With this article, I’m exploring whether a double standard exists between our thoughts about online hate. I’m sure we can all agree that a young gay person, or an out gay person, experiencing online hate based purely on their sexuality isn’t right or fair. You can’t control your sexuality and you shouldn’t be harassed or shamed for it.
It’s a truly terrible experience for anyone to go through mentally and emotionally. It can have huge negative impacts on a person’s offline life, from anxiety, depression, right through to the ultimate awful end result, suicide.
But what if you experience online hate based on something you can control, such as how you portray and represent yourself online? What if you’re a young, attractive, confident gay guy who likes to take and share pictures of yourself in underwear, or even naked? Are you in any way more ‘deserving’ of online hate? Or put another way: do we still think that these guys getting online hate is bad, just not as bad as those who we might perceive deserve it less?
Meet Mathew (left) and Branden (right).
They’re exactly the kind of guys I’m talking about. When you see them, what are the very first thoughts and impressions that run through your head? Do you think:
- Wow, they’re hot. I’d like to do <X, Y Z> to them
- It’s OK to sexualise them because they’re sexualising themselves
- They must be slutty or sexually promiscuous
- They’re probably really insecure and crave the attention
- They look like douchebags
- They’re not my type
- Something else?….
Now your thoughts are your thoughts and I’m not here to judge you or tell you that what you think or feel is wrong. What I would like to do (if you’re open to it) is to explore and possibly challenge those assumptions a little.
I thought the best way to do that would be to reach out to Mathew and Branden, and have a conversation about this very issue. I wanted to find out if they get a lot of online hate, how they deal with it and what advice they may have for others.
Because like in so many other areas in life, when you speak to the people involved, you get a much better understanding of their situation and their perspective. It’s a really great way to cultivate empathy and understanding.
It doesn’t mean that you automatically agree with them. It doesn’t even mean that you have to change your mind, thoughts or opinion about them. But it might make you understand them a bit more, and at the end of the day, isn’t a bit more understanding of one another ultimately a good thing?
And just before we get to the interviews, in case you’re thinking I’m some condescending, holier-than-thou asshole telling the world to be more understanding and compassionate, I will be 100% honest and admit that at one time or another, I’ve had all of the thoughts I listed above, go through my head.
Not about these two guys, but in my earlier years, seeing gay guys reveal so much of themselves online or on social media, did trigger a wide range of responses in me. I learnt three things that have resulted in me changing my mind.
Firstly, I’ve become genuinely happy with my own appearance. Key word – genuinely. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I have finally arrived at a place where I think I’m attractive. It’s not about what anyone else thinks, or whether anyone else thinks I’m attractive, it’s just about what I think. And I really get the sense that these guys do it for themselves, as much as for anyone else. Combined, this means I’m not jealous of them, in fact, I actually respect and get inspired by them.
Secondly, I don’t need to agree with someone to support them. For instance, I never want to get married. But guess what? I support and fight for marriage equality (which still is a fight we have to be having in Australia unfortunately). So while I may not put myself “out there” like these guys, I totally respect, and even defend, their right to do so.
Lastly, good old fashioned gay solidarity. So much of the world out there still hates us. Like, really hates us. The last thing we should be doing to one another is tearing each other down. Women have feminism as a bonding tool of sisterhood. We need a gay equivalent. These guys are our fellow gay brothers, they’re not hurting anyone, so we should be supporting and celebrating them. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s my chat with Mathew:
Little Gay Blog – I think you do a really great job at promoting a sex positive message. I’m wondering though, have you experienced any negativity on social media for being “out there” and how do you deal with it?
Mathew – I would say the most negativity I receive is just from people calling me gay. Which to me isn’t an insult so it doesn’t really offend me.
It has taken me a long, long time to really overcome a lot of my past and truly be myself 100%, so any negativity towards me now doesn’t upset me as much as it use to. I get more upset when it’s directed at others.
Also one thing to remember is people online don’t actually know you so when they do attack you can’t take it personally because how can it be? Those people have their own demon’s to deal with.
