“For these women, online communities have provided a safe haven in which they can discuss feelings, test identities, and gather support” (Cooper 83).
After seeing the effects of an internet LGBT community, I immediately thought back to the Stonewall Uprising. I remember one man in the documentary commenting about his nervousness when going to the gay rally in New York. He stated, “I saw the man next to me, and I said ‘Please there let me more than ten of us.” Despite the lack of communication in 1969, the gay community was still able to gather enough followers for the gay rally, but it makes modern day observers questions what would have happened if the Internet was available to these people. According to Cooper, technology, especially the internet, would have immensely influenced the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
While the internet could spread word around quicker, I was more interested studying the composition of these females in their conversation. I noticed that in Sherry’s case, when most of the other lesbian chatters replied, they strongly used the term “we” in their rhetoric.
“…it’s how we grow”
“We care and are here to support you.”
“We all make choices…”
This constant use of “we” created a sense of community in this internet chat room. It definitely “saves” Sherry because if she could not relate to these women on a personal level (which is often hard to do via internet), she might have not gained enough courage to file for a divorce or to even become a later respondent herself. Clearly, terminology plays a huge role in the forum to help unite not just lesbians, but lesbians with the same problems, together.
These chat room conversations did not follow any kind of rigid structure. People felt free to use all caps, multiple punctuations, abbreviations, etc.
“u just have to take control…”
“NOTHING LASTS FOREVER…”
“Thank you all so much!!!”
This freedom of expression leads these women to tear down boundaries created for them by the heteronormative community. Being able to write any way they want equates to being able to express themselves in any way they want. Hence, once the rigid structure is removed, the LGBT community can find a “safe haven.”
Cooper’s last statement about the internet being completely “risk-free” or “open” shows ignorance on her part. Surely the internet has opened many doors for LGBT communication. It might have even helped save Shelly’s life, but the internet can also prove to be very destructive. When I was at a very low point in my life, I also sought out other women who were oppressed under my religion to see what options are out there for me. While many girls assured me that things will get better and that sometimes it is smart to break away from tradition, some extreme conservatists on the internet damned me to hell or called me a “slut.” Some went on to cite texts in the Quran that would change my mind, and prove to me that a relationship outside of religion is a sin. This type of material can cause extreme depression in the reader’s life. While I was enthusiastic about finding out that I am not the only one, I was also discouraged and steered to thinking that maybe my actions were sinful. While it might have been easy for me to push past these doubts, others might find great difficulty in ignoring hostility. When people are placed behind a computer screen, it becomes easier for them to talk, but it also becomes easier for them to attack. Therefore, it would be safer for Cooper to say that closed internet communities, or private internet forums, prove to be a safe haven for lesbian women. However, dangers of being bullied are always present, and they should not be ignored. If my case could be so widely unaccepted by some people, the amount of hate messages the LGBT community must receive via the Internet, in one day alone, is unimaginable. It would be best for Cooper to point out the benefits as well as the setback for creating an Internet community.