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LGBT Communities & Broadband

“Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future”

Please download a copy of the paper here.

Given the many societal and political challenges encountered by LGBT individuals on a daily basis, Internet and broadband technologies play a critical role for the LGBT community in all aspects of life. The LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute’s newest research project, a Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future, released June 26, 2014, brings together a wide range of research to explore the importance of broadband technologies to the LGBT community. The research paper builds on the National Broadband Plan, released in 2010 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to address the issue of universal availability and access to broadband Internet. As the National Broadband Plan did not discuss the unique technology needs of the LGBT community, a Vision for Inclusion makes policy recommendations that could ensure the safe and universal access to broadband technologies for LGBT people. Similar to the National Broadband Plan, the Partnership opened the paper for public comment, giving LGBT individuals and allies the opportunity to share their views on the broadband needs of the community. A Vision for Inclusion lays out the different aspects of life in which LGBT people are impacted by broadband technologies, with some highlights discussed below:

Identity Formation & Community Building

The Internet affords unprecedented opportunities for LGBT people to explore their sexuality and to connect with the larger community. Given the importance of social media for young people, these platforms also play an increasingly important role in LGBT peoples’ coming out process. According to recent numbers by Pew Research, 43% of LGBT adults have disclosed their sexual orientation and gender identity on a social media platform. The same study also highlights the importance of the Internet for community building with 55% of LGBT adults indicating that they have met a friend online. A Vision for Inclusion also emphasizes the importance of the Internet in finding community-relevant information, especially benefitting LGBT youth in less accepting areas.

Access to Preventative Services & Healthcare

The Internet affords access to preventative healthcare services such as information on the transmission of HIV and other STDs. For those impacted by HIV and other STDs, various online platforms afford opportunities to find emotional support. Given the fear of discrimination by medical providers, LGBT individuals also use the Internet to find welcoming health services. Research also indicates that the Internet is becoming the prime resource for LGBT youth to access health-related information. For instance, a recent study by GLSEN shows that 81% of LGBT youth have used the Internet to find health information, as compared to 46% of non-LGBT youth.

Education, LGBT Youth & the Internet

In schools, online information can be used not only to help LGBT youth with identity negotiation and community building, but also to combat homophobia among non-LGBT youth. Despite these opportunities, online tools also entail new challenges for LGBT youth as they are at higher risk of encountering cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. A study by GLSEN shows that 42% of LGBT youth have encountered cyberbullying as compared to 15% of non-LGBT youth. At the same time, web filters in schools and libraries pose a challenge to LGBT youth as they do not only block access to harmful content, but also to positive and helpful LGBT-relevant information.