Part One: The Interview, coming out on Facebook.

For those that missed my nephew Joe’s blog post last week, he talked about his experience using Facebook as a means to come out. The following is the letter that Joe sent out to his friends and family and an interview that Joe and I had yesterday. It seemed fitting since Joe came out on Facebook that we have our interview via a live chat on Facebook. Read on for Joe’s amazing letter and our chat about how life has been for him since coming out. Please check out our Facebook page for more information or to post additional comments and questions for Colleen and Joe.

Here’s Who I Am.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 2:51am

I am writing this because I am a boy without a strong voice and have much to say. I am a boy with a great heart and have been inclined to keep it enclosed in a minuscule box. Well, society has forced my heart into this box the wrong side up and I am suffocating. I will always be a boy until I take a deep breath and begin the rest of my life as a man with one step away from my restrictions.

Like millions of others, I have goals and dreams of succeeding in my life. I have wishes and hope to change this world for the better. I want to bring happiness to as many as I possibly can. I want to reach out and teach compassion. I want to be an advocate for a better life for all. I want to show the world that I am human, and I want them to see that I am striving for a better world not only for me, but for all.

My values are simple and they are pure. I believe in love. I believe in the power of the heart and soul to know that no matter what anybody says, that what you feel deep down in the core of who you are, whatever that feeling may be, it is the right path. No matter what deities, books, or congregations might tell us, your heart, your soul, and your love are the only tools sufficient enough to illuminate your way through the unknown future.

So listen to those faithful devices we all contain. Free yourself from social opposition and drop those weights of negative opinions. For when you shed these burdens, you will soar higher than the stars. And when you are soaring through the abyss of life, I hope you open your eyes and realize that the universe continues to exist. The stars will continue to smile with that twinkle in their eyes and you will understand that you are a human who can love. That you are an admirable person who can accept all walks of life and realize that we are all equal.

As you read this, I feel I have taken my first step on the road of a man. I am finished playing hide and seek with myself.

I am a man who has feelings for other men, and I will not allow shame or discrimination to push me back into the small confines it provides for me. I am a man with a growing voice, and much to say. Here are my ambitions:

-I want to be accepted. I will not become a second class citizen and I will never settle for separate but equal.

-I want to be able to scream from the mountain tops that I am in love with another man and not be swept from the peaks by roaring winds of opposition.

I dream of a future where the tables are round and love is the law of the land. And if I cannot see such a future cross with my own, I will remain strong and determined to give my life so that my sons and daughters and your sons and your daughters can live without hate and discrimination. We are all great, and we are all different, but always remember that in an ideal world, the only prerequisite for equality is simply a pulse.

Regardless of where my life is headed, I’ve finally taken the first step to find out just where exactly my compass is pointing. I’m Joseph, I am gay, and I am ready for life and love. Anything else is just an obstacle that I will overcome.

Interview with Joe

Me: Joe!! You busy?

Joseph: Hey! Nope, just surfing youtube

Me: Sweet! Let’s get to that interview if you have some time!

Joseph: Alrighty

Me: So, in the blog you wrote for us (it’s pretty darn awesome, by the way), you talked about why you chose Facebook as your vehicle for coming out to friends and family. Were there any other things you want people to know about why you chose to come out on Facebook?

Joseph: I guess I wanted to really explain a little further as to why I did and why it might not be a bad choice for others to do the same. There are definitely some perks to it all.

Me: Ok, so tell me what the benefits were to using Facebook.

Joseph: For one I felt like it was a great buffer. It put a bit of a filter into the conversation bound to happen. Instead of having it [in] real time with the possibility of emotions and the like jumbling up the message, I had everything I wanted to say right there for all to see. It protected me from losing what I really wanted to say, you know? I think in conversations that are about sensitive things like coming out, we give in a bit more to prevent tense feelings.

Me: I guess it also helps to not have to repeat yourself a million times to the family, lol.

Joseph: Haha, yeah especially with our gigantic one. Same thing with all of my friends. To be honest though, I think the biggest perk of it all was…

Me: Bated breath here, lol.

Joseph: Diluting the matter to become simply another trait of mine. On my Facebook page it says I’m a male, my birthday is May 31st, I’m into men… and hey he liked The Dark Knight.

Me: I gotcha- you can just be Joe now.

Joseph: Exactly. It’s “facebook offish” now. Hehe. Short for official, just in case that was lost in translation

Me: Yes, I am old and not into the lingo. ; )

Joseph: I love the option of having all of the reactions down in a list of comments too. Having the ability to delete anything bad is also great too, but thank God I didn’t have to do that.

