How to Be a Gay Lady – Manners for the Modern Lesbian: Lesson Eleven


A brief definition:

What makes up an
‘online community’ and how do you know when you’re in one? If you can
pick a user name, leave comments and get into discussions with others
then you’re in a community. If people are wearing matching robes and
asking for cash donations, you’re in a cult. Quick, turn back! We’ll let
you leave at any time, I promise (rubs hands together gleefully).

an online community, we don’t all live next door to each other; we
don’t have the same schools, pubs and corner shops, or over-zealous
parking inspectors to complain about, but our community is real all the
same. And like all communities, it’s the people who reside there who
determine its character. If neighbours shout abuse at each other, ignore
the vulnerable members, treat each other with impatience and disrespect
or clog the place up with garbage, then no one feels safe. And if no
one feels safe, then no one will lend you a cup of sugar when you need
it, there’ll be no more street BBQs and people will let their dogs poo
on your front lawn.

A plea for the importance of reading comprehension

The best part about an online community, aside from the fact that anyone
from anywhere can join, is that they’re all about communicating feelings
and ideas. So many delicious words, from so many interesting people,
all explaining our world over and over to each other and in piles of
different ways. Amazing! And the best part is, they’re all written down,
so you can’t miss a thing. Well, you could, I suppose, if you skimmed
them quickly, and then rattled off an outraged response quick as a
flash, without pausing over your teacup to reread or rethink what the
person might actually be saying, or questioning if it is in fact
necessary for you to take offence in the first place. Maybe there might
be another more constructive way of dealing with a difference of

Patience, respect, and other extremely sexy online virtues

thing about an online community is that everyone there is exactly the
same. Everyone has the same skin colour, the same sexual orientation,
the same gender, the same favourite band and the same most beloved TV
show. Everyone is identical and no one ever disagrees with anyone.

The thing about an online community is that everyone is different and
that’s why we want to talk to each other in the first place. Otherwise,
we’d all make our own websites and talk to ourselves. Sometimes we hear
about stuff that we think is irrelevant or lame. We might read about
other people’s passions and think “I don’t get that” or “I disagree” but
here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter, because we just learned something
about what makes someone else tick. And by recognising our own likes and
dislikes, turn-ons and turn-offs, we learned something about ourselves
as well.

Reality Check

Remember my claim that an online
community is no less real than your own neighbourhood? That’s because
behind every user name and photo there is a real person, with a real
name and a real life (unless you’re a robot spammer. Not to be a bitch
or anything but please GTFO.)

Maybe the person behind the user
pic is fifteen years old and your community is the only place where she
can talk about her life. Possibly, she lives somewhere you’ve never
heard of. Maybe ‘in real life’ the person you’re interacting with has
met with nothing but injustice and indifference, ever since she first
drew breath. Maybe, just maybe, she’s secretly that hot girl you gaze
longingly at during work every day but assume is straight.

people have real histories and real contexts that make them who they
are. They have real feelings. You’re not just a user name, you’re real
too. Wait, just for a second. Close your eyes, before you click ‘post
comment’. Imagine you’re sitting face to face, across the table in a
cafe with the person you’re about to respond to. Would you say that to
their face? Or would you look at them more closely, meet their eyes and
wonder about their life? Take a deep breath and try to connect?

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