The Virtual Closet: Is Facebook Changing the Way People Come Out?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, many aspects of our private lives are made public – whether it’s where we ate dinner last night or the person with whom we chose to eat that meal.

Of course, most of these bits and pieces are benign, or, depending on who you ask, even boring. But for some people - specifically gay people who are closeted or trying to come out - they can serve as an announcement about their sexual orientation.

 

Our topic for today’s tech segment is how social networking sites are changing the way gay people come out, or are outed by others.

Joshua Alston joins us from Atlanta. A staff writer for Newsweek, he recently wrote a piece called “The Digital Closet."

And Brooklyn-based artist TJ Volonis shares his story of coming out to his extended family via Facebook.

If you're gay, did you come out on Facebook? Were you outed before you were ready? And what rules do you have online when your family and coworkers are online too? We're exploring these issues of being gay and online privacy. Share your story in the comments below.

 

Guests:

Joshua Alston and TJ Volonis

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [1]

Ted from CA

I wrote this email to The Takeaway yesterday after being seriously offended by a question they asked at the end of the program to promote this piece. While what I heard this morning was pretty banal, I think what I wrote to the programmers yesterday needs to be repeated:

On this morning's show, I heard the host ask, "is Facebook the worst thing to happen to gay people?" Have you lost your minds? Ever heard of AIDS? How about Proposition 8, or maybe organized religion? Ronald Reagan, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Rev. Rick Warren-sponsored mess in Uganda, and the state of Alabama are all pretty bad too, just to name a couple.

Did someone on your show pick this story out of the life and style section of a six-year-old newspaper? What a laughably irrelevant subject! It's gay pride month all around the world, and here in California, the legality of Prop 8 is about to be decided in a federal court. Yet, you choose to air this drivel. I have noticed a repeated pattern of what can only be classified as sheer ignorance on your part when it comes to covering what you deem to be "gay issues."

In the last year or so of listening to your program, the majority of pieces you have aired relating to gay people have been vapid and superficial at best. Unless there's a legislative battle or court case involving us in the news, you tend to treat gay people as oddities of life--like we don't live on your streets, teach your children in schools, or sit in the next cubicle over at the office. More often than not, these pieces come replete with lots of cutesy, condescending, and downright insensitive innuendo-laced banter between your two hosts. These stories only serve to reenforce the widely-held and perverse notion that there's something abnormal about us, something different, perhaps even threatening--something that makes us "the other." Like all "marginalized groups" in this country, we have stories that are important to us. You seem to do a good job of covering other "minority interest" stories. Yet, when it comes to us gay people, your record cannot be more pathetic.

Hearing that boneheaded question for the story on tomorrow's show made my blood boil this morning. James Baldwin once wrote, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage all the time." Baldwin was gay too. Swap the word "Negro" for "homosexual" and that wonderful thought is just as true. Thanks for being my reminder of that rage for today.

Shame on you! Do better. I listen to your show every day, I know you can.

Jun. 24 2010 12:43 PM

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