What has become particularly interesting to me of late is the encounter between sexuality and the internet—in particular, Tumblr. Anonymity has always come as a double-edged sword, but for those of us who located ourselves within the queer community, it has certainly provided a freedom that the face to face world never could. Suddenly, meeting and talking to other queer-identified individuals didn’t require outing one’s self to the outside world; Google and a thorough purging of internet history meant there was room to explore what could not yet be spoken aloud, a vast array of resources to help mend the uncertainty. It offered the sort of validation and promise that had for some of us been largely overshadowed by terror.
In many ways, these possibilities have remained the same; for those who are young and unsure—or old unsure—there are still queer communities, and queer resources, likely more than ever before, to be found online. But more and more, in mainstream internet culture, the slippage between sexualities has become apparent. No one really blinks at finding attractive male and female celebrities fangirled about thoroughly on the same blog; no one really blinks when this fangirling blurs a multitude of exclamation points with sexually charged comments. The Tumblr line between wanting someone and wanting to be someone, particularly in the case of female celebrities, is very rarely kept a binary question.
That isn’t to say that no one lists their sexuality, and that certainly isn’t to say that no one claims it, or has very strong stakes in it—and it also isn’t to say that no attempts are ever made at definitive policing—but even those who identify as, for example, gay or straight, often do not let that wholly confine their focus on a variety of attractive individuals. Some are able to express a kind of fluidity that the outside world is less likely to allow; normally stratified categories have the opportunity to exist in a less pointedly divided world. The concept of sexual “exceptions” made for celebrities has, to some degree, become both more and less relevant, perhaps best exemplified by a Tumblr text post that has earned over a hundred thousand notes, which first began “there’s always that one celebrity that makes you question your celebrity” and ended up circulating with a response that went something like “one? more like 28037434.” Which, despite the hyperbole, would of course make them less exceptions and more a kind of recognition of a dynamic sexuality.
Of course, this recognizable fluidity has also inspired a trend that has emerged before: the idea that labels are irrelevant, and we “shouldn’t” put in identifiable marker upon sexuality, echoes label-free mantras that have come before and will no doubt continue to persist. And though many parts of Tumblr, as many parts of the rest of the internet, are abound with problematic things, it seems to lead to the question of an ideal world. What does it mean, to have such a large part of a social networking that has such express interest in (frequently male, but not solely) same-sex couples? Where does the line blur between support and love and fetishization? What does it mean to inhabit a space defined as straight to the non-online world? What does it mean that girls who may not have a vested interest in queer rights may still post pictures of hot female celebrities and tag them “take me”?
This collision of minority and mainstream culture is fascinating in ways that seem in part to destabilize the boundaries that existed elsewhere—though whether this destabilization foretells a similar kind in the outside world, and whether this destabilization is healthy are both questions without easy answers. The potential for a much more nuanced version of sexuality exists—but does that only exist in a world that dismisses the necessity of a queer community, of queer institutions? It is not as if there will be direct evidence in any immediate future, but it seems important to imagine a world that might exist after some of the dust clears. After all, as Game of Thrones’ Talisa says, “You’re fighting to overthrow a king, and yet you have no plan of what comes afterward?” While prejudice may not be a king, we are certainly striving for a world where the prejudiced are not the ones wearing the crowns—and the integral nature of social media in its outcome will only increase from here. Perhaps it sounds like a better kind of world, perhaps a worse one, but when the next battle reaches an end it will at least be different.