LGBTQ+ Hookup Culture
The experience of being a queer high schooler can be lonely and alienating, especially if you are either not out or don’t know many other students that are queer. Living in Los Ángeles, I am afforded the privilege of being out at my high school and it has been not only a tolerant experience, but an accepting experience. Seeing the rainbow flags and “Everyone is Welcome Here” posters hung around cafés, bookstores, clothing departments, etc has shown me the importance of representation. Yet, despite this acceptance, it has been difficult meeting many queer students.
Going to a small private high school doesn’t leave many options from casual hook ups to romantic relationships. Despite acceptance within city or even schools, other factors such as religious backgrounds, familial values, etc can keep many students from being openly out outside of school. The heteronormative curriculum of sex ed makes understanding safe sex and consent culture even more difficult and adds fuel to the already alienating experience. The LGBTQ+ community still faces much hatred and shame when coming out, creating much fear and anxiety surrounding a part of their identity that should be empowering. This in addition to the lack of sex ed representation leads to shame-based perceptions surrounding relationships. The lack of conversation on mental health in conjunction with grappling with identity, especially with dedicated professionals such as counselors due to fear only subverts even confusion and mental health issues. However, social media and burst in the app culture has dramatically changed much of the experience of queer high schoolers around the world.
On an individual level, many students look towards dating apps such as Grindr or OkCupid (many high school students post they are looking for other high school students despite the age limit of the apps). Despite the negative connotations of “screening” people online, for queer people, it is especially important to be able to find others like them. Although dating apps stated purpose is usually for casual hook-ups, users have started to find friends and long-time partners. Each dating app has distinctive characteristics/purposes that allow people to find others with the same intentions.
In addition, social media is an ever-growing resource to learn, connect, and feel included within the LGBTQ+ community. From queer instagram models to YouTube channels dedicated to sharing coming out stories and teaching inclusive sex ed, the online world can create friendships from around the world. Even if you aren’t in a place to come out to your family or friends, the online world gives you a place to be out and gain courage from watching videos from those who are out. The anonymity of the online world is the last place that anyone would think to find a supportive safe space. However, the mutual understanding of being closeted allows for thriving safe LGBTQ+ safe spaces online. This is not to make it seem like these spaces are a positive utopia, but the positivity and amount of changed lives due to these spaces outweighs the occasional hateful comments.
Whether it be figuring out their sexuality, finding courage to come out, or simply feeling a little less alone, social media has made an enormous impact on me and the LGBTQ+ community. This is not to say that social media can ever replace having a real life community supporting you, but rather it provides access and openness to all that are in uncontrollable living situations.