Coming Out and the Help of Cyberspace
“If you are in the closet and fall in love with someone of the same gender, it doesn’t automatically remove the shame and fear that’s kept you locked away. The love you are experiencing encourages you to face the reality that this is who you really are and also has the power to set you free. The richness, beauty and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty and vulnerability. Love, the most powerful of human emotions, is calling you to freedom and wholeness.”
― Anthony Venn-Brown, A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth
“Coming Out of The Closet”
In this 21st century where the world is becoming more globalized than ever, homophobic attacks and hate crimes are yet increasing everyday that it puts a particular group of people in constant fear. The LGBTQ community struggles to reveal their gender identities; many of which still live their lives in fear of being targeted by the rest of the world. Imagine living in a society where you can’t express even one bit of your true self. Sounds scary, but that is exactly what happens everyday to some people.
“Without losing a piece of me
How do I get to heaven?
Without changing a part of me
How do I get to heaven?
So if I’m losing a piece of me
Maybe I don’t want heaven?”
Therefore, many LGBTQ people start to come out. They reveal their gender identity with pride, and share their stories and experiences for the sake of reducing the fear in other people in their community. And the most common platform for people to come out is social media. Coming out isn’t only about telling your family you are gay at the family dinner anymore, it is about speaking up for yourself and being able to embrace who you are. And because on social media there are support and encouragement—the two precious things the LGBTQ community yearns for, it leads to a big movement in the society as many LGBTQ people decide to turn to social media to feel safe and confident, and rather turn their back to the harsh reality.
Coming out on social media can be done by anyone. There are many celebrities and influencers who have come out via social media and among those is Kevin McHale, an American actor well known as Artie in Glee. McHale has revealed his sexuality as he talked about one of Ariana Grande’s songs, “No Tears Left To cry”. Kevin mentioned that #NoTearsLeftToCry was gayer than himself, which could be implied that #NoTearsLeftToCry tweet ensured the rumor about his boyfriend Austin Mckenzie. He publicly announced his sexuality through social media so that he could love and be loved unconditionally.
Another stunning coming out story is from Daya, a 19-year-old American singer-songwriter. She publicly came out via Instagram as she celebrated her first time on National Coming Out Day. Claiming to be bisexual, Daya also added that she is now in a same-sex relationship.
Why coming out is such an important step for an LGBTQ person
“Should I tell my parents and friends?” is probably the biggest question for an LGBTQ person. “Will they be okay with it? Will they support me as who I am?” To answer these questions, it is important to realize that only that person gets to decide whether they want to do it or not. Coming out is one of the biggest processes to accepting one’s sexuality entirely and speaking out proudly as a true person they are. Some people might do just fine with keeping their sexuality as a secret, but sexuality should not as well put a limit on what someone can do. An act of coming out proves to the society that being homosexual is not something one needs to be ashamed of and that it is unhealthy to keep the most important piece that makes someone who they are right now only to themselves.
According to a research done by The Family Acceptance Project, the closeted LGBTQ people tend to have “risk factors” including suicide, depression, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors. “Because more and more, we’re understanding that that kind of acceptance and support from family is the critical mediating variable in terms of risk factors.” says Elijah C. Nealy, author of the book Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride. Therefore coming out while having a family and friends by their side is the best way to avoid the “risk factors”.
“Coming out really helped get me to where I am now, where I feel like I’ve never been more mentally healthy,” said Jordan who was having a depression and wanted to commit suicide. But after meeting with other LGBTQ teens and those who are accepting with the help and support of his family, he came out to his Facebook friends. There are still many LGBTQ people who are reluctant to come out because they are scared of the reaction and think they would shock or hurt others. However, keeping that secret might hurt themselves more in the end.
“It was important because it felt like I was living a lie previously, and I was able to live authentically once I came out.” said a website user.
With that being the case, coming out of the closet gives LGBTQ people an utmost liberating experience as their secret no longer needs to be hidden.
For deeper understanding about what it feels like for an LGBTQ person before and after coming out, we suggest you to watch this heartfelt coming out story of an American youtuber, Connor Franta.
Coming out via social media vs. in real life and why people feel safer on social media
It is as normal for a straight couple to publish their relationship online as to tell people in real life about their status. But for LGBTQ people, it is very unlikely for those two decisions to be equally comfortable. Now that we know how important coming out is to LGBTQ people, we still have to acknowledge the fact that not every gay person is able to actually come out, not even to their parents or friends; or worse, they couldn’t even say it out loud.
The key factor that makes it so hard for LGBTQ people to come out would be the fear of homophobia. Almost everyone in the LGBTQ community have stated the same reason why they never come out in real life; it is because people around them are homophobic. Some stories of people who have come out to their homophobic family and received negative feedback include being verbally assaulted, being told to ‘fix’ it, or even getting beaten.
According to a British survey, YouGov, half of British teenagers are not completely straight, yet most of the world population still presume there is only heterosexuality, hence the unceasing number of homophobic people.
This is where social media come in handy. Social media act like a comfort zone for LGBTQ people to escape from the harsh, homophobic world. Most of the time when people come out on social media, they receive positive feedback. They hear things they want to hear and they get quite a big amount of love and support. They meet people who they know would understand them better than their family; those people with similar stories and traumas they feel like they can trust. LGBTQ people seek nothing but a place where they feel embraced and supported, and social media provide that kind of space for them.
“I’m so gay on social media,” said a Twitter user. “But I never came out to my family. What’s weird is my family probably knows, because I’m so outspoken online, but I’ve never addressed it in person.”
In 2014, there were more 6 million Americans who had come out on Facebook. Other platforms such as Twitter and Youtube also became more popular these days due to their friendlier environment.
Now, we want you to go back to the coming out video earlier and read some of the comments there.
See how just one coming out video can influence so many others to also come out and embrace themselves. This further highlights how important coming out on social media is to the LGBTQ community.
Why talking about LGBTQ openly on social media is crucial in today’s world
One of the most important roles of the cyberspace in today’s society is giving people a free and safe space to reveal their true feelings without fear of being bullied and speaking up for what they believe in. The cyberspace provides both the anonymity that protects people in many ways and the power that leads a small change to a bigger movement. Conversing about such a crucial matter like LGBTQ on social media enables people to understand more about the concept of itself and how hard it is for people in the community; many of those have to confront with toxic words and eyes that look at them like they are a freak.
Social media has the benefit of reaching to a wider range of audience, which is why the LGBTQ people feel they are not alone when being on social media. In real life, they probably have no one around them who is gay, or at least understands them, but on social media, everyone is more open and they find comfort in knowing that there are people like them existing out there. They can easily find many coming out stories as well as personal experiences that encourage and educate them; things like these are much more difficult to find in real life. It is because everyone is free to express their feelings that makes their stories more sincere, and makes people who read those stories feel easily connected and inspired.
We could all agree that what is said much enough on social media could lead to a social movement. There have been many social movements originated from social media, such as the #MeToo campaign, #BlackLivesMatter, and much more. Hence talking about topics like LGBTQ on social media definitely helps spread awareness and knowledge to the public as a whole.
Lastly, here are some tips from us to all the closeted LGBTQ people out there. Seek the support you deserve, and embrace your true self.