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Grand Theft Privacy: Is the Internet Stealing Transgender Rights to an Identity?

Author: Titania Celestine

Overview:

  • Indonesian content creator Lucinta Luna was outed publicly on an episode of a popular podcast.
  • Transgender public figures have received pressure to come out on social media in recent years. 
  • Outing someone or pressuring someone to come out is an unacceptable and irreversible act. 
  • The current social landscape in Asia is predominantly hostile and discriminatory towards the transgender community.
  • Forcing public figures to come out is a microaggression that puts their wellbeing at risk.

“Do you know about her? She’s trans,” was the statement that popular internet celebrity Deddy Corbuzier abruptly imposed on Lucinta Luna’s fiancé, Alan Boltian, on an episode of his podcast. 

The ensuing sequence of events captures Boltian insisting that Luna has been a woman since birth; all the while Boltian and Luna both seemed to be visibly upset at Corbuzier’s invasive question. Clips of the event have since circulated Indonesian media, sparking arguments on whether this was scripted for publicity, or a candid moment caught on camera. One consistent outcome of the discourse was the pressure Luna received to admit she was transgender.

Moral folkways that have been embedded into a nation’s culture may be a tricky obstacle to overcome when transgender rights are brought up in Asian communities. These beliefs prove to be difficult to unlearn when individuals have been raised with the idea of “fixed” gender roles. Traditional social norms, along with the Internet and its provision of a platform to voice each user’s opinions, have cornered transgender public figures that hail from Asian nations—hence depriving them of privacy on the net, as well as their rights to an identity when they are cornered to come out or get outed.

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Image Credits: Unsplash

Deep-Rooted Transphobia

The deep-rooted sense of transphobia in Asian cultures stems from a variety of aspects, such as culture, religion, and social norms. This results in hardships that Asian trans communities face in the form of discrimination, harassment, and—in Lucinta Luna’s case—invasive questions.

These challenges could arise not only from the community but also from the government. In 2008, Indonesia passed a law which depicts being transgender as an obscenity, robbing their rights to an identity that should be a basic human right. 

In the context of India’s law, even though The Transgender Persons Bill was introduced in 2019 by Mr. Thaawarchand Gehlot, Indian trans communities still face discrimination regardless of its existence. Sushant Divgikar, a prominent figure in India’s LGBTQ+ community, shares that most Indian families believe straying from the heteronormative standards is deemed taboo. This further illustrates the normalized notion of transphobia in Indian culture, even with laws in place to protect transgender rights. 

Members of the Indian trans community share the struggles they encounter daily, including high levels of discrimination in employment, housing and healthcare. But that is not the end of it for the community; they are also discriminated against on their social media pages.

The Internet’s Double-Edged Sword

The Internet and its widespread use in modern society has provided freedom of expression online, giving transgender communities the opportunity to connect and share their stories with others. While this gives the community more control over the self-expression of their gender identities, social media becomes a source of discrimination that affects their mental health and wellbeing detrimentally. 

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Image Credits: Unsplash

“The digital closet”, a term used to describe LGBTQ+ public figures’ difficulty in posting content on social media without being harassed, is still prevalent online. In Lucinta Luna’s case, a simple trip to the comments section on her Instagram page shows the amount of negativity thrown her way for being herself. Ranging from words of shame, hate, and harassment, the negative comments outnumber the positivity from Luna’s supporters. But the most harmful type of comments are the ones pressuring Luna to come out as transgender, resulting in her being outed publicly on a documented podcast.

Closed, Closeted Minds

Outing someone is an invasion of privacy that comes without one’s consent, taking away a queer person’s control over their identity. With the existence of the internet, a post that may contain this sensitive information may spread like wildfire, reaching viral status in a matter of minutes. It is irreparable and puts members of the LGBTQ+ community at risk both within their own social circles and online. 

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Image Credits: Unsplash

Some believe that invasion of public figures’ privacy becomes a risk when they trade it for fame and popularity. However, the ethics of outing a person who isn’t ready for it mentally and socially is arguably problematic. The pressure transgender public figures receive online from closed minds corners them to either come out or be outed publicly—such as Deddy Corbuzier’s outing of Lucinta Luna.

Rebel Wilson, when asked about her experience of being outed by a gossip coloumnist, shares: “There are levels to telling people. You tell your close family and your friends, and not everybody.” But public figures like Luna, who are surrounded by a community that’s more discriminative and close-minded than supportive, don’t seem to have that luxury.

From This Point Onward…

The intrusive nature of social media and the borderline obsessive behavior of needing confirmation of public figures’ identities must see change. Even if this pressure on transgender celebrities comes from a place of overwhelming support, when the support is not wanted and is without consent it comes across as a form of suffocating microaggression. 

Disclosing one’s gender identity and sexuality seems to be expected out of public figures nowadays—it shouldn’t be. It should be a choice for each individual—regardless of their fame and popularity. Outing someone, especially when discrimination is prevalent in their surrounding community, is detrimental to their mental wellbeing. Even when the celebrity’s gender identity is established as a “public secret,” comments on something as personal as their journey of self-acceptance is uncalled for.

Aftermath

The events that happened to Lucinta Luna count as being outed publicly online, which resulted in pressure for Luna to publicly come out as transgender. Considering the discrimination that transgender communities face from aspects of the law, healthcare, housing, and employment, this was detrimental to Luna’s mental wellbeing.

The existence of social media and constant microaggressions received by public figures to disclose their gender identity and sexuality robs them of their rights to privacy. It takes the control transgender individuals have over the time they would choose to disclose their identities, if ever. 

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Image Credits: Unsplash

Coming out shouldn’t be seen as an expectation of public figures; it should be their own personal choice. When overwhelming support online is not called for, it is deemed non-consensual and is therefore counterproductive. When a public figure is outed online, they are put at risk within their own social circles and in the public sphere. Because at the end of the day, not everyone is as supportive as you ought them to be.

Conclusion:

Transphobia is internalized within Asian communities, resulting in discrimination transgender persons experience in terms of housing, lawmaking, healthcare, and employment. The outcome of such internalized transphobia puts transgender public figures at risk when they are forced to come out or be outed on social media. Coming out should be a personal journey, and outing transgender persons on social media is an invasion of privacy that robs them of their rights to an identity. Regardless of their fame, coming out should be a choice for public figures—not an expectation.

Titania Celestine

Celestine’s biggest principles in life are justice and fairness. She likes pineapples on her pizza, and has a passion for asking the right questions. With her background in journalism, she hopes to write about socio-humanitarian issues that are in dire need of more coverage to make a significant difference, one step at a time.

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