Is Facebook Helping the Gay Rights Movement by Outing You?

WHY HIDING YOUR SEXUALITY FROM FACEBOOK IS A FULL TIME JOB:

A new article by our favorite magazine, Newsweek (we think they hired a new gay, this one is so much better than the last one!) examines how it is becoming more and more difficult to hide your sexuality from Facebook and Twitter,  where control is minimal. Friends can leave comments on your wall or upload a picture to your profile in the blink of an eye, undoing all those privacy settings you meticulously programmed. Wall posts and tweets can be deleted but it is often too late. Nothing is in our control anymore!

“Social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter simply don’t allow for compartmentalization. A buddy once told me that his gay friends and his straight friends are like light and dark liquor—ideally, they shouldn’t be mixed. But social networking forces you to shuffle your decks; friends, family, drunken hookups, and co-workers all get equal treatment—equal weight in a news feed or stream. Presenting a partial portrait of who you are becomes tricky.

“Closeted people can’t just watch their own behavior anymore: they have to monitor and somehow orchestrate the behavior of others, 24 hours a day, in real time.”

He actually goes on to make some good points, which is pretty awesome for Newsweek:

A close friend of mine, from whom I kept my sexuality for years, apologizes to this day for having made me feel I couldn’t tell her. She credits me with shifting her attitudes about gays and lesbians; when forced to choose between my awesome friendship and her bigotry, she made the obvious choice.

… The 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness… rgues that people make better choices through optimal “choice architecture,” systems that remove the effort from making the choice. For example, people are more likely to opt for healthy cafeteria foods if the offerings are arranged in a way that displays those foods prominently. Social networking radically alters the choice architecture of coming out of the closet. It’s not inconceivable to think that Facebook will become a significant part of the gay-rights movement, when people increasingly come out simply because to not do so seems like the bigger hassle.

I know a lot of people who actually avoided coming out just by being open about their lives on facebook. You?

It’s never too late to come out to your family by becoming a fan of Autostraddle on facebook. We did!

(@newsweek)

RUE:

Sean Hayes, Kristen Chenoweth and Margaret Cho were on The View today when news came in of Rue McClanahan’s death:

GAY NEWLYWEDS:

Newlyweds Anna Huang and Alison Stocking are the first women to be featured in the Vows video series about weddings from The New York Times. Huang and Stocking, who married last month in Connecticut, discuss the “thunderbolt kind of chemistry” in their relationship and Huang’s proposal to Stocking during a trip to Paris last fall. (@nytimes)

LESBIAN SOCCER TEAM:

This piece highlights South Africa’s only openly lesbian soccer (football) team. While South Africa is perceived to be a liberal country in reality these women have sought refuge in the team due to the violent homophobic acts in the country. The star soccer player from another team was openly gay and was raped, tortured and murdered. They are forced to practice on a muddy, dirty piece of land because no other teams will let them join. (@bbcuk)

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KLM AIRLINES:

Gay flight attendants at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines made a request to be excused from flying to Iran because the country is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous places for LGBT people, particularly for stewards whose work requires them to spend the night. The request was officially denied yesterday.(@towleroad)

COLLEGE:

A committee will meet at Seton Hall University in New Jersey today to consider whether the Catholic school should cancel a course on gay marriage scheduled for the fall. (@nj)

Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 266 articles for us.

41 Comments

  1. I came out to my mom’s side of the family through Facebook. In my profile it said I was interested in women, so one day about 6 months ago, my aunt called up my mom and was like “what’s this I see about lizzie being interested in women?” And my mom said “She’s gay.” My aunt said “…oh.” and proceeded to yell at my mom for not telling her. Subsequently, I was told that she almost thought I was a “failure as a lesbian” and my girlfriend was “the little albino I found”. Like a stray puppy.
    True story.

  2. The Newsweek stuff is interesting. I just semi recently made my gayness public on facebook…I was definitely wary since so many of my extended family are on there now, but it is freeing! …and I know someone who got fired because he was a fan of the equality forum and refused to take it down (worked at a catholic highschool so..)

  3. I def use FB as a tool for coming out. I HATE being the center of attention, so any way for me to come out without making it a thing is perfect for me. My grandparents and far away cousins etc are mostly on my FB, so I’m still pretty careful about gay I let it get.
    My Twitter though. Its ALL gay. And I have only like, 16 people I let follow me.
    Its a good balance for me.

