In what appears to be a momentous progressive step, Facebook has added ‘civil union’ and ‘domestic partnership’ to its relationship status options, contributing to its uniquely positioned relationship with the LGBT community.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters and an advisor in the Clinton administration, described this moment in an email to Huffington Post. “Facebook has always been an empowering place for gay people–it’s a place you can be yourself in relative safety. This is a natural progression of that. In most places, gay Americans can’t yet marry but they may be able to formalize their relationship short of marriage. This change reflects that reality.”
Individuals have for years been turning to the transparency of Facebook to come out. The extension of the public sphere online has allowed the nature of public discourse to expand indefinitely. And Facebook, Mike Zuckerberg’s multi-billion dollar venture, has become a game-changer.
In her TIME Magazine exposé, Caryn Brooks describes how Facebook has changed the LGBT community and help make it more mainstream. “Coming out used to be an exhausting process. You had to come out again and again and again to all your friends at different times. Nowadays, even with social networking, gays still have to come out, but one of the key differences between our pre-profile selves and our new online presentations is that now (finally!) the burden is also on our friends to discover and digest our identities.”
Has Facebook become the final frontier for the gay community? Or is this simply the beginning of a new digitial age? Facebook provides a certain