Twitter, TERFs, and the tiring reality of being LGBT+ online
Please be aware that this article contains an example of homophobic harassment and refers to anti-LGBT+ violence throughout.
On the 25th of April, I sent a tweet to a friend that, on the 10th of July, resulted in my account being locked for 12 hours.
According to Twitter, this tweet violated the rules through “harassing [or] threatening other users”. I will grudgingly accept that — devoid of context — this tweet does technically amount to incitement of violence. Contextualised, however, it is clearly neither a threat nor harassment. It was a throwaway comment made to a trans friend, expressing my frustration at the continued existence of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (widely known as TERFs). Perhaps I am in the minority here, but I suspect few people sign off sincere threats of violence with a kiss.
What appears to have happened here is the active seeking out of anti-TERF tweets on my account in order to get my account suspended. Why else would a threaded tweet (0 retweets, 1 like) resurface almost three months later?
What amazed me was that this tweet was enough to get my account suspended. I have reported tweets in the past — most recently the one below — posing similar threats against LGBT+ people.
“It’s currently not violating the Twitter rules.”
So, my tweet against transphobes was rule-breaking, but tweets of a similar ilk directed at gay people— complete with slurs — are unobjectionable? Seems like a double standard.
Taking these sentiments into the real world, it’s clear who is endangered. You can’t identify a TERF by sight. The same cannot be said for many LGBT+ individuals. Trans people in particular are at a massively heightened risk of violence and murder, and it is suspected that transphobic hate crime is hugely underreported.
In the wake of events such as the shooting in an Orlando gay club, where real violence was enacted against the LGBT+ community and many lives were lost, it is clear that actions should be taken wherever possible to safeguard LGBT+ people. This includes websites such as Twitter cracking down on harassment of minority users.
It’s hard to be grateful for Twitter’s Pride month emoji when the reality of being a queer user of the site is bleak. In failing to find fault with homo- and transphobic rhetoric, and allowing it to be shared uncritically, Twitter legitimises it. It legitimises the users who perpetuate violence — both virtual and actual — against LGBT+ people. Meanwhile, the LGBT+ people pushing back are punished for doing so.
I don’t have a solution to this problem, and I don’t expect this article to change anything. Many people have already voiced concerns over various social networks’ poor responses to harassment of minorities versus their crackdowns on those who speak out against hatred and bigotry. Has progress been made? If so, it’s not yet noticeable. I’m here to add another voice to those insisting that it’s just not good enough. Perhaps if we keep saying it, someone will eventually listen.