For younger gay guys, or anyone having their first experience of online hate, can you give an insight into how you got to where you are now in terms of your strength and resilience to haters?
As I said before, it took me a long time to get to where I am now in terms of not letting people’s hate get to me.
Strength is something that grows over time. I just woke up everyday and would be myself. For me that means wearing pink and having lots of glitter and fun things around. A lot of people don’t like that as its not manly enough but what you need to remember is everything you do is for you and no one else.
Do what makes you happy, do what bring you joy, do what makes you smile and you’ll find great strength in that.
The one thing is as long as you’re being yourself and authentic to who you are, others hatred towards you can’t hurt you. No one has that power unless you give it to them.
One thing I just cannot get my head around is what drives people to trolling and being so generally nasty online. What do you think compels people to act in ways that they wouldn’t in “real life”?
I think a lot of people are very unhappy with themselves and they see people living a way that they wish they could and they’re angry at that. I think it comes from people believing that if they can’t live how they want, why can anyone else? I think they see it as unfair and lash out.
It’s actually sad when you think about it. Some people are just assholes and actually enjoy toying with people but those people you pay no mind to.
And lastly, what are your top 3 tips for dealing with online hate?
- Stay true to yourself it’s your best shield.
- Never engage in anyone else’s hate or negative energy.
Here’s my chat with Branden:
Little Gay Blog – I love how comfortable you are as a person and with your body. I’m wondering though, have you experienced any negativity on social media for being “out there” and how do you deal with it?
Branden – In the almost two years of really getting into self confidence and underwear marketing, I’ve received lots of negative outlooks/opinions from people. Slut shaming people on social media will never be the answer to making someone feel better about themselves.
I’ve endured threats, name calling and even people not wanting to date me due to being “out there” and “comfortable” with myself. I never started doing this to get compliments or the need or craving for attention. A while ago I had body self image issues and this kinda became an outlet.
I’ve always had a passion for underwear since I was like 16 and got my first pair of C-IN2 briefs. So here I am, just being me and being self expressive while trying to keep it fun and interesting :-).
I dealt with negativity by ignoring it. Looking past the hate was the best answer. I read what was said and thought about it and really didn’t want to start a crazy banter back and forth on who is right in judgement or not.
I know myself and I know what I do and no one can say anything different to change that.
What are the most common negative reactions or responses you get online?
I get called a slut, attention whore, or people just think I’m cocky and full of myself.
I also get judgement on my appearance. Some people think I look awkward, weird or ugly. I get I am not perfect and I will never be everyone’s type or fantasy, nor do I wish to be.
I love the people I inspire to work on their fitness and have self confidence. I love that I can inspire people in general to be happy with themselves or to motivate them in anyway possible.
I think it’s really important to send a message of ‘it gets better’, especially to younger gay guys who may be experiencing negativity, trolling, harassment or bullying online. At the same time though, I think we should acknowledge how painful and hurtful being on the receiving end of online hate can be. Is there a particular situation that was a hard one for you to deal with? How did you feel about it and how did you get through it?
Nothing entirely specific happens, its just hurtful to hear from your fellow LGBT+ community negative feedback about what you do and sometimes, I honestly don’t think they know where you are coming from and why do what you do.
I’m tired of being called a slut and a whore in all honesty – calling me nasty doesn’t make you a better person. I am just an overall positive person in general. I may be random and just in selfie mode lots and just continuing to try to promote/market myself and The Underwear Expert which I work with, but I am human.
I am not perfect and never will be and I’m all good with that. I just love doing what I do and continuing to create inspiration & motivation.
And lastly, what are your top 3 tips for dealing with online hate?
- Be yourself and don’t let others control what you should feel, think, or believe.
- Read what is being said. You can’t ignore hate entirely . I do on occasion just make a simple neutral response.
- Be confident in what you do. Stay true and have reason for what you do. Don’t let anything bring that goal or motivation down.
You can follow Branden on Instagram