By Caryn Brooks
Coming out used to be an exhausting process. You had to come out again and again and again to all your friends at different times. Nowadays, even with social networking, gays still have to come out, but one of the key differences between our pre-profile selves and our new online presentations is that now (finally!) the burden is also on our friends to discover and digest our identities. For the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Facebook et al have finally leveled the identity field, and it's kinda nice.
I remember the apprehension I had prior to going to a high school reunion in the days before Facebook was popular. I didn't care who knew I was sapphically inclined. I just resented having to tell them. Fast forward to now. My long-lost buddy Jill from middle school (married to a guy and with two small children) recently found me on Facebook. She had responded to some posts on my page about the lesbian soap opera The L Word, so it was safe to assume that she had figured me out.
"I did know you were gay," she told me when I inquired about how she digested my profile. "Maybe even a hunch at 14 but pretty sure I may have heard it somewhere along the road as an adult, although I can't remember how or when. When I read your L Word write-ups, it only confirmed what I knew." Jill knew. Still, I didn't know she knew. But I didn't need to come out to her. Jill was covered when she friended me. (Check out a story about your Facebook relationship status.)
The system works within the community as well. When I last heard of my friend Harreld, he was well ensconced in a long-term relationship with a man. But when our paths crossed on Facebook earlier this year, I saw that he had been in a relationship with a woman for some time. I had no idea Harreld was a practicing bisexual.