Leone Kraus

Take This Survey: Social Media & the LGBT Community

Filed By Leone Kraus | October 17, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: lgbt social media, social media, social media ethics

I'm certain it's no surprise to readers of Bilerico that there isn't much research available survey.jpgon the LGBT community, and there certainly isn't much that pertains to the LGBT community's usage of social media or how those in the community may be negatively affected by it. If you follow my blog or posts on Bilerico, then you know that social media and ethics are key topics of interest to me, which is why I've chosen to do my final graduate paper on the topic.

There's no doubt that social media has given us the tools we need to reach and engage people at scale with our message and that social platforms have provided the opportunities we need to easily connect with likeminded people, such as those within the LGBT community.

But what about those who have been negatively affected by these platforms? What about those who have had their sexual identity or gender identity revealed when they didn't want it to, costing them their job, home, and even risking their general safety and security?

Since social media's inception, in particular Facebook, people have become accustomed to sharing just about anything, not only about themselves but about their peers too, on these platforms. As these platforms advance, there's been little in the form of guidelines that encourage people to question whether or not what a person shares may negatively affect someone else in their network. I hope that my research brings a voice to those who may be affected so that we can begin to consider the ethics that should come into play when using social media.

To help me, please take a moment to fill out this survey. I encourage you to share it with your broader networks. Thank you!


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The survey isn't structured in a way that's very accommodating to trans* identities. Generally speaking, "transgender" isn't a third gender category. Most trans people identify as either male or female; the way this question is currently set up people have to choose between telling you their actual gender and telling you their trans status (which I assume you might like to know).

J.h. is right, the representation of "Transgender/Gender Variant" as mutually exclusive of female and male is problematic to many in the trans communities, and to many transsexual folks in particular. Moreover, gay men are inexplicably lumped together with lesbian women but mutually exclusive of bisexual men and women. I tried to complete the survey but had to give up, when it failed to allow me to authentically represent myself and my social and inner identities-- an ironic metaphor for the world I was forced to grow up in.

Thank you both for your feedback on the survey! I'm sorry that you find the survey frustrating. I assure you that I did everything I could to work with people that counseled me on how to best ask the questions in the most simplest/direct of ways so that I didn't have a tremendous amount of data to sift through in the end. I was told that the best thing to do was to create a 'Transgender/Gender Variant' box that could be selected. I'm sorry that this does not give you what you need to appropriately express yourself. Unfortunately, I can not change the question without republishing the survey, thus giving me an entirely new set of data. I will make note of your recommendations for future surveys I may find myself doing. Again, thank you!

And still live in, apparently, as far as cis gay ppl are concerned.

Honestly, the survey would have been better had you just made it about sexual orientation and not included gender identity at all. Most of the questions aren't really about gender identity nor does it seem to have a lot to ask about gender identity expressed within the context of social media. I can't imagine there's any data about trans people that's actually usable in research. Really Leone, you don't HAVE to say LGBT if we're just going to be tacked on.

I'd actually argue that gender identity would be VERY interesting since the "passing" is typically perfered by many who identity as trans. This of course is surpassed by the need for more trans research. There is so little research on the trans community and I for one would love to see more. I work for an LGBT Health Center and we're looking to do more research with this community which is often ignored.

How can we create best practices without more knowledge?

Really interesting topic Leone.

Yes, I cant for the life of me understand why gays and lesbians want to include trans ppl in their little activities. It's very rare that whatever they are doing really relates to us, esp if they have to take the time to actually build us in to the context or even be bothered to learn anything about us. I guess they feel like they have to hook us on the end somewhere to be considered nice ppl?

I get really tired of clueless gay ppl trying to cover trans ppl. I wish they would just leave us out, personally, unless they are going to actually understand things enough to know what they are talking about.

Maybe, some of us include trans people because we have friends who are and KNOW how bloody hard it is for them have any kind of inclusion? Forget gay or lesbian... my trans friends usually have it WAAAAAAAY worse than me... and I'm bi. (Bi people get looked down on by gays and lesbians both, you see.) Not that I'm wanting to sound mean, cause I'm not a mean person. I'm just a touch hurt at the bitterness there, Carol. Still, I imagine that bitterness has good cause.

Well, it has good cause to me. If you don't agree, that is fine. I just hope when you include your friends and other trans ppl, that you actually take their reality into account, rather than some superficial notion of what that reality is.

Thinking about it a bit more, Leone is young and seems to be into being hip, so I wonder if she lives in one of the gay enclaves somewhere, and most of the trans ppl she knows are genderqueer, and *do* identify as third gender or at least as not male or female.

Or you could just give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was trying to be as inclusive as possible. But then again, that's not something Bilerico commenters are known for. No one ever assumes best intentions here - only the worst. I find it amusing that folks are complaining that trans folk are "just tacked on" and yet if they were left out entirely - as one commenter suggests - there would have been the uproar over "Why don't we exist to you!?!"

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

Yeah, that commenter was me. And yes, whenever things involve only gays and lesbian, a lot of ppl complain b/c trans ppl aren't included in whatever action is being discussed. But I wonder if the biggest complaints aren't when trans ppl are included, but misrepresented.

And I guess I could give her the benefit of the doubt, but my experience here has been that the vast majority of gays and lesbians who post about trans issues tend to use only their direct personal experience, and not really try to understand the diversity of trans ppl.

To me, it would be about like me writing something about gay men without talking to a wide range of gay men, reading gay websites, and running whatever I was writing past several different gay guys to make sure I wasn't totally off or tone-deaf.

I walked away from my computer and thought, "Wait, what?"

You make is sound like ppl complaining about this has no basis, though you expected it. Really, I would think from recent history you at least, if not Leone (perhaps doesn't read comments here, I dunno) would have an idea that something that identifies trans ppl as a third gender would cause controversy?

As far as damned if yo do, damned if you don't, well, life is complicated, and ppl have diverse, even opposing views.

Since we cause so much trouble, and are impossible to please, perhaps the best approach would just be to ban complaints from trans women ( little disclaimer at the head of each post would do), then ban complainers if they did it anyhow? Or really, just ban the half dozen or so of us who are a pain in your ass. It's your site, you can manage it the way you want. Noone has 2nd Amendment rights here.

I'd like to point out that Leone asked EXACTLY the same number of questions directed at the LG population as the T population, so the idea that trans people are just "tacked on" is unfair.

Furthermore, very few people will feel perfectly represented when filling out a simple survey. Devising a good survey is very difficult, as it needs to be short enough and simple enough that people will be willing to complete it, yet complex enough to have meaning and provide some sort of answers. Leone's project is short, and simple, and could be considered a pilot study that will lead to other, future research endeavors.

How to categorize people for the purposes of sociological research demonstrates the inherent challenges and limits in research. Groups must be created, ideally including enough people for significant results, but divided well enough to have some meaning. Thus, while lumping all trans people together may be demoralizing or feel non-representative, it is also necessary at this point due to the dearth of research on the trans community. Dividing the community further, into more detailed categories, could be the aim of future studies.