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Why Supportive Digital LGBTQ+ Environments Matter

By Palis [Fresh] Pisuttisarun & Pasawat [Tang Tae] Sakulpanich – Saturday, February 1, 2020

Prism is an anonymous online messaging platform designed to uplift members of theLGBTQ+ community by connecting them to supportive listeners to exchange guidance,experience, and advice. We developed this platform over the last two years to addressthe growing need of the LGBTQ+ community seeking online support.

As youth apart of the LGBTQ+ community, we have experienced first-hand thenerve-wracking experience of coming to terms with being LGBTQ+ in the digital age. Ina society where individuals face pressure to hide their sexual orientation and genderidentity, it can be extremely difficult for students to seek support at school (oranywhere for that matter) due to fear of being misunderstood, exposed, ordiscriminated against by teachers, parents, and classmates.

Reaching out for support in any part of the world is never easy. While real-lifecommunities are rapidly progressing (evidenced by the influx of LGBTQ+ book clubs,gay-straight alliances, youth pride parades, and queer cafés), the truth is that theseseemingly encouraging groups are very much reserved for those individuals who havealready “come out”. For those still questioning, confused, or unconfident, accessingreal-life support can feel completely out of the question, rendering vulnerableindividuals trapped without a bridge to the literal rainbow paradise they seek.

(Image via Human Rights Campaign)

Instead, this leaves many with no choice but to look for support and understanding online. Today, with the promise of discretion and anonymity at our fingertips, an increasing number of LGBTQ+ teenagers are turning to the digital world to get answers and advice on their problems, which up to now have been kept secret. A survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign has shown that almost three-quarters of LGBTQ+ youths say they are more honest and comfortable about themselves online than in the real world.

However, from personal experience, we have come to realize that navigating the digital landscape can easily turn hostile and, in some cases, do more harm than good. During our early years of discovering that we were gay, both of us turned to risky online sources like Yahoo! Answers and Omegle in the hopes of enlightening conversations with benevolent strangers. Our shared experience was far from the truth.

We both encountered immature trolls and judgmental users, if not outright hateful homophobes. Most conversations led to a disheartening end as people we reached out to were simply indifferent and couldn’t care less about our situation. It felt impossible to find anyone who could truly relate to us as LGBTQ+ youths in the closet.

That was until we met each other during the first year of high school, and together discovered the true power of friendship for LGBTQ+ people. We bonded over our experiences which were uncanny in similarity and found that simply having the right person listening to you made a profound difference. It felt surreal to finally know how un-alone we were.

A few years later, we created Prism: a safe online space that would allow anyone seeking LGBTQ+ support to reach out anonymously. The website forges supportive friendships by pairing members seeking support to listeners who voluntarily share advice, experience, guidance, and understanding. With an algorithm in place to match people most similar together and a security system to shelter our community from harm, we have been nurturing a platform that was the ideal solution to the same problem we both faced not too long ago.

Prism is unique in that it bridges the gap in the LGBTQ+ community between those who have already ‘come out’ and those who are struggling to do so. On one hand, many may feel too intimidated to reach out to the loud and proud members of the community. On the other hand, many of these experienced, ‘out’ people genuinely want to guide others through their journeys, but simply don’t know who are the ones struggling. By offering this ‘secret tunnel’ in the LGBTQ+ world, we are helping the community as a whole recycle invaluable knowledge and experience, learn from one another’s past, and grow stronger together everyday.

As of now – in our first month since launching the platform – we have attracted more than 15,000 people to our network from every continent in the world. We have helped initiate over 48,000 conversations between members seeking support and listeners willing to offer advice. Supported by the UNDP and two NGOs (Youth Voices Count and Equal AF), we are expanding our platform to reach the hands of people who need it most. We were nationally recognized when we were selected to deliver our social innovation initiative at the UNDP Asia-Pacific National Entrepreneurship Dialogue at the end of last year.

However, we have also encountered various blockades whilst trying to bring Prism to life. When one of the leaders at our school found out about Prism, we were told to stop developing it to prevent further ‘danger’. We were disappointed that we were not supported by an institution that should ideally be welcoming of these innovative solutions. This conservative attitude, which has stunted the growth of so many initiatives like Prism, is one of many reasons why some places, especially schools, are not as welcoming as they can be for LGBTQ+ identities. We knew deep down that the only danger would be to step down from making the change we knew was right.

Prism is a growing community, and we would love you to join our platform!

You can sign up now at:
www.prismchat.com

For questions or business inquiries, please reach us via [email protected]

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