash) Deleting messages from strangers with insults and threats and banning authors of obscene advances and dick pic (pictures of genitals) has for some years become one of the frequent activities on social networks to which it is obliged Paola Capuano (the name is fictional), a 23-year-old person who defines himself as non-binary and bisexual, a medical student at a university in a large southern city and an LGBT + activist. He contacted me via Facebook when he learned that I would write about cyberbullying and this conversation - this is a significant detail - takes place via Messenger and not on the phone because "my parents are homophobic, with the lockdown I'm at home with them and I don't want make me feel ”.

This is an uneasiness that has united a large number of queer young people in the last year. Cyberbullying targets, in 33% of cases, gender identity and sexual orientation, affects especially the very young and is potentially more dangerous than other types of aggression because, as Paola's case makes clear, it often cannot be countered by relying on the family.

“As a“ woman ”- Paola tells me - it often happened to me to receive online advances, to receive unsolicited photographic material, insults to my lack of answers and so on. In short, felt and resentful facts, which every woman has experienced at least once unfortunately. What I have noticed is that I get a lot more direct messages, a lot more explicit material, a lot more insults when, for example, I post stories for bi / trans visibility day, when I post photos at prides, when I am more open about my sexual orientation. I received, from straight cis men, various messages like "come on I know you're a lesbian, let's have a threesome" "you don't know what my girlfriend and I would do to you" "you like kissing females, huh? You like it too ... "". When the rejection responses arrive, the insults and threats begin. "I would like to report, but with my family I cannot, so I delete everything and I am as careful as I can to those who I grant friendship on social networks", he adds.

A shield against hatred

Fighting cyberbullying, educating potential victims to better defend themselves and potential aggressors to understand the burden of pain they can inflict with their forays on the social profiles of friends and strangers, has been one of the activities that engages associations for several years lgbt + Italian. Alice Redaelli and Luigi Colombo are in charge of the Cig-Arcigay school group in Milan. "Cyberbullying has no breaks, it is pervasive, it reaches you everywhere because social media and messaging are integrated into the common life of children: you cannot escape unless you become a hermit, but it would be the total loss of sociality", they say.

One of the tips that are often given to boys and girls to defend themselves from cyberbullying is to exercise a very strict control over the circle of friends admitted to conversations and the content posted on the net. If this is generally valid advice for any person, towards LGBT + people it has a bitter taste: does it mean that they have to hide their identity? “Speaking with very young boys - says Colombo - they often told me they had double social profiles, one of which is anonymous. At first I did not understand, then it was explained to me that one is the "official" profile that precedes the coming out, the second, often anonymous, the one used to explore the world freely, following one's own identity ".
This is a specificity of the lgbt + world that is very delicate to deal with. While in the past queer people could "dose" their coming out by exposing themselves to increasingly wider circles of people, perhaps starting from contexts further away from their families of origin, social identities risk compromising this graduality. And outings are more frequent and potentially devastating. This is the case of Mario P., a young boy now 18 years old, who says: “At school I was often targeted by bullies, but I never came out to classmates. I remember a school boy who asked me if I had an anonymous profile that I had actually opened to follow lgbt + content that interested me. I denied it and it ended there, but I lived through days of terror ".

Education for the positive

For this reason the associations are committed above all on the front of positive education, towards the potential bullies, often with better results than you can imagine. The Arcigay circle of Naples Antinous, together with Pride Vesuvio Rainbow, organized several meetings in the schools of Torre Annunziata by Luciana Langella, psychologist and psychotherapist. “Bullying, not just cyber bullying, is a dynamic that is sustained by those who are silent, or those who laugh, or put a like on Facebook. For this reason, during the meetings we review all the dynamics through videos, comparisons, examples ”, they say. During one of these series of meetings, some "bullies" participated: "To the satisfaction of the school managers, the children understood the gravity of what was done and became passionate about the subject".

Raising awareness among children is a passage, but it is not the only one. "Positive education must be given to teachers, parents, health workers, generally well-rounded because the goal is that a boy and a girl can post a photo without being afraid to do so" explain Alice Redaelli and Luigi Colombo. However, for those who, despite these increasingly widespread contrasting actions, become victims of cyberbullying, the first advice to give is to remember that in any case they are never alone and that there is not only their family of origin to turn to: companions of class, teachers, coaches and other reference figures can help the young person who is a victim of cyberbullying to set up the first counter actions. Block unwanted content, report it, contact the postal police. Above all, always report. For oneself, but also for others.

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