In 2015, I started this blog. As a college graduate pursuing activism, I have really used this as a platform to get my name out there. It has been a really enjoyable time, and I think it has helped me and others in a lot of ways. In my experience with activists online, I think there’s a sort of “how do I do that?” or “how do I do activism?”
While I haven’t gotten that questioned in an email or become this internet famous blogger, I wanted to give my advice. Here, I’m going to talk about my tips for getting started with activist work. Like my previous posts, it’s going to take a personal point because I think this is something that can be really neat to hear a personal perspective on.
Trainings and Workshops
When I first came out as questioning my sexual orientation, I was really eager to learn more about queer identities. I was lucky to be going to school that gave me access to different workshops and trainings to help me learn more. On the flip side, after using these to find my own identity I was then able to do that for others through presenting and facilitation. I would encourage folks who want to go into activism to take advantage of any leadership opportunities your school or community centers may have, whether they are LGBTQ+ related or not.
Check out local LGBTQ+ Centers or community centers here to see if you can get involved. Trainings like Safe Space Trainings, specific to certain identities, and ones on language can be really helpful. If you are looking to get involved as an educator, look for words like peer educator, peer mentor, outreach, or advocacy.
Similar to workshops, conferences are great places to learn about activism work for the LGBTQ+ Community, or activism in general. If you’ve developed presentation skills, you can also consider applying to present at a local or national conference. These experiences look great on resumes and are great learning experiences.
Research conference opportunities nearby or of reachable commutes. Sometimes they can be quite costly, but other times they’re on college campuses and not very expensive (or free!). I suggest opening your horizons here on topics- checking out things like racial or social justice, Title IX, eating disorders, or sex education and then seek out presentations that may be more specific to your passions. For examples: How do eating disorders affect the trans community? Why is proper sex education important and is it being implemented in schools near you? Does Title IX cover LGBTQ+ microaggressions in schools? What can you do to help or support trans and queer people of color?
You’ve probably heard it before- maybe it was when you were having trouble getting a job, had some time off, or in school when talking about a resume. While there are opinions on the subject, I think volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door in the activism world. This website has plenty of volunteer opportunities, including LGBTQ-focused activities.. Volunteering can help you get a job at an organization, but also just gives you exposure to how LGBTQ+ Centers or activism work in general. This might also be something you do at school if you have those options.
Go for it! Going out and meeting folks is a great way to network, and I’ve found that the activism/nonprofit world can sometimes be a “it’s who you know” place. Volunteers are often needed, whether it be the part receptionist or just a one time gig. Showing your face is the best way to show off your skills, and always something to add to a resume. I suggest trying to do something longer term, even if it’s only a few weeks, as opposed to just one event. Also, I’ll also add a tip of getting out of your comfort zone. LGBTQ+ folks are everywhere, so don’t be afraid to volunteer and then bring LGBTQ+ activism into a space.
And of course, Blogging
Of course, blogging, something I like to think I know a great deal about.
If you have an email and a computer, a blog (like this one) takes minutes to set up. Some pros to blogging include:
- It’s free
- There is a ton of creative freedom with themes, colors, and photos
- You can write whatever you want. While my blog takes a direct, educational route, activism can be done through writing a more personal diary. I think sometimes the best (but sometimes harder) part of activism work is the advantage of telling my personal stories. Just remember that this is the internet (more on that below)
- It’s a way to get your name out there as a writer and if you publicize it (see below), you can get views, and that can feel really great. In other words, if writing is something your enjoy, are really great at, or want to become great at, a blog might be a great place to start
- It’s on the internet, which is a huge place. You can end up on Tumblr (also a blogging platform), Reddit, or Google. The way that blog links end up on bigger platforms is amazing and exciting (in my opinion) and can really bring up your view count.
- Finally, it’s a great resume builder. If you want to go into writing or activism in some form, it’s convenient to be able to pull up a blog and say that it is all original content. I think this is true for all types of blogger, even things like fashion and photography.
Some cons to blogging:
- It’s work. Blog pieces, I would argue, for many people are not just something that just come out of nowhere. I think especially as you may become more passionate about growing an audience, the standards of how well-written or appealing get higher.
- It’s popular. Blogging and social media accounts, even in the activism world, are huge. There is sometimes a competitiveness that I think folks may fall into, that I decided I didn’t want to fall into.
- Similarly, the idea of being internet famous is quite slim. I think there are a lot of activists or creators that have great stories of starting super small on Tumblr and then starting a YouTube channel or writing for a publication. To me, these are great folks to look up to, and great resources, but again, I do feel the chances of being at their level in terms of popularity are slim.
- With that said, please don’t let it stop you!
- Trolls! If you do get popular, or get republished like I did here and here, or if you just get views in general, the internet world certainly puts you at risk for trolls. According to Huffington Post, a troll is “someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional (read: angry) response from other users. These messages are often distracting and take focus away from the subject at hand, sending a rational discussion down a rabbit hole…” (Bourque). My advice, and I think the tactics in general would be to think about whether they’re worth your time, consider turning off the comment section (WordPress lets you mark comments as spam), or to reply and educate.
- As I mentioned above, it’s public. I can imagine for some folks, putting your name out there for the whole world to see can be scary. For example, my coming out story can be googled and my blog URL is in my email signature (great way to get views if email frequently). I’m out and proud about my identity but in specific to personal things, I suggest thinking carefully about how much you share. If you do want to be public with your blog, I suggest investing in a URL, crosspublishing, and creating social media accounts like I do here and here.
The Myth of Slacktivism
While I mentioned that there are many other content creators doing the same work I do here, I don’t think I’m wasting my time, or “slacking off” by not creating newer ideas. I think online activism is really powerful, even if you’re not out lobbying or creating petitions. I also don’t think sharing articles or telling stories is not “doing anything.” I think activism often makes people think of actions and going to protests, but regardless of the platform, please don’t think you’re wasting your time. In my opinion, if you’re thinking about marginalized groups and are aware of the oppression around you, any type of contribution through media–your next tweet, status, or blog post–conversations you bring up to others, or the article you shared–that’s activism pal. So thanks.
Here are other resources for activism work:
Melissa A. Fabello’s An Open Letter to Anti-Feminist Trolls
Sian Ferguson’s 5 Really Important Reasons to Stop Dismissing Online Activism
James McMaster’s In Defense of Facebook Activism
Alana Pelaez Lopez’s 10 (Un)documented Black And LGBTQIA+ Activists You Need to Know
Princess Harmony’s How Telling Each Other to ‘Google It’ Hurts Our Movements
Melissa A. Fabello’s video: Google+ Hangout: Anwering Your Career Questions
Bourque, A. Answering a Social Troll – What You Need to Know. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andre-bourque/answering-a-social-troll_b_6625654.html
Volunteers and Social Activism: Are Volunteers Activists? Onward. http://www.onwardkenya.org/volunteerism-and-social-activism-are-volunteers-activists/
This piece was long, and there’s a reason for that, other than the fact that this is a complex topic. As of now I’ve decided to make this my last post on this blog.
I created this site for education, but also for myself to get my name out there as an activist and writer, and I’ve accomplished that. I’m starting an AmeriCorps program and working with LGBTQ youth. Since I feel I’ve achieved a great spot in the activism realm, I feel it’s time to close this chapter of blogging.
This site will still exist as a resource (although the social media links may not stick around) and I am still readily available for any questions at all at firstname.lastname@example.org.