It almost feels like Christmas when one of your close, unsuspecting friends leaves their Facebook account unguarded. Oh, the possibilities. What should I post this time? Should I share the “pineapple pen” video a dozen times? Should I change their profile picture to that really ugly photo taken at the party last weekend? Should I post a bunch of pro-Trump statuses, even though they were huge Hillary fans in the election?
There are literally so many possibilities when a Facebook account is left open and prime for hacking, but the most common and most unoriginal hack of all time goes something like this: “Hey everyone! I decided I’m tired of hiding. I’m gay!”
I’ve seen a couple of these posts committed toward a few of my Facebook friends recently. I am not trying to call you out; it is obviously not your fault if someone hacked your account without your knowledge. I even wrote this article over a week ago, so for the few that had this happen to them after-the-fact, this is not a diss towards you. However, I am trying to inform you and your hacking friend that these posts are not funny and are not appropriate for Facebook (or any social media for that matter).
We are in a new age where acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community is more celebrated, but by no means am I saying that we are perfect. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t see these heavily inappropriate and extremely immature hacks on Facebook accounts. The reason these posts are so inappropriate is because of the complexity of coming out of the closet.
I am currently working on a final paper for my communication theory class. My paper examines a collection of blog posts written by people who are having trouble coming out to their close friends and family. Then, it uses two communication theories to help explain the reasons these people give for feeling hesitant about coming out.
It is painful to read some of the posts that I see. As a cisgender, heterosexual white male, I will never have to worry about coming out to my family and friends about my sexuality. The people on EmptyClosets.com, a blogging website, feel terrified about their peers’ reactions.
Here are a couple of the posts that I came across during my research (I’m obviously keeping everything anonymous):
“I just came out to my parents today, and boy were they angry... my mom said said she's so sad I told her this, and that's its true; she said she's not sure if she will be able to even look at me the same again. I just over heard them talking about letting me go because of all this "stress" I've put on them?? Now, I'm regretting I've ever said anything; I'm about lose everything now. I feel so ashamed of myself. I told them if I leave, then I'm dying right there on the spot. They said nothing and sent me out. What am I ever to do? This is just not worth it. Going through all this pain, but it was eating me alive.”
“I cant tell anyone, I'm terrified of peoples reactions. My closest friend in the world who I love more than anyone in the world (not in a romantic way) doesn't even know, which makes no sense considering her and her mother run and LGBTQA Charity so I know they'll accept me! I want to know how I can get over this fear, I want to try and conquer it so I can tell the people I love, even if I get thrown out or disowned I want so badly to not live a lie. It breaks my damn heart. I just want to be who I am.”
“I know they are twisted. I've already went through the process at church, don't feel different. I told them: ‘I don't need to be cleansed’ and my dad said: ‘Now that's just bullshit’. My mother shook her head and just remained quiet.”
“My father said that night at dinner that if I was, he would only worry about my salvation (we are Christian). That really hurt, because I'm ashamed how Christians do stuff like this. I know God loves me no matter what. Also, I'm tired of all the ‘You need to accept God into your heart...’ The thing is, is that I have. I get so irritated by those comments; and not to mention all the "’Girlfriend’ comments too.”
People of the LGBTQ+ are often terrified about coming out to their peers. There are concerns that they won’t be accepted by their friends, family, or community. Some people do get the courage to disclose their sexuality to someone, but oftentimes it takes much thought and deliberation to determine if the person can be trusted and how the person is likely to react to the news.
But for heterosexuals, this is a hard concept to grasp because we will never have to worry about it.
I used to find the gay hack funny. It’s been done to me a couple of times. However, I woke up when I took MOSAIC, a six-part education seminar on diversity and social identities at my college.
During the class on sexual orientation, we did a brief exercise involving five-pointed paper stars. We were instructed to put our name in the middle of the star, and then on each point of the star, we were instructed to put a close friend, a community we belonged to, a close family member, a dream job, and then our hopes and aspirations.
Then, depending on the color of the star, we were told to tear a point off. It kept going until the people with green stars, which I happened to have, were told to rip off their final point. Our instructor then told us that we represented the 40 percent of suicide victims who are gay or lesbian.
That statement hit me like a truck. I felt helpless. I couldn’t imagine going through the struggle of losing my closest friends and family members, being rejected by my community, losing my dream job, and giving up on all my hopes and aspirations because of it all.
Yet, many LGBTQ+ people go through this.
This is why I don’t think that your gay hack is funny anymore. You are trying to make your friend feel uncomfortable by passing around a fake rumor about their sexuality. Bravo. You are also making fun of a process that takes years, even lifetimes, for many LGBTQ+ people to go through.
The concept of coming out of the closet is not a joke. It’s a life or death situation, depending on how accepted the person is by their friends and family.
So next time you find your friend’s Facebook unattended, and you feel that strong urge to mess with them, try something else. Get creative. Have fun with it. Embarrass them and have a laugh about it after. Just don’t do it at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups. Pretty simple; just be smart about what you post.