  4. Totally agree with the fact that not coming out of the closet is becoming a bigger hassle.

    I hate lying, its just not me, but I feel I have to at the moment. I would love to become a fan of Autostraddle on Facebook, but obvs it such a giveaway (I still check ur page regularly though) I am blurring the line by adding the artists I really like who are gay, which I have found kinda liberating. But then again I know none of my friends have heard of them, so they’re still pretty much oblivious.
    Living 2 separate lives is driving me crazy.

    I wish I could be who I am on here in real life, because this is the real me.
    One day I really think I am just gonna say f*ck it and declare my love for everything that Autostraddle embodies in my status!

    Um could someone give me a sleeping tablet please or just whack me over the head? Cause I have wayyy too many feelings for gone 2 in the morning.

  5. I’m not listed as liking women on FB, partly because I live in a town that’s still quite conservative and I didn’t want to deal with any flack, but partly because that’s just not something I would do. Like I’m not the kind of person to list a relationship status or put basically any useful info on my profile. I did “become a fan” or whatever of Autostraddle as a more subtle hint, though 🙂

    • i’m the same. i’m out to pretty much everyone, but i just don’t put anything for “interested in” or my relationship status. mostly it’s because i’m a private person and hate facebook. i have autostraddle listed as one of my websites though, so all someone has to do is click on the link.

  6. You know what’s sad? The only reason I am not a fan of Autostraddle on facebook, is because I am afraid of being out on fb/ to everyone, which I know is super lame.

    However, I have almost convinced myself to announce to all of my friends and family via facebook of my homo-sexiness and have set a goal for myself of being totally out and proud by my birthday, which is in one month. So stay tuned…

    I’m thinking of changing my profile picture to something really awesome and rainbow-filled that literally says “I’m gay” to send the message out.

    • And y could u not b a fan of AS if u wer straight? It’s not all about th gay, I would say it’s more a civil rights website with an emphasis on femminism, with a touch of gay, a smattering of gender related issus and a whole lot of the funi!! I <3 AS, it's th best part of my lunch break! Lol

  7. You know where you can’t come out? Ancestry.com. I am setting up a family tree for Father’s Day and it has a big empty box next to me for my HUSBAND. I clicked it to see if I could change the gender, but no.

    I wonder how they have linked legal same-sex spouses?? I am not married, but now I am curious.

  8. before all the privacy issues, when my profile was filled with neat stuff about me, i was a fan of autostraddle and the HRC. BUT still nobody got the hint, or at least not enough to talk to me about it.

    and back when i was on myspace, i was “out” and had rainbows everywhere, but still no one got it. i wish people would read between the lines!

    IRL i am out to all but one friend and my sister and not at work (cause they can fire me, yay!), but i just wish my sister would get a clue so i wouldn’t have to lezzie up and tell her.

  9. i don’t understand why the dutch airline is denying their request. “no further changes will be made unless it becomes really unsafe for personnel.” what makes something really unsafe?

  10. I have got outed on fb so many times. The first I think no one noticed it’s when a friend said have fun at pride on my status. The others were just getting tagged in reallyy gay photos.
    Now I feel like I might as well be out on fb cuz of it, as most ppl know and I will continue to get tagged.

  11. i havent been outed on FB yet, i havent even come out “officially” really, but if the rainbow studded belt, mens clothing, rainbow stars tattoo on my wrist, the rainbow star desktop (mum only noticed that one today) AND liking Autostraddle on FB doesnt say it, then i dont think saying “IM GAY” will get through somehow.

  12. my fb has very limited information about me, however, 90% of my “liked” things are 200% queer (Autostraddle, HRC, Embodiment, “Queers,” RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Big Gay Sketch Show, Campus PRIDE, …) so if anyone really looks at my profile, it’s pretty obvious.

    one flight attendant on KLM from Amsterdam to Detroit told me that my decision to keep the shitty blanket from a previous flight was “not logical” and stopped me from boarding until she was done with her little speech. she held up the rest of the boarding passengers for about ten minutes, trying to make an example out of me. i wasn’t really paying attention to her, but have kind of have a thing against the airline since. this news makes my feelings about them a little more justified.

  13. My dad found out about me through facebook..i had spent so long trying to keep him from finding out — blocking him from my statuses, wall posts, all pictures. but still, he found out. but in retrospect i’m glad he did, because now i’m entirely out:)

  14. i was “interested in women” on facebook for a while but i got tired of all my advertisements being for rainbow jewelry so i took it off. now i get ads about macarons. also, i’m out to everyone i know so i guess it’s not really a thing? but sometimes i think i should put it back on just in the interest of outness.

