LGBTQ coming out via Facebook status
It used to be that the LGBTQ coming out was a rite of passage, whether intentionally or accidentally. Everyone in the LGBTQ community had to undergo it. Nowadays, it can be as simple as posting a Facebook status message.
Shawn Barber, an Olympic pole vaulter athlete, managed to come out recently as gay to friends and family by posting it on Facebook and made it public.
This act, noted by psychologists Matthew Chester and Aaron Rochlen, signifies a positive shift in attitude toward the acceptance of gay athletes.
LGBTQ coming out: Traditional vs. online
Barber is lucky as ten years ago, he could have lost friends and athletic support to the point of being shunned in his sport.
For the rest of us, the traditional way of coming out meant exhausting face-to-face meetings.
But Chester– a doctoral candidate studying counseling psychology at the University of Texas at Austin– and Rochlen– a professor of educational psychology– noted that Barber’s coming out follows similar patterns in their study.
“In a study we conducted, we found that gay men who used Facebook to come out did so to avoid repeated, draining discussions about their sexuality,” they noted, citing that more gay and lesbian people around the world are going through the online route.
“Coming out online is more efficient in that it significantly decreases the time it takes to disclose the information to loved ones,” they said.
“Facebook also allows LGBT people to manage how their disclosures are shared. Negative reactions might be shamed by others or squelched by a flurry of positive responses,” the two said.
However, they did add that coming out online is “not right for everyone.”
“For some people, the ‘old school’ method is still the preferred, or needed approach,” they said.
LGBTQ coming out: Barber’s public act
Barber had made his declaration last April, which the Canadian Olympic Committee had confirmed.
In his FB message, he said: “Gay and proud! Thank you to my parents for being such a great support. I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group.”
“My parents are my greatest support and have helped me through a lot recently. To my friends, you are always my friends and i love you too!” he added.
Barber won the world chammpionship in pole vault in 2015. During the Rio Summer Olympics, he finished 10th place.
Most of the reaction to his Facebook message was supportive.