In Australia, many schools don’t cover issues specific to youth with diverse gender and sexuality. Things like safer-sex is brushed over, or ignored completely. It is because of this that many young people at turning to the internet to get the kind of education their straight peers receive as a matter of course. For some, their home computer is fine. For others, their online privacy at home may be compromised for a number of reasons (shared computer, parental filters, public location). For many, their library computer is the next step.
Removing this access has a number of negative results. This can mean that our youth are prevented from connecting with the wider LGBTQ community, or finding out where else they can access information or support services. It can also be dangerous when such filters block information regarding safe sex. Perhaps most importantly, allowing these filters to block any reference to sexuality reinforces to vulnerable youth an idea that they are second class or abnormal, which is highly damaging to self-esteem and mental health.
Earlier this year, a high school in Missouri, USA, was busted for having internet filters which allowed students access to plenty of anti-gay content, while blocking websites which provided a positive or supportive view [ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/26/education/missouri-school-district-questioned-over-anti-gay-web-filter.html?_r=1 ]. This is not uncommon. All too often, websites like Exodus International is classified as ‘religious’ content, but pro-gay websites are listed as containing information of a sexual nature.
This form of discrimination is particularly difficult to spot, as users need to actively seek such information to discover its absence, rather than it being spotted in passing. But it exists, and everyone should be aware of the dangers of both free and commercial internet filter.
Want to see just how biased your internet filters are? Take a look at these links, and see just how many from either end of the spectrum have been blocked at your school, work and home.
Exodus International [www.exodusinternational.org ]
People Can Change [ www.peoplecanchange.com ]
Living Waters Ministries [ http://livingwatersaustralia.org/ ] -Promotes and provides “conversion therapy”
Bowers v. Hardwick [ http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0478_0186_ZS.html ] - A 1986 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy
Westboro Baptist Church [ www.godhatesfags.com]
Klu Klux Klan [ www.kkk.com] -Notorious American hate-groups
Positive LGBTQ websites
Human Rights Campaign [http://www.hrc.org]
Equal Love [ www.equallove.info ] -Campaigns for marriage equality
GLSEN [ http://www.glsen.org ] -Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
LAWRENCE et al. v. TEXAS [ http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=02-102 ] - The 2003 Supreme Court ruling that held that laws in the US criminalizing sodomy were unconstitutional
Whosoever [http://www.whosoever.org ] - An online magazine for LGBTQ Christians
By Suzie Day