Updated: Jul 28
Written by Elizabeth Johnson
You log on to your favorite social media platform, start scrolling, and there it is: a meme, video, or post that expresses an anti-LGBTQ+ message. Maybe it’s a “joke,” maybe it’s a comment supporting harmful legislation, maybe it’s a rant against “that lifestyle.” Your blood pressure rises, your stomach turns, and your hands hover over your keyboard, trying to figure out the best way to react.
Here are eight things you can do:
Consider the source. Was the post shared by a family member or friend, or did it come from someone who is not close to you? Or was the post shared by an organization, group, or business that you follow? The closeness of your relationship will help determine the way you respond.
With friends and family members, start with a private message to the person. Explain why their post is hurtful to LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones and ask them to delete their post.
Comment publicly in a way that gives the poster the benefit of the doubt. You might say “I am sure you shared this to be funny and not to be cruel, but this is how I see it,” or “I know you wouldn’t intentionally say something that would hurt someone, but …”
Reply with correct information, but try and avoid a long argument that might spiral out of control. (see #3 of what not to do below) In many cases, people don’t want to know the facts if they conflict with their “beliefs.”
Delete the offensive post if it has been posted directly to your feed or profile. You control the content on your social media. Just because someone shares it with you doesn’t mean you have to see it or let it be seen by others.
Speak up. Let individuals, businesses, and organizations (even schools and churches) know that their posts are offensive and harmful to people you know and love. If you feel the post violates the rules of the social media platform, report the offender to the hosting site.
Take control of your media feed. You can reduce exposure of triggering posts and memes by revising what you see on your social media feed. It might be time to use the snooze button on frequent offenders (giving you a 30-day break from seeing their posts and comments), or you may decide to ultimately unfollow them. And, if they are sharing toxic posts on your personal wall or are direct messaging you, it may be time to consider blocking them completely.
Fill your social media feed with positive messages. The GLAAD “Amplify Your Voice Resource Kit” includes tips for being an online ally. These include sharing articles, stories, and news segments that highlight the challenges LGBTQ+ people face and content that sends positive messages in support of equality. You can also follow online LGBT-affirming groups like Mama Dragons, GLAAD, PFLAG, and others, and share their information with your social media networks.
Here are three things NOT to do:
Don’t inadvertently out your LGBTQ+ loved ones who are not yet public with their identity. Couch your reply in general terms: “I have a friend with a transgender child and she has explained to me . . . “ or “A mom with a gay child has told me that when she sees posts like this, she feels . . . “
Don’t reshare the offensive messaging, even as a way to show others what you are angry about. What may be only annoying to you could be triggering to someone else. You can ask others for advice on how to respond or share your feelings about the post without showing it to them.
Don’t feed the trolls. This is internet-speak for not engaging in harmful volleying back and forth with people who don’t want to learn or understand. They WANT to see the rise they get from badgering you. They feed off the drama they create. Far better to make your point once, then disengage.