I thought I had broken up with Tumblr when I went to college.
Although it served as my savior in middle and high school, I rarely find myself scrolling through my dashboard anymore. Absentmindedly clicking its bookmark while in class has often been a game of Russian roulette, with gifs of slobbery blowjobs and pictures of boobs popping up every three or four posts. I’ve outgrown Tumblr, and the content has most definitely outgrown me.
My most recent visit, however, surprised me with a message from Rhian, an Internet friend I made back when I was a high school sophomore. A now 23-year-old lesbian from Vermont, she played a very important role in my life while I formed my queer identity. In fact, Tumblr itself served as an incredibly crucial resource for me while I came to terms with being queer. Though the blogging site often gets written off as joke, a place for teenage girls to whine and post aesthetic pictures of places they’ll never go and people they’ll never be, Tumblr helped me form the basis of my identity—it’s where I found most of my early information on what it means to be queer.
Growing up, I was no stranger to the concept, as my aunt is a lesbian, but could never associate myself with the term due to some intense internalized homophobia. The first time I interacted with queerness—no slurs attached—was in 6th grade, the year I created my Tumblr account. Was most of it in the form of fanfiction? Yes, definitely. Did I also write gay fanfiction at a certain point in my life? Yes, but this is all beside the point.
I’m not alone in my gratitude for Tumblr. Sara Barber, a second year Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, agrees not only on the informative nature of Tumblr, but the pressure-free space. “I wasn’t afraid to talk about being queer on my blog,” says Barber. “I had a community to accept me and to learn from.”
I joined a writer’s community on Tumblr, a blog called Renata that unfortunately no longer exists. For the first time, I was watching queer stories come to life. I was reading and creating storylines where queer relationships had happy endings. I was seeing myself in characters, seeing my thoughts and feelings personified in positive ways. While it may be cliché to say I realized that I’m not alone, my low-key conservative hometown didn’t exactly provide me with a clique of queers to feel at home with.
The first girl I ever fell in love with was a girl I met on Tumblr. Kass talked openly about kissing girls and being in a polyamorous relationship; she constantly recommended new blogs for me to follow that posted about queerness in various perspectives, from political to personal to sexual. My dashboard kept me up-to-date with everything my IRL heteronormative atmosphere was depriving me of. Tumblr is where I first encountered the word ‘cis’, my initial exposure to the fallacy of the gender binary, and where I learned the concept of being demisexual, something I am beginning to connect with now, in my junior year of college.
Without access to Tumblr from a young age, I’d likely be a very different individual. My path to comfort and security in my own queerness would have been derailed. I am so incredibly grateful for this online community of activists, educators, and my favorites, the gays.