By Richard Patrick | @incredlblyrich


When Olympic diving star Tom Daley posted a video on YouTube announcing his same-sex relationship, he joined a small but significant group of celebrities brave enough to declare their sexuality to the world. While the inevitable media frenzy focused on the revelation itself, the biggest surprise was his refreshingly honest approach and his use of social media to make the announcement.

In the past, gay celebrities have favoured the magazine interview with Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres and Adam Lambert coming out to People, Time and Rolling Stone respectively. But Daley chose a much more direct approach, saying he wanted to put an end to all the rumours and speculation without his words being twisted. Sports presenter Clare Balding praised his decision, saying: “There was no marketing, there was no branding, it was clearly not managed and I love that and I think gosh, if YouTube had been around ten years ago that’s probably what I’d have done.”


When Daley addressed his audience directly, he added an extra level of authenticity to his message by conveying emotion and tone; a feat no magazine interview or press release could ever achieve. It’s no surprise then that more and more gay celebrities are embracing this form of communication to discuss their personal lives. R&B star Frank Ocean revealed his attraction to men in an inspiring Tumblr post, eloquently retelling the story of his first love, while US TV anchor Robin Roberts came out simply and subtly on Facebook by thanking her long-time girlfriend for helping her through a recent health crisis. 

But celebrities aren’t the only ones turning to social media to aid the coming out process. In a world where everyone has a digital persona to cultivate and manage, revealing your sexuality online before you do so in person is fast becoming the most popular method for young gay people. A quick search on YouTube brings up countless videos featuring nervous individuals facing the camera and declaring their sexuality for the very first time. Similarly, the effortless nature of a status update has become a guaranteed way to inform everyone at once, thus avoiding the hassle of having the same conversation over and over again. Simplicity aside, coming out online also gives you the chance to think very carefully about how you wish to express yourself with the option of starting over as many times as you like – a luxury you don’t get with a face-to-face conversation. It also places a buffer between the announcement and the reaction, allowing the recipient time to process the information before responding. With significant advantages like these, it’s no wonder people are choosing to out their digital identities first.

A recent trend on YouTube has seen some teenagers taking things a step further by filming their coming out experience live. Hidden webcams document their nervous introductions before they call a family member into their bedroom for the big reveal. Surprisingly, it’s not just the positive reactions which are uploaded; some of the more vitriolic responses prove very difficult to watch. But view counts always bump the more heart warming videos to the top of the pile, with one particular clip showing a tearful young boy being told by his mother that his sexuality doesn’t matter to her one bit.


The world of online closet-jumping isn’t limited to tech-savvy teenagers either. Websites like, rucomingout.com provide a platform for gay people of all ages to share their experiences with those who might be struggling. The website even hosted the diary of a 60-year-old gentleman who not only made the brave decision to come out to his friends and family but also committed to documenting the entire experience, charting his journey right from personal acceptance to attending his very first Gay Pride parade. The comments left underneath each post were beamingly positive and the advice and support he received from complete strangers undoubtedly helped him through what potentially could have been a very lonely time.

Using the internet to come out of the closet may seem trivial to some, but sharing the burden with others can be a great help to people who may not be lucky enough to have direct support. Focusing on the revelation rather than the reaction can also be incredibly empowering. It allows people to explain their feelings precisely without fear of interruption or misinterpretation and in a world where our personal lives are often conducted over a WiFi connection, the method is becoming just as important as the message itself.


If you would like to share your coming out story with FS, email us at fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.


SUPPORT

Coming out is never an easy thing to do. Some people do it once, some people do it several times. Some people don’t do it at all. However, no matter what stage of your coming out process you’re in, there are many support services available to help you. 

Online:

Stonewall: www.youngstonewall.org.uk/get_support/coming_out.

TheSite.org: How to come out – www.thesite.org/sex-and-relationships/sexuality/how-to-come-out-3741.html

Phone:

Stonewall: 08000 502020

London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630