It was a week bookended with violence, on the Internet as much as in the news. The tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in West Yorkshire on Thursday reverberated around social media in a way that British politics rarely does, in large part because events in the US—which is a clumsily euphemistic way of saying “the the mass shooting that killed 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last weekend“—have left us so sensitive to violence and horror. That attack, as much a hate crime against the LGBTQ community as it was a terrorist action, prompted multiple responses both online and offline. Yes, this week on the Internet was, like everywhere else, dominated by the aftermath of that nightmarish attack.
Break the Internet and Rebuild a Better One
What Happened: In the wake of the Pulse shooting, LGBTQ people on Twitter made themselves visible in a show of solidarity.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter
What Really Happened: Within hours of the attack in Orlando, as details were still emerging, it was clear that there was a homophobic element to what had happened. As the discussion surrounding Omar Mateen’s motives stirred, a sideshoot of the conversation turned to the simple, horrifying fact that for the LGBTQ community, simply existing can be a political statement—offensive to some with closed minds, but also inspirational to others who lack any role models.
From that beginning came the Twitter trend #GaysBreakTheInternet, the purpose of which was simple: members of the LGBTQ community posting selfies and proving that they exist, and that they matter.
In honor of the ones killed last night in Orlando & all over the world for being them, we’d like to introduce #GaysBreakTheInternet
— S (@saifwai300) June 12, 2016
— K. Condor (@iamBOOBIEkeeper) June 12, 2016
— Slàymoñd (@_DaddyOnDeck) June 12, 2016
— Daddy (@drefamous) June 12, 2016
— rosas (@Artshawtty) June 12, 2016
— PinkLipKillahh (@OG_TriggaTre) June 12, 2016
— Jaye (@Vicious__Heart) June 12, 2016
— derwin. (@durwhen) June 12, 2016
— tim tim (@timothygeard) June 12, 2016
— larri (@LARRAYOX) June 12, 2016
— jamie corbett (@justjamiie) June 12, 2016
— purple papi (@Thynative) June 12, 2016
— Rams (@ramzelindistres) June 12, 2016
— ty (@frangifreckles) June 12, 2016
— alexis (@bottIedups) June 12, 2016
— SPRINGBOOB SQUIREPIN (@sluttyseagull) June 13, 2016
— grandmotherfucker (@ratfemme) June 13, 2016
— william (@sinamonnroII) June 13, 2016
Underscoring the bravery of the movement, there was a wonderfully defiant aspect to some of the tweets, too:
— Tyrèakj (@3stablish) June 12, 2016
— lana del GAY (@classifiedhoe) June 12, 2016
—ryan (@leavemeIoneIy) June 12, 2016
The Takeaway: Actually, we’re not quite finished yet…
What Happened: A second self-identification trend launched on Twitter, with a slightly different focus: introducing the person posting, and showing the wide, varied spectrum of those who are queer and proud.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter
What Really Happened: While #GaysBreakTheInternet was still running, writer and performer Dylan Marron (You might know him as Welcome to Night Vale’s Carlos) posted a tweet that took an alternate view of visibility as statement:
I am a soft-spoken brown queer man who wears his mother’s pearl earrings. And I love my queerness. Let’s start a #queerselflove hashtag
— Dylan Marron (@dylanmarron) June 15, 2016
Arguably less about posting photographs of yourself looking fierce and/or fabulous, #queerselflove quickly went viral as those taking part simply told stories of who they were, accompanied with images or not, building a world in which they were represented, visible, and acknowledged, demonstrating that there’s not just one queer story, but a world of them:
I am a quiet white queer person who likes to skateboard and I want to be a librarian. #queerselflove
— lowkey lyesmith (@istillhatetacos) June 15, 2016
— Athena Jean (@athenajeanp) June 15, 2016
I’d like my queerness a lot more if I stopped crushing on straight girls, but hell, the community experience is wonderful! #queerselflove
— Mags is undead (@nerdpalooza) June 15, 2016
— VenGethenian (@VGerUnlocked) June 15, 2016
I’m a queer man who survived religion, cooks to show he loves, holds compassion in highest regard, and won’t stand for hatred #queerselflove
— Nelson Stauffer (@NelsonStauffer) June 15, 2016
i’m an anxious brown boi who loves to dance but doesn’t know how to twerk properly #queerselflove
— Little Latin Boy (@Wilfreyfrey) June 15, 2016
— Kate Leth (@kateleth) June 15, 2016
I am a queer mom/pastor/writer/knitter. I came out at 49. My kids still love me. So does my wife. #queerselflove
— Martha Spong (@MarthaSpong) June 15, 2016
I’m a bi femme lady in a long term relationship with a man! I am not invisible. I am here. I count. #queerselflove
— Meredith Whitfield (@hashtagmsw) June 15, 2016
All the hearts to those of you who don’t feel comfortable or safe enough to post in #queerselflove
— Shauna Foley (@shaunasketches) June 15, 2016
— Monique J. (@Sir_Phoenix88) June 15, 2016
— Marguerite Bennett (@EvilMarguerite) June 15, 2016
— Brooke Hespeler (@kellybluebrooke) June 16, 2016
Something that was especially beautiful about this hashtag was the number of messages like this:
This is one reason I talk about being queer and proud of it so much. It matters to those who can’t yet love themselves. #queerselflove
— M (@mxbarclay) June 15, 2016
and for those who can’t be out on the internet like that I just hope you know that you deserve love and respect and joy too #QueerSelfLove
— hj (@ohbadger) June 15, 2016
So much love to everyone posting on #queerselflove; to everyone who can’t be as visible; to everyone reading, caring, amplifying.
