As you read this can you see me? Have you seen me before? What do I look like? TELL ME!
Truth is you can’t see me. Therefore, you don’t know who I am, even if you’ve seen me before or know what I look like. Sure, I can tell you that I am 5’7”, slim, and that, as a Latina, I look like all the other hyper sexualized Latinas in the media. Depending on what you’re into, that might just turn you on. I can also tell you that I am a 6’ male, with a hot body, amazing pelvic cuts, vice president of a company and I might even go as far as tell you that I am amazing in bed. Now reality is that in the cyber world I can be any of these things and at the same time I can be neither. Don’t let this scare you. Many have found numerous ways to embrace the cyber world and use it to their advantages.
I recently finished reading, “Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Space” by Juana Maria Rodriguez. In “Queer Latinidad,” Rodriguez aims to break down the notions of identity, how one is perceived, how one performs identity and ultimately the power that identity has over the self. Rodriguez not only focuses on identities valued as the social norms, but also queer identities; those identities many are afraid to claim, unable to explain, and incapable of sharing. Through her exploration of such identities, she concentrates on the process by which Latin@ identities take on different meanings when involved with language, politics, cultures, and public policies. Rodriguez introduces identity as:
“Identity is more than a list of categories that name out sexuality, gender, HIV status, nation, age, ethnicity, ability, class language, citizenship status and religion. Even if we expand this list to include all the other significant features of ourselves, what do these attributes actually explain about our lives? What aspects of identity exceed the categories we have created to define our place in this world.” (Rodriguez, 21)
I want to take it a step further and ask what role does identity play beyond this world. How is queer identity shaped differently in the cyber world and what the Internet world allows for one’s self-expression of identity?
When elaborating on cyberspace, Rodriguez quotes de la tierra.
‘Who I am electronically? Well, I am not differently from who I am in person, but I am more of who I really am. Electronically I tend to be more honest, spontaneous, affectionate, wild, hip, desirous, poetic, and easy going than I am in real life, where I tend to be moody, to put it politely. In fact, I’m much more pleasant person to be ground when I’m not really there.” – de la tierra (127)
Why does one feel that they can be more of themselves online than in real life? It’s a shame that society has so many standards by which one’s identity is judged, given privilege to, and ostracized. When considering queers the cyber world is a non-judgmental world; a world where no one really knows who you are and one can create themselves to be whoever they want to be. They can become sexier, express sexual desires, be more daring, and outrageous. The cyber world provides an escape from the real world full of hate towards culture deviance. With every new log in, a new identity can be formed. People find it easier to entrust total strangers than trust their own friends, as it allows them to truly be who they are and say what ever they want without being scared because they don’t know who they are talking to. Trying to assert new identities on others with every new encounter with someone else online only asserts one’s personal identity.
I am very much aware that sexual predators, rapists and perverts can use the Internet with negative intentions in mind. Nonetheless, I want to focus more on the idea of being able to express true identity instead of how false created identities can be used to do wrong. I also would like to keep in mind though that false created identities can be used to assert real identity—false identities that are not made to do wrong, but to further explore the self.
Queers, or those who go against the normative of heterosexuality, turn to online sex chatting websites to express their sexuality in the real world. . Yet, still even the simple idea of online chatting has been socially constructed to be a heteronormative act. When “people chatting online” is searched with Google pictures it’s hard to find same sex users chatting with one another. Mostly, all the pictures are of a man talking to a woman. Thus, its not surprise why queers must search under the cyberspace norms to find places to communicate. Queer websites range from lesbians, gays, Spanish speaking gay males, to English speaking lesbians, Black lesbian, Canadian gay men, and many other categories. Such websites provide a safe net against hate and discrimination. On such websites, anyone can explore their deepest sexual desires—whether it be a heterosexual female who wants to talk to lesbians or explore her curiosity. In today’s society she will be quickly criticized, questioned, and maybe even laughed at. But in the comfort of her own home, she can be whomever she wants or wants to be. It’s like unleashing the true being lying within the norms of society.
I choose to focus on identity and its crossing with the Internet because over the past few years the Internet has grown into far more than just a search engine. The Internet has turn into a place of rapidly growing social networking. There is far more than Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, and even blog sites. Just like cities, the Internet too has its low-key sites where queers venture into in order to interact with other queers, in order to feel a sort of similarity with other, to explore and assert who they truly are, and to not feel judged or discriminated. Cyberspace has become a world of its own, offering many options for one to further explore who they are when real life doesn’t allow one to do so in public without being judge. It’s interesting to think of the Internet in that way. I never stopped to think about the complexities and all that the Internet has to offer beyond the search engines, online shopping, and Facebook. The idea of the Internet and identity should be taken more into consideration because ultimately, it’s a shame that queers have to hide from exploring themselves within real life.