    • agreed. i always feel a pull between “it’s nobody’s business, anyhow” and “visibility matters!!”

      but ultimately, i hate facebook’s “interested in male/female” thing. i would really rather choose my own label…

      • Same… Bisexuals are f**ked.. Wel, not really, I suppose that’s th problem! lol I loved bebo – it had a relationship status that was “down for whatever” – IMMENSE! Lol

  15. It’s funny… I’m 100% out, but my Facebook just says “engaged” for relationship status (the other half refuses to get a Facebook). Then again, my profile pic is of the two of us kissing, soooo…

  16. So I was not out on facebook when I was out almost everywhere else (friends, work, twitter) because I wasn’t out to my parents yet.

    But then I told my parents.

    And this was a real exchange between my best friend and I:

    Me: I finally told my parents that I’m gay. I want to be gay on facebook but I didn’t want them to find out through facebook. They were cool, and it’s great because now I can facebook-fan Autostraddle.

    Best friend: I am so happy that you told your family and everything is good and that you can now be an official fan of autostraddle. that almost made me die laughing. That that’s part of the incentive for coming 100% out, I love it.

    Just wanted to share. Part of the incentive for coming out, not even joking.

    Also, facebook is weird. It will bring the apocalypse.

  17. Question, what th etiquette for hen parties for same sex brides/grooms to be.. Was at one for hetro friends of mine but dawned on me what do we gays do? Lol

  18. I’ve been out in some capacity or another since I was 14, but I kind of do the Sneaky Gay thing when there’s a relative I think might not know, I seek them out and add them as a friend on purpose.

  19. I used to be ‘out’ on myspace (yeah, back in those days). That was how my mum found out.. then she made me take it off..
    Now I have no idea how I was brave enough to do that in the first place, the idea of doing it on facebook now is terrifying =/

  20. I used to be really scared of being out on facebook, but now I sort of use it as a challenge. How many pictures of me in drag, links to GLBT websites, and declarations of my undying love for Ellen page can I post before my conservative pastor aunt and uncle finally say something? I am prepared to see this through…unless I have to publish a nude picture, which will probably get me kicked off of facebook, and then they’ll REALLY never get it.

  21. Ah Facebook and underage drinking were like key components to people finding out about my gayness in high school. Good times.

    My first gf and I got in a big fight when I was a junior in high school and my “punishment” was to agree to be in a relationship with her on FB. I thought no one would think that we were being serious because I lived in a delusional world where no one knew I liked ladies. But then my best friends (who knew about me and the gf) told me that like 10 different people had asked about my status and if it was true.
    At the time I was slightly freaked out but now I am so grateful!

  22. I used to come out to the really persistent drunk dudes who hit on me when I worked as a cocktail waitress by telling them to friend me on Facebook. Not only was it such a better way to get them to shut up than giving out my number (which I never, ever did) but it got the message across crystal clear (my Facebook is soooo gay). I would just confirm them, give them a few days to get the hint, then delete them. I know that sounds kind of fucked up, but the responses I would get if I ever actually came out in person in the bar were much worse, ranging from “ya right, you’re not gay” to “ooo that’s hot, can i watch?” to “what a shame.”

    The best part was when any of these guys came back to the bar, there was a much higher chance that they would treat me like a human being and not a potential lay. It was kind of my passive aggressive approach to the annoying male belief that feminine lesbians don’t exist. Hello! We are real! I mean, I’m actually the last unicorn, but nobody knows it…

  23. FB delayed my coming out by at least a bit because I had spent so long in a fake relationship with my BFF I was terrified that she would be pissed that people would think we’d really been together.

    It doesn’t help that she gives off a stronger dyke vibe than any homo I know.

    But recently I added my relationship to my FB and I’m relieved. Hoping it tips off some of the extended family that I don’t care to go out of my way to tell before my sister’s wedding in July so I don’t have to decide whether to answer “When are you going to find a fella?” with the truth and risk a scene on her big day or just smile and say “When the Lord brings to me” so they’ll go away.

  24. Maybe because I was a good age, 43, before I began my coming out journey, I’ve never really concerned myself with the ramifications of Facebook and my homosexuality. Certainly, once you begin peppering your page with your friends — 99% of whom are gay, hmmmmmm — it becomes difficult, indeed, to stay shrouded in secrecy. Perhaps I’m fortunate, having struggled so hard with accepting my sexuality, that I simply don’t care who knows what about me. But I can appreciate the unease someone who was not yet out, even partially, could feel if friends started adding up various “gay” signs on your Facebook page.

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