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Queer Visibility and Support in the Digital Age

Seven tools from Hopelab and partners to support identity affirmation

When considering the current generation of young people, more folks feel safe sharing their identities at a younger age than previous generations. This increasing openness has become possible, in part, by the social connections made on digital platforms. On social networks, people quickly see, learn, and are able to affirm their identities. Young people bring their unique lived experiences to social media spaces and have different experiences with the content and communities they find there. Considering those nuances with attention to queer, Black, and Brown youth is essential as we build tools to support visibility and identity.

A queer xennial experience

My teenage years, particularly the start of high school, were pretty interesting. Outwardly I presented confidence – I did well in school, I was a jokester and liked to make people laugh, I never felt left out of activities, and I kept myself pretty busy. Given all of that, one of the things that was confusing to me was that I wasn’t happy. Thinking back, I know now that something was missing; I felt different from my friends but couldn’t understand why. Growing up in rural America in the 90s meant that relatable representations of queerness were extremely rare, leaving no space for me to figure out the missing piece. Not only was there limited visibility, but the little that existed was negative and scary in terms of hate crimes at a national level. So, while I got through high school pretty well, I was clinically depressed for much of it, and it took years for me to understand and eventually embrace my queer identity.

As a clinical psychologist, I now know there’s a term for what I (and many other queer young people) experienced. Internalized stigma happens when we take negative attitudes and things said by others about our identity and feel them inside as if they are true. It’s a powerful force that makes it difficult for young people to thrive as their authentic selves. For young people who experience stigma, lack community, or feel unsafe, social media can be a lifeline – and has been found especially important as a source of support and connection for queer young people.

Building effective and inclusive resources

Dramatically different from my generation, more than one in five Gen Z adults, ranging in age from 18 to 26 in 2023, identify as LGBTQ+. Among high school students, that number is one in four, a significant increase from 11 percent in 2015 to 26 percent in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These statistics highlight a growing acceptance and recognition of diverse identities among young people.

However, we still have a ways to go in protecting the visibility of queer youth online. Hopelab’s 2024 National Survey data found that queer young people more often encounter transphobic and homophobic comments compared to their straight/cisgender peers, and 78 percent of LGBTQ+ young people curate their feed to better align with their interests. These findings highlight the need for more resources and tools that ensure queer youth feel safe, supported, and empowered.

Seven resources from Hopelab and partners

The following resources offer support to queer young people, helping them navigate their identities and foster a community where they can thrive.

Centerlink, The Community of LGBTQ+ Centers
375 LGBTQ centers worldwide providing essential services, promoting growth, wellness, and connectivity in their communities.
Guides built for and with LGBTQ+ teens to help you explore your identity and support your mental health.

Lex is a welcoming space for social interaction and expression—where LGBTQ+ people can make friends, build relationships, have fun, and belong.

Q Chat Space
A digital LGBTQ + center where you can join the live chat professionally facilitated discussion groups.

TRACE is a mobile application created to foster a brighter, more gender-affirming future for transgender and non-binary individuals.

Trans Lifeline
A grassroots hotline and microgrants nonprofit organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis – for the trans community, by the trans community.

Trevor Space
TrevorSpace is an affirming international community for LGBTQ young people ages 13-24.

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