— Jen Linnan (@jenlinnan) June 15, 2016
to everyone who can’t participate in #queerselflove publicly bc they’re not out: I love you. I hope you love yourself too. Hang in there.
— Nadine (@nadinesantoro) June 16, 2016
The Takeaway: The tweets shared from the two hashtags above are just samplings; there are many, many more to be found. There’s a bravery displayed by those taking part in either one, because as the Pulse shooting and the aftermath has shown, this is not a society that is totally comfortable with LGBTQ stories yet, and just being yourself can end up being a dangerous thing to do. If there’s any upside from what’s happened in the last week, it might be watching the kindness and strength of people like those posting above.
Asked and Answered
What Happened: Donald Trump wanted to “ask the gays” about something. “The gays” made sure their answer was heard.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media reports
What Really Happened: Here’s another reason why it’s important for LGBTQ people to speak up: if you don’t, others will say things on your behalf. Like, for example, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who this week said the following at a campaign appearance: “For the gays out there—ask the gays and ask the people—ask the gays what they think and what they do in, not only Saudi Arabia, in many of these countries, with the gay community, just ask, and then you tell me—who’s your friend, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?”
Yes. Let’s “ask the gays,” shall we?
“Ask The Gays,” a new self-help reality show, coming to Logo this fall
— Terrence T. McDonald (@terrencemcd) June 15, 2016
TRUMP: “Ask the gays!”
THE GAYS: pic.twitter.com/TKmDtWpxvq
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) June 15, 2016
TRUMP: Ask the gays!
— John Birdsall (@John_Birdsall) June 15, 2016
Trump: “Ask the gays!”
— Alp Ozcelik (@alplicable) June 15, 2016
Trump: “Ask the gays!”
— Sam Lansky (@samlansky) June 15, 2016
TRUMP: “Ask the gays!”
THE GAYS: pic.twitter.com/PB55FrLZuI
— Slade Sohmer (@Slade) June 15, 2016
Trump: “Ask the gays!”
— Justin Kirkland (@justinkirkland4) June 15, 2016
Trump: “ASK THE GAYS”
The Gays: pic.twitter.com/oirfqzDQnI
— Ethan (@ethanharv) June 15, 2016
Trump: “Ask the gays!”
— Charles (@charlesrockhill) June 15, 2016
Trump says Ask The Gays
Reaction of The Gays: pic.twitter.com/Pi2HeLeXOW
— Just Maybe (@ShomahKhoobi) June 15, 2016
TRUMP: ASK THE GAYS! THE GAYS: pic.twitter.com/jz8B5ORRkX
— Tom Eaton (@DorkyUdon) June 15, 2016
— Nick Westrate (@westratenick) June 15, 2016
TRUMP: Ask the Gays!
The Gays: pic.twitter.com/A9nAvHoznq
— Capt. Spike #Litten (@spikepoint) June 15, 2016
Trump: Ask the gays!
— Louis Peitzman (@LouisPeitzman) June 15, 2016
I don’t know, Donald. Seems to me like asking the gays just led to you getting publicly humiliated, to the media’s delight. (Not that Trump has done anything to upset the media recently; oh, wait.) But you know best, surely.
The Takeaway: Hillary Clinton’s social media team said it best.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 17, 2016
The Room Where It Happens
What Happened: Hands up, anyone who ever thought we would see the live-tweeting of a filibuster. Well, funny story…
Where It Blew Up: Twitter
What Really Happened: Following the Pulse shooting, the gun control debate started back up—with a slight difference. This time around, it seemed, Senate Democrats were going to try and do something about the political gridlock surrounding the issue, with Connecticut’s Chris Murphy launching into a filibuster Wednesday to prompt a vote on the issue:
I’m speaking on the Senate floor to honor the victims of the Orlando attack & demand the Senate address gun violence. #Enough
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 15, 2016
At first, there was general, somewhat cautious support for what he was doing—a sense that, yes, it was a good thing but would it really matter?
— Danny Plaugher (@DannyPlaugher) June 15, 2016
Dems are absolutely rallying around Chris Murphy right now, presenting an incredibly clear, united front on gun control #filibuster
— Ashley Louise (@AshleyLLouise) June 15, 2016
Others, however, saw it as a welcome first step towards sanity:
— Jared Frieder (@jaredfrieder) June 15, 2016
#filibuster: Democrats trying to stop gun massacres while Republicans trying to stop Democrats.
