Did you know?
- 96 per cent of LGBTQ+ young people say the internet has helped them understand more about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- 93 per cent say they found the advice and support they needed through the internet.
(Stonewall, Staying Safe Online, 2012).
Sometimes it can be really hard for us to meet people who really relate to you, you know, who really get us. I guess we all feel different at times and as such it can be really difficult for us to meet people who have shared experiences and are into the same or similar things. For lesbian, gay, bi, trans and questioning (LGBTQ+) young people it can be even harder to meet with other young people who share similar feelings and emotions. But when this does happen, oh-boy does it feel good.
Social media, websites, apps and other on-line networking sites makes it really easy for everyone to make connections with other like-minded people regardless whether you are LGBTQ+ or not, but for LGBTQ+, these sites are particularly advantageous.
Ask yourself this though, do you feel more confident when on-line than in real life?
I know I do and I think it would be the same for most people. When you meet someone on-line the conversations can come thick and fast and it isn’t long before we begin to make real links with that other person. This is why it can feel easier to talk about things that you haven’t told anyone else, things like your sexual orientation, gender identity, love and sex. In reality it can be so much easier to chat to someone on-line than in person and as a result it can become easier to meet your future partner on-line. It’s thought that 1 in 3 married couples met for the first time using some on-line media tool. LGBTQ+ couples are even more likely to have begun on-line relationships in the first instance.
THINK; Beware of the pretenders!
Facebook, Instagram, Grindr, Twitter etc. can be the go-to places to meet people and this can be a lot of fun but there’s also a lot of fake accounts as we know. We know there are some adults who use these sites and others in order to deliberately trick young people.
They often pretend to be someone else, someone your age with similar interests. This makes spotting them really difficult and you can easily mistake their interest in you as being anything other than just being friendly. They may begin to make you feel really special and begin to flirt with you. They will try to make you feel that you are both ‘soul-mates’ and have a special relationship that only you and them share. They want you to trust them and in doing so, it makes it really difficult in recognising someone who is honest and genuine from someone who is abusive.
THINK; are they too good to be true?
Remember that you post things on-line, your likes and dislikes, your passions, your music and film tastes etc. which makes it easy for someone to pretend that they have a lot in common with you. Blimey they’re fit and just your type? They look like… photos can be edited or copied from elsewhere and all this information comes from your on-line profiles and the things you post to the world.
THINK; do they want to talk about sex?
Are they being flirtatious with you from the off and want to talk about sex? Maybe they have taken some time to get to know you first and make you feel special before talking about sex? In any case, now is the time you need to think about how this makes you feel. Does talking about sex make you feel uncomfortable? Do you want or feel ready to talk with them about sex? Are they trying to show you porn, asking you to share naked photos of yourself or act out sexual things on camera?
THINK; are you worried about how much they know about you?
OK, so you start to notice that this person is wanting you to share lots of private information about yourself, even the things you haven’t told anyone else about. You might be suspicious and concerned that they won’t keep these things confidential. They may even try to influence you or even force you to say and do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Do you feel this is going too fast and something isn’t quite right?
THINK; have they shared a picture of themselves?
In these days of advanced editing it is really easy for people to present fake video footage of themselves. It’s really easy to record other people without them being aware and use this to their advantage for fake video chats. Does the video and voice run seamlessly or is it particularly fragmented? You see, who you don’t see might just be the problem and if they keep using excuses like “my camera is broken” think about why that is.
THINK; Do they want to meet with you?
Now STOP & THINK for a minute at how risky this could be. You have only met them on-line so you don’t really know who they are or if they are who they say they are. However, if you feel the person you have been in contact on-line with are genuine then prepare to be safe.
- Make your parents, friends and/or carers aware of where you are going, what time you are meeting and what time they can expect you home
- Take someone with you, an adult you trust who could go get a coffee nearby but be in easy reach if you needed them and have them on speed-dial
- Have your Mobile with credit and fully charged
- £££ Take some money with you in case you need it
LGBTQ+ Safe On-line
Research advice from places you trust.
Childline (0800 1111), Young Stonewall (www.youngstonewall.org.uk or call 08000 502020), Gendered Intelligence (www.genderedintelligence.co.uk 020 7832 5848) are places to get advice and support.
Remember, you can never really be sure of who you’re talking to, even if the forum or group is moderated. Remember to follow our tips for staying safe.
If you’re LGBTQ+ and don’t feel ready to talk about this to other people face to face, you can talk to other LGBTQ+ people in a number of online forums. It’s a safe and anonymous way to find out more but make sure you don’t reveal any personal information which would enable people to identify you offline. This is especially important if you’re not ready for other people in your life to know that you’re questioning your gender identity or your sexual orientation.
We know that people who abuse may look for LGBTQ+ young people online who say they are feeling lonely or upset. Make sure you use forums provided by the recognised LGBTQ+ organisations, and be aware of people who want to chat with you privately.
Just between us?
As soon as you share online, it is no longer under your control. Anything we send can be copied and shared, even live video chats. Never feel you have to do something you don’t want to do. If someone respects and really likes you, they would never make you do something you’re not comfortable with.
Checking in and meeting up.
Lots of popular social networks and dating apps enable you to share your location or chat to people in your area. It’s never a good idea to share your location and it’s always risky to meet up with someone you’ve only met online. If you do decide to meet up, make sure your friends know where you are and take a trusted adult with you.
Have questions about being gay, lesbian, bi or trans?
These organisations specialise in giving impartial advice and support to LGBT young people.
ChildLine Message Boards – Sexuality & Gender Identity
A place where young people can share their experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations. Young people can talk about all sorts of things, including their feelings about their sexuality or gender identity. The boards are moderated and there are house rules that everyone needs to follow. ChildLine also has pages with further information and advice for young people about sexual orientation and transgender identity.
Remember, you can also talk to a counsellor at ChildLine about anything at any time, for free on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk
Young Stonewall provides information and advice on issues that affect LGBT young people.
www.youngstonewall.org.uk or call 08000 502020
Offers services for trans young people aged 13-25 across the UK. It has a youth group and also provides support services to the families of trans young people.
An award-winning charity for adults and young people affected by homophobia and transphobia.
Need advice about sexual health, sex or relationships?
Free, confidential sexual health information and support services for young people under 25.
Sexual Health & Wellbeing – Brook
Worried about someone you’ve met online?
Is someone being weird online? Do you feel under pressure to have sex? Are you being sexually abused? Report it.
CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.
If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report it to CEOP so they can make it stop.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, please dial 999.
Last updated: 20th July 2022