The advent of the Internet brought with it the hopes that gender binaries would become a thing of the past. Marginalized groups such as feminists and the LGBTQ community had expectations that those walls would collapse making way for solidarity and a global community free of bias. While the feminist movement found a great foothold in Web 2.0 as a platform, historical patriarchal systems have still found a way to emerge anew online. Despite the lack of a ‘real’ body and the ability to invent new identities on the web, gender remains highly relevant and still serves as an important reference point. Online profiles and social networking sites will automatically require a new user to clarify their gender as male or female. But what about those who fall in between?
Anonymity and the ability to converse with others from the safety of one’s home computer presents an all new experience for members of the LGBTQ community, most of whom have never had the courage to speak openly about their sexuality. Safety from physical abuse is quite enticing in a world wrought with homophobia and violence. After the introduction of the Web 2.0, gay and lesbian individuals began to come out in droves, hoping that they could finally have a positive space to live and grow. However, heteronormativity remains pervasive. The very fact that gender binary is technically inscribed into social network websites by developers casts doubt on the truly participatory nature of the Internet.
Yet, the tools that the Web offer provides, such as worldwide access to info and the ease of communication via weblogs and video uploading pages like YouTube, give this community a chance to speak out in unprecedented ways. While this equal opportunity for males and females alike to reach a global community has made it increasingly difficult for feminists to justify their cause, the LGBTQ community has risen to a forefront in society, as far as relevance and visibility. Unfortunately this poses somewhat of a threat to feminists, who often see transgender women as attempting to infiltrate womanhood, and transgender men as having “penis envy”. These defensive stances are dangerous as they threaten to further hurt the feminist cause.
In my opinion, both groups have a continued opportunity to create understanding for their causes and help break down barriers created by gender roles in society. This can only be achieved with a common effort. As Carstensen mentions, this study is ongoing and “demands everybody’s willingness to learn, control, and develop new forms of medial self-control”. Identity, while important to the individual, does not have to be determined by one’s past, but by their future choices, actions, beliefs, conversations, understanding, interactions, relationships, and willingness to progress.