— imfabulous (@imfabulous13) June 15, 2016
— Melissa (@Mjkunited) June 15, 2016
— Mark McNulty (@McNulty1977) June 15, 2016
— Sandy Phillips (@MamaRedfield) June 15, 2016
As the filibuster kept going, however, people’s attitude towards it on social media started to change:
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) June 15, 2016
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 15, 2016
— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) June 16, 2016
Of course, not everyone was thrilled:
The NRA is pretty unhappy about the #filibuster. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
— Jim Demonakos (@technogreek) June 16, 2016
But everyone else…?
#filibuster and chill
— Nev Schulman (@NevSchulman) June 16, 2016
I’ve never been so grateful to a bunch of white men who wont shut up #filibuster
— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) June 16, 2016
— Jordan Horowitz (@jehorowitz) June 16, 2016
Chris Murphy is Batman:
Tie still straight
Waited 4 years #filibuster
— Sadistic Statist (@TheXclass) June 16, 2016
Actually, as Slate reported, Murphy was actually allowed to take bathroom breaks. But even Batman has to pee. And, anyway, others had possible solutions to that problem:
— Josh Charles (@MrJoshCharles) June 16, 2016
As the filibuster continued into the night, Twitter got more and more excited about what was happening.
HOW CAN YOU SLEEP WHEN DEMOCRACY THIS LIT #filibuster
— All The Way Up (@ankurthakkar) June 16, 2016
this #filibuster is the best TV I’ve ever seen & also the best civics lesson & also the most humanity I’ve seen in politics maybe ever
— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities) June 16, 2016
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) June 16, 2016
It finally ended after more than 14 hours.
— Jennifer Mascia (@JenniferMascia) June 16, 2016
The mission, it seemed, had been successful, with Murphy winning promises for votes on two measures, but as he shared on Twitter, that wasn’t the end of the issue:
This is one step. The fight is far from over. But there are millions of voices calling for change. And we cannot stop pushing #Enough
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 16, 2016
The Takeaway: Democracy wins! Well, kind of. The next day, you might have been forgiven for thinking the opposite was true:
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) June 16, 2016
Every now and again, this really does feel like the darkest timeline.
Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
What Happened: Taylor Swift might have a new boyfriend. But he’s already the Internet’s boyfriend. What is going on here?
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media think pieces
What Really Happened: Let’s talk about something else to end on. Something more positive, more life-affirming. Like, say, the start of a new relationship as captured via telephoto lens and revealed via a tabloid tweet:
— The Sun (@TheSun) June 15, 2016
No, really! There are “sensational pictures” that you can see for yourself! But is the Internet is interested?
TAYLOR AND TOM HIDDLESTON WHAT IS GOING ON pic.twitter.com/nOJI9EvE4G
— Hardcore Swiftie (@Swift13Updates) June 15, 2016
i’m obsessed with how awkward these photos of taylor swift and tom hiddleston are pic.twitter.com/8xR3rr8D5k
— elena (@elena_yip) June 15, 2016
Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston’s names almost combine to make Tilda Swinton and that seems important here.
— Alison Leiby (@AlisonLeiby) June 15, 2016
IS TOM HIDDLESTON ACTUALLY DATING TAYLOR SWIFT OR HAVE I ENTERED A TUMBLR ROLEPLAY FROM 2012
— james potter danni (@advmparrishs) June 15, 2016
If I put 1/10th of as much effort into doing anything as Taylor Swift does into staging relationships I would be President
— Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella) June 15, 2016
Sorry I have to leave work and cancel all my plans I’m having a Taylor Swift related crisis
— Carina MacKenzie (@cadlymack) June 15, 2016
Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift seem like a couple who would ask you to please not put your feet on the furniture.
— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) June 15, 2016
taylor and tom met at the MET GALA? call that a met cute
— Becca Laurie, PI (@imbeccable) June 15, 2016
Tom and Taylor are literally the most random couple in existence. Like its so weird for me even think about lmao.
— celebsconfess (@celebsconfesss) June 15, 2016
“tom hiddleston is in a relationship with taylor swift” pic.twitter.com/YXoNOPekst
— victoria (@GAYPIL0T) June 15, 2016
My dream job would be to direct Taylor Swifts accidentally caught by the press photo shoots. I would have put her and Tom in a rowing boat.
— Gráinne Maguire (@GrainneMaguire) June 15, 2016
Me When I come on Twitter and find Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddelston are dating pic.twitter.com/DOBCbldusJ
— (@nanaAseel) June 16, 2016
but why does taylor swift and tom hiddleston feel like a punch in the heart? I like both of them, but…
THERAPIST: aaaand that’s our time
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) June 16, 2016
When you see pictures of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston… pic.twitter.com/WfVG4eNu4x
— Ginger Wesson (@GingerWesson) June 16, 2016
It wasn’t just Twitter, however; actual media outlets got just as obsessed, with particular attention paid to the response of Taylor’s ex. At least there wasn’t anything else actually important happening this week, right?
Jesus Christ, Taylor, we’re all really focused on maybe finally changing some gun policy here. WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS DISTRACTION.
— Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell) June 15, 2016
The Takeaway: The bar has been raised for Marvel-related puns:
Please let Taylor Swift dating Tom Hiddleston result in a song that includes the word Tesseract.
— Eric Goldman (@TheEricGoldman) June 15, 2016