Me: Let’s talk about the reception you got…were you surprised by anything at all?
I mean anyone’s reaction
Joseph: Hm… Well first of all I want to just note that the reception I received was definitely overwhelmingly positive. This may not be true for everyone who comes out on Facebook… but I think I only had one surprise.
It was I guess a few months after I had officially come out that my dad found out.
I didn’t choose to tell him, and quite frankly I had no intention of telling him, but once again it was bound to be leaked to him after posting it on Facebook. He talked to my mom briefly about it and basically said that he still loved me and I was his son. Granted he threw in the fact that he didn’t agree with it, but coming from my President of the Italian-American Club father… it was a good surprise.
Me: That’s definitely a better reception from him than I expected.

Joseph: Mhm. I haven’t personally talked to him about it, and I actually haven’t talked to him at all save for a call for my birthday. It’s a bit of an awkward matter and it only goes to show that coming out is definitely a process. It isn’t a one time deal. There will be people in my life that I want to find out in due time.

Me: Sure. It’s one of those traits a person has that isn’t obvious, for lack of a better word. I can imagine that it’s tough with your dad, but I’m sure you will get to a less awkward place. What was the funniest reaction you got on facebook?

Joseph: Oh man! Take a guess!
Me: Yes, Zombie man? Uncle Rich?
Joseph: Ding ding! I’ll quote him. I’m sure that will tickle him pink.
“So that’s why all the Ken Dolls had no shirts on. Jeeze this really came out of left field. NOT. We have always been very, very, proud of you .Even when you played with Barbies. We are looking forward to meeting the Doctor you’re going to marry, seeing the kids you’re going to adopt, and the career that is going to change the world. Whoever you’re in love with will still have to meet and be grilled by your family, who will always love you. I LOVE YOU JOSEPH- Uncle Rich”
Me: Yup. I remember this! Very sweet, and very Uncle Rich. Has there been a negative side to coming out on Facebook?
Joseph: There is one thing that bothers me a little: accepting friend requests from those you’re not too keen on knowing just yet. I would love to connect with some of the people who add me, but that stops me from time to time.

“Once again proving that it takes time to get comfortable [with coming out]. On some levels I’m not comfortable with it, even though I know it’s just another trait of mine.

Me: Sure– I don’t always feel comfortable sharing personal things with certain people– like where I work for example. You’re never sure how some people will react.

Joseph: Yup, and even though ideally we like to say that if somebody has an issue with it, just brush it off… it’s easier said than done.

Me: That’s part of being human, I think. It’s good that you’re setting boundaries for yourself- I think that’s important.

Joseph: We can only bite off so much. Life has certainly been a lot more than just dealing with coming out. I can only devote so much energy and patience to that.

Me: Sure. I remember you were going for your license a few days after you came out!
So yes, sexual orientation is just one piece of the puzzle in our lives.
Joseph: Haha yeah, this year has certainly been filled to the brim with things to handle.

Me: You’re not kidding! Grandma’s passing was a huge thing to handle this year.

Joseph: Grandma wrote me a letter about my coming out through an e-mail and I am so glad I have that. I won’t ever lose that. Having these moments occur in part online have left me with some tangible memories to reinforce the precious moments in life.

Me: Tearing up here– she loved you so much, Joe.

Joseph: She loved everyone so much. I love carrying that on, or at least trying my best to. I always ask myself “if it’s worth it,” something I remember her saying.

Me: She was a wise woman. So it sounds to me that if you had to do it all over again, you would come out on Facebook… is that the case? Would you have changed anything?

Joseph: Definitely [would do it again], and I don’t think I would change anything at all. Having regrets is overrated.

Me: Gotcha. Wise man ; )

Joseph: Haha. Wise people helped raise me. .

Me: Speaking of wise, what words of wisdom do you have for others who haven’t yet come out to family and friends?

Joseph: Hm.. embrace everything about yourself and love yourself fully. Be comfortable with being gay and don’t for one minute let anyone convince you that it is wrong or some such nonsense. If somebody of the same sex makes your heart melt like butter, how can that be wrong? And get ready to give acceptance just as you hope others will accept you. Even the bigots. It’s a two way street and sometimes the best we can do is stay in our own lane.

Me: So smart for someone so young.

2 Responses to “Part One: The Interview, coming out on Facebook.”

  1. Loretta

    I have to say something, it might not be related, however, I think it really is. Speaking of Joe’s Grandma, my Mom, I was never so proud of her when she stood up in mass at her Catholic church and spoke to the congregation about the teachings of the church in regards to birth control, their attitudes towards the LGBT community, the right to choose and other issues. She asked the congregation to be honest about their own feelings towards these issues and asked them if they really agreed with the teachings of the church. She challenged them to walk out of church with her until the church changed it’s attitude. Well, no one else, except my wonderful Dad stood up with her and they both walked out of the church, hand in hand and never went back. I’m sure the rest of the congregation have popped a few birth control pills in their lives, they have gay and lesbian family and friends. Why do they still continue to support and attend an institution that supports discrimination? My Mom and Dad both found a wonderful church that does not share these narrow minded values. They teach the values that Joe speaks about in his wonderful letter. I’m so proud to be his Mom.