Tag Archives: LGBT

Real vs Virtual Advocacy


The narratives of transgender individuals expressed through new media challenges and debunk the myths placed against them. Anne-Fausto Sterling in her piece The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female are not Enough boldly states that in trying to maintain a norm of a two sex binary and heteronormative culture, society exerts biopower and governmentality that police the bodies of transgender and intersex individuals. Using new media as a mode of social change, trans-blogging has given the lived experiences of the LGBT community visibility in the blogosphere. While promoting visibility, I also agree that new media is not the only solutions or mode of caring out a social change. As a strategy used by the LBGT community and networks, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

From Google Images (creative commons)

Elisabeth Jay Friedman’s The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America explores how the “information and communication technology” (ICT) has empowered socially marginalized individuals to broadcast their ideas. The first LGBT blog I found, “Stuff Queer People Need to Know” has a blog entry that spread the word on the Transgender pride rally and picnic that took place in Chicago. This form of consciousness-raising gives visibility and stimulates activity within the marginalized community. Queer and Trans-blogging is using the internet as a method for promoting civil society advocacy. Yet a concern for merely examining the LGBT community’s activity online for advocating political change is raised by Friedman. It is definitely necessary to view how the community utilizes technology to increase their presence in new media but as Friedman stated “they provide only a partial view of the relationship between technology and political change.” For instance although a “Lesbian Health Fact Sheet” has been developed and shared on the internet by the National LGBT Cancer Network, it does not reflect the treatment, exclusion and discriminiation experienced by the LGBT community. The rate between change in the material world vs. the virtual one can be uneven.

The complications of ICT can be counterproductive and create instances of misinformation and miscommunication. It can also place pressures on established NGO’s and other vehicles of social change to utilizing the internet in order to be considered a vital resource in campaigning for gender equality (Friedman 4). As the blogosphere has much to contribute to gender equality campaigns, it can also be frustrating in areas where there is a “digital divide”. Not having access to the internet and computers as well as not knowing how to use these tools counteracts the “fluid” and “horizontal” production and distribution of knowledge and ideas within the LGBT community and other gender equality groups and NGO’s. As inspiring the argument is on ICT developing as a vital resource to the LGBT community, whether if it with the low cost that ICT aids in consciousness raising (via emails as opposed to printing flyers), I argue that it does not reveal the diversity and complexity within the LGBT community as fluently as some might argue. Both field and cyber activism are viable ways of enhancing gender equality.

Giving general visibility to the LGBT community online, ICT has helped promote interconnectivity and crucial information for gender equality campaigns. Also providing a form of online autonomy, new media has given the marginalized LBGT community many alternative media outlets.  Some examples are Kate Bornstein, Jen Jack Gieseking, and Huffington Posts’ “Gay Voices” blog page. Providing visibility for the LGBT community is one of the main elements credited with new media. Not undermining the physical and field activism that has occurred and is still happening, but in the 21st century, visibility via the web is often equated to providing autonomy and independence to these communities from mainstream media outlets.

With collective action taken by NGO’s and other groups advocating for social change in the LGBT community, there have been benefits gained from technology as well as drawbacks. It has decreased the distance between common initiatives  on an international level, promoting regional and local awareness on violations against the rights of women and the LGBT community. Although much controversy follows the NGOization of feminist agendas, on an individual level it has allowed for a healthy does of self-expression.


VAWA’s Exclusions


In the isolated Alaskan villages where roads, reliable electricity and communication are undependable, “one in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape”. The New York Times article “For Native American Women, Scourge of Rape” provides insight on how Native American women are disproportionately susceptible to rape and other forms of sexual assault throughout all the reservations. The rate of sexual assault among Native American women is more than twice the national average. The stats become more alarming in rural villages where sexual assault has become a norm among the young Native American women.

The Violation Against Women Act (VAWA), passed in 1994, allocated federal funds to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women. The recent reauthorization of VAWA raised controversy as many House Representatives believe that the new provisions still does not protect Native American women, the LGBT community as well as immigrant women. “Among those who commit crime of rape and domestic violence on reservations, 88 percent are non-Native offenders and under current law these abusers cannot be arrested or prosecuted on tribal lands,” stated in feministcampus.org.

What has been excluded from the VAWA is the ability for tribal courts to prosecute non-native Americans who are suspected of sexually harassing their Native American spouses and partners. Although this act is being reauthorized for the third time, there has been no proper and effective legislation to prevent or prosecute these cases of sexual assault that are disproportionately affecting Native women. Disagreement among American politicians plays a critical role in why legislation to protect Native American women, immigrant women and the LGBT community has been stagnant. The U.S senate fears that by empowering the tribal courts to prosecute and investigate sexual assault cases, that it would expand the tribal courts authority. In order to subordinate the tribal Native Americans, the U.S government is willing to allow native women to feel less safe and more susceptible to sexual abuse.

The hindrances that Native American villagers face in terms of preventative measures and treatment for sexually abused women are countless.  They include shortages of supplies in Native American hospitals such as a shortage of sexual assault kits, lack of birth control and lack of trained staff who can prepare rape examinations which is needed for documentation in rape court cases.  There is hope that with the current fight to reauthorize VAWA that the funds directed towards protecting women who are sexually abused can reach all victims equally.