Coming Out of the Closet in the Digital Age: My Experience
Posted by Nathan Lawrence
As most – if not all- of you already know, I am gay. However, very few people knew this (as far as I know) until I decided to make my life significantly simpler and reveal how I felt to everyone who was a “friend.” Since this was as somewhat harrowing experience, I thought it might be prudent to share my experience.
On June 29, 2011, I decided that I wanted to make my conversations with friends and family members a little easier. After lying about or evading questions about my sexual preference and awkwardly shrugging to comments that I would make a great husband someday for about six months, I was bored of trying to hide an integral part of who I am from the rest of the world.
This, however, was not the only reason I chose to open myself up on the 29th. I also fully realized that we were fast approaching the end of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) Pride Month. Thanks to the month itself and the New York State Senate’s vote to legalize gay and lesbian marriages, awareness for this topic was particularly high. By making my announcement in such a grandiose way, I intended to spur discussion and get people thinking.
At 10:29 PM, after checking the “Interested in Men” box on my Facebook profile, I posted the following status update to both Facebook and Twitter:
[Nathan Lawrence] Just found enough courage to check the “Interested in men” box on his profile. I guess it’s official now. Feel free to post hate mail in the comments.
By 11:00 PM, I had four comments (no hate mail). By the end of the 30th, I had 17 comments (still no hate mail) and ten “Like” votes. I had received a total of seven Facebook messages, three of which were hateful. None of these three came from people I had friended. This continues to be the most active status update I have ever posted on Facebook, and I expect this trend to continue.
What I Did Right
Since the 30th, I have spent a lot of time wondering why I got such an overwhelmingly positive reaction. I had assumed prior to this action that my sexual orientation would make me a leper on the fringes of society. After some serious thinking, I have come to the conclusion that I did the following things right:
- I only friended people who were actually my friends. Facebook makes it so easy to just friend everyone at your school or office, but when I signed up for Facebook, I knew I wanted a high signal to noise ratio, meaning that I had to be a lot more restrictive with whom I chose to friend. This served me well, because everybody who replied to me already knew me very well and could immediately understand how this applied to me, not just the cliches of the group of people to which I now seemed to belong.
- I subconsciously tested the waters. Without realizing it, my positive remarks about the New York State Senate bill passing were- in a way- a test of how people felt about this issue. Seeing such positive feedback from people about this issue heartened me and made me feel more confident in my Facebook Friends’ ability to handle my news.
- I asked for hate mail, then said to post it publicly. Instead of simply ignoring the fact that this issue was controversial, I chose to address it directly. By inviting hate mail by name and asking that it be posted in the comments, where it would be embarrassingly public, I made people wonder if I would actually be affected by such comments.
What I Did Wrong
- I posted the announcement publicly on Twitter. There’s really nothing more to say here. This isn’t like Facebook where I can control who sees it.
- I allowed anyone to send me a Facebook message. This normally isn’t a problem, but in this case three people who weren’t my friends sent me annoying hate mail. It didn’t really hurt, but it was frustrating.