This paper is a bit more straight-forward and short, so I’ll let it speak for itself.
Internet Communities as Safe Spaces
The internet, and the anonymity inherent in it, can be used for both good and bad. One particular use is as a safe exploratory area for people just realizing same-sex attraction.
With a focus on keeping our children safe as well as keeping rowdy teens away from businesses, young people are often excluded from public spaces (Hillier & Harrison, 2007). This leads to a lack of community when these young people discover their attraction to other members of the same sex. Same-sex attracted youth are overwhelmingly likely to have heterosexual parents and find a lack of support there, leading to increased homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, and violence both at school and in the home (Hillier & Harrison, 2007).
The Internet has become a place where same-sex attracted people can meet, communicate, and even arrange for a face-to-face meeting (Hillier & Harrison, 2007). LGBT friendly internet communities allow for youth to “lurk,” or observe without being observed (Ross, 2005). In so doing, these youth can start their socialization into gay culture by watching interactions, learning some of the language, and gain an understanding of what it means to be gay (Ross, 2005, p. 348).
These internet communities allow people to explore parts of their identities that they may be too afraid to explore in “real life.” Safe spaces provide “a place where marginalized people, in this case young people who are same-sex attracted, can take up subject positions as they wish without fear of persecution for their difference and where the usual damaging stereotypes are not acknowledged or used to alienate and exclude” (Hillier & Harrison, 2007, p. 86).
This is true of the Korrasami fandom on Tumblr. The community itself is based around two bisexual women together in a canonically romantic relationship from a cartoon shown on a children’s network. As such, it is largely comprised of women who are attracted to women, due partially to a lack of positive representation for same-sex attracted women in media. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about how Korrasami (the portmanteau/ “shipping name” of the two characters, Korra and Asami) changed their lives, helped them realize their same-sex attraction, or helped them feel better accepted. The community itself is very supportive of a wide array of sexualities.
As Hillier and Harrison explain, safe spaces are not necessarily created with that intent in mind (Hillier & Harrison, 2007), and that is what we see in this fandom. It was originally created as a place to share fan created media featuring two characters who were initially positioned as romantic rivals, vying for the affections of the same boy. As the show and the characters grew, eventually culminating in this same-sex romantic relationship at the end of the final episode, the fandom grew as well, and the safe space grew organically from the disposition of the members within.
Hillier, L., & Harrison, L. (2007, Feb). Building Realities Less Limited Than Their Own: Young People Practising Same-Sex Attraction on the Internet. Sexualities, 10(1), 82-100. doi:23904358
Ross, M. W. (2005, Nov.). Typing, Doing, and Being: Sexuality and the Internet. The Journal of Sex Research, 42(4), 342-352. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3813787