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Five Ways the Internet has affected my Gender Identity

Michelle Avenant's picture

It would be impossible to pinpoint exactly what or who shaped the numerous aspects of my gender identity over my lifetime. One thing I’m certain of is that the internet has played a profound role in this process.

Without delving too deeply into the angsty idiosyncrasies of genderqueer adolescence, here’s a list of five things the internet taught me about gender that I would probably never have learnt from traditional media:

1. There are role models for you out there. There are.*
Arcade Fire's Régine ChassagneAs an aspiring musician in my early teens, one of the most difficult things to deal with was how woman musicians are represented in the mass media. If they’re not overtly sexualized, they’re ultra-feminine and warbling about (heterosexual) romance at least 90% of the time.

It was tough for me to try to dream when I had no working example of the type of musical persona I would like to embody.

Enter, in my late teens, the online music scene and its destruction of geographical and financial barriers. I spent hours memorizing Regina Spektor tracks; heard Sarah Martin in Belle & Sebastian and Régine Chassagne in Arcade Fire.

In short, the internet’s extensive variety and availability of unconventional content helped me find people I personally could look up to, and I instantly felt less alienated and more confident in myself.

2. My sexual orientation does not dictate my gender presentation, or vice versa.
If there’s anything the online LGBTI community has taught me, it’s that I can be feminine and attracted to women, or revel in my masculinity and still be attracted to men, and there is nothing shameful or deviant about this. Try finding these ideas reinforced in traditional media.

3. My sex life has very little to do with who I am as a person.
It was on feminist blogs that I first learnt about slut shaming: about the fact that respecting women any less for their sexual activity is a violation of their human rights. I learnt not to be ashamed of my sexuality.

I should have learnt this from my schoolteachers or peers, but I didn’t. I learnt it from Laci Green.

4. Noticing the little things
The Everyday Sexism Project on Twitter has caused me to think so much more about the oft-unnoticed incidences of sexism I and thousands of others experience on an every day basis - and how I respond to them.

This Twitter feed has become an international aggregator of things left unsaid, provoking thought and generating conversation around the subtle ways in which we experience our genderedness in everyday life.

5. What people around me are thinking

In person, discussions problematizing gender roles happen in lectures, or between close friends. On facebook I see lengthy gender arguments between strangers on an almost daily basis.

In this space – where it’s not rude to randomly jump into a conversation, and these conversations can be tracked through text – lengthy, thoughtful discussions (or arguments) about gender are easier to spark and participate in.

Reading and participating in gender conversations specific to my own context has helped me to consciously negotiate my position in these arguments, and how I enact this position.


In sequel to this list, here’s an audio clip show introducing my five favourite online video resources on gender:

*I recognise that my reflections on women in the music industry are biased and incomplete. Please remember that these are reflections on my personal experiences, and not intended as broad societal analyses. 



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