Being an Online Gay
The internet. It’s a fantastic source of information, it’s full of interesting people and you can be connected to anything or anyone, anywhere in the world, in a few seconds. With all that connective potential it’s little wonder online communities like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter thrive so plentifully. But what I’ve noticed about the internet, at least in my experience of it (which I’ll admit isn’t that thorough), is that the group that most embraces a life online tends to be the gays.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You think that I’m talking about sex. I won’t deny that sex and its related activities have been a part of my gay life online. I met my boyfriend online, we’ve been together for over a year and things are going really well. I met my ex boyfriend online too. We were together for 8 months and I’m happy to say that I’m still friends with him now 2 years on. And the first guy I ever had any sort of relationship with, the first guy I had any sexual contact with, the first guy I was ever head over heels in love with – I met him online too.
So yes, sex is an element of what I’m saying. But sex is no more the whole of the gay netscape than my sexuality is the whole of me. It’s undoubtedly a part of me but it doesn’t define me. So when I think about the gay presence online it’s not sex that I’m thinking about, it’s a massive ineffability of expression built from sex, literature, networking, friendship, advice, music, love, personal woes and triumphs and community.
This expression can come in many forms, be it in a Facebook status, a tweet or a YouTube video, but I think it comes across best of all in blogs. I know a fair few gays who blog, and obviously I’m one of them. Blogging is great for expressing yourself in ways that you can’t really achieve by simply talking about something. When you write a blog you go over what you’re saying a few times, you refine it, you get it all in the right order so as best to express what you’re trying to say, and then you publish it and it’s out there. It’s a similar feeling to writing an essay at school, except that the whole process is on your own terms. There’s no deadline and there’s no grade, so there’s no pressure for what you’re writing to be ‘good’ unless that’s what you’re aiming for. Also, I never really got to show my essays to people. After all that work you put into writing one, only having one person read it seems like such a waste.
I think this is what attracts a lot of gays to blogging, and to the internet in general. It’s about expression. When young gays and lesbians are coming to terms with their sexuality they can feel very alone. I certainly did. But the anonymity of the internet is perfect for people in this situation. It allows us to talk about our sexuality, and about anything we want, openly and honestly and without worrying that someone’s going to find out about it. When I was approaching this idea of ‘being gay’ for the first time I signed up to the Gay Youth Corner, a discussion forum type website set up to give young people somewhere to go to talk to others in similar situations. I remember found it because Channel 4 were doing a series of programs about sexuality, and their website mentioned the GYC so I went to have a look. When I was on there I had people from all over the world saying hello to me, wishing me good luck, asking for advice, discussing sexual encounters and tastes, chatting about any old random thing and just being friendly. It was such an eye opener for me at the time, and it was exactly what I needed. I stopped being afraid of what I was going through. That website’s where I met that first guy too. We were both asking for advice about having crushes on straight guys. Funny how things turn out isn’t it.
But even after we’ve come out, after we’ve told our parents and our friends, and after enough time’s passed for the sexuality issue to have become unremarkable, there’s still that attraction; an attraction to the internet, to blogging, to discussion forums, to information and expression and to a sense of self. There’s a freedom in anonymity. There’s a feeling of control in being able to craft what you express before you express it. There’s a sense of community in knowing that you can connect to real people whenever you want, and for whatever purpose. And in being able to look back over what you’ve said – to see how you portray yourself and how others have reacted to you and you to them – there is self evaluation and discovery.
The internet allows us to be who we want to be, and when you’re growing up young and gay that’s an invaluable tool in being able to be happy. Maybe that’s why we gays are so good at the whole online thing. We’re being who we want to be, and if we’re on the internet we’re being it everywhere.