As the LGBT community celebrated “National Coming Out Day” this week, we learned that more of them than ever have found the support they needed on Facebook.
In an attempt to raise awareness of the issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals, the day was set aside in 1988 in conjunction with the first anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. One of the main objectives stated in the beginning was to fight homophobia.
Now Facebook has compiled and published statistics regarding its US users who have “come out” during the past year. In examining the trend, they found an increase both in the number of members newly disclosing their LGBT orientation and people expressing support for the groups that represent them.
And it’s apparent from the numbers that the June 26 Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage was a huge factor. It became much more common for LGBT members to share their stories, and with that openness came respect and admiration. Other events that seem to have had a positive effect are World AIDS Day and Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlyn Jenner.
Not long ago, Facebook created a broad list of gender identity and sexual preference definitions that members could use if they chose to do so.
It’s estimated that in the past year, approximately 800,000 Americans took advantage of that opportunity. All told, more than 6 million Americans have come out on the social network. And 78 per cent of them did so during the last three years..
When the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision was making headlines, over 26 million people modified their profile pictures with a rainbow filter to show their support. And 5.7 million signed up with at least one of Facebook’s 300 most popular LGBT pages. That’s an increase of nearly 25 percent compared to the previous year.
Jay Brown, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s director of research, commented:
“Facebook’s research is proving just what a difference visibility makes to LGBT people. In a year that’s seen unprecedented coverage of LGBT people — from major coming out moments to Supreme Court victories to tragedies shaking the community — we see people becoming visible in their own lives.
It’s these small coming out moments — the 21-year-old college student who tells his Facebook friends from high school that he’s transitioning; the retired teacher who changes her status and posts about her marriage to her longtime partner; and the gay dad in a small town who comes out to his co-workers and then his family online — that make bigger coming out moments possible.
When people know us, they support us. And clearly social media is an incredible tool in making that possible.”