7.9.09 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotTen or 12 years ago, I would have been terrified to learn that my fellow graduates of Fox Senior High School in Arnold, Mo., had learned I was gay. Like so many of my LGBT family members, I came out in college, after I had safely disconnected from just about every person I had known during my high school years.

There was, of course, my best female friend from high school, who was the first to learn that I was of the rainbow persuasion. She helped me through the coming out process and supported me every step of the way. We still keep in touch almost daily.

Eventually, I became comfortable with my sexuality and would hear through the grapevine that this person or that person from my hometown had learned I was gay. It soon became a non-issue.

When I went home for a close friend’s wedding shortly after I moved to Florida, I remember I was the talk of the wedding party. There were four of us male friends who had spent way too much time together in high school. The groom was clueless and the other two already knew I was gay. One was excited, saying he felt like he was on an episode of The Real World, while the other was apprehensive and actually tried to convince an ex-girlfriend of mine to win me back to the straight side. I didn’t have the heart to tell him she’s bisexual.

As we pieced together this Technology and Education issue of Watermark, I became more aware of how technology has aided my coming out process—albeit indirectly. To those who attended Laughter in Paradise the night before the St. Pete Pride Street Festival, you’ll remember comedian Gloria Bigalow talking about friends finding her on Facebook and contacting her regarding her “interesting life.”

While the scenario got plenty of laughs that night at the comedy show (and I swear I was planning on writing this column before Gloria took that stage), it’s a reality more and more of us in the LGBT community are facing. Friends are using the Internet and finding us—and what we put on our personal pages helps those people reshape their opinions of us.

As a reporter with Watermark, my name has shown up on search engines as an employee of a “gay business” for more than five years. I’ll never forget the e-mail I received from my sister conveying her shock that I worked for a gay newspaper. I felt like I was in grade school again. She even asked me if our parents knew I was working for a gay publication.

When I told her they did, and that they had even read a copy or two of the paper, her interest seemed to wane. Go figure. I guess sibling rivalry never changes.

I recently plunged headfirst into the world of Facebook and immediately began getting friend requests from people I hadn’t seen—nor even thought of—for at least 15 years. I found myself suddenly giving high school friends and acquaintances access to my profile, complete with information on my place of big gay employment and my relationship. So far I’ve been fortunate. Everyone who has reached out has been complimentary about my life—or at least what they can see of my life online.

It has really been great hearing from so many long-lost friends.

But I’d be lying if I said there still wasn’t a part of me that was a little uncomfortable with the whole “coming out via the Internet “thing.” On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself hesitating to click “Accept” on a friend request when I realized it was an acquaintance that was on my basketball team or was someone I remember as the macho, judgmental type.

Why is that? Why do I still fear being judged or mocked, despite participating in the state’s largest LGBT Pride promenade and even getting personally heckled by a protestor? (That’s an Editor’s Desk for another day.)
Maybe it’s human nature or maybe it’s just the fear of the unknown. But one thing is for certain: technology doesn’t let us keep secrets for long.

And so far, that has proven to be a pretty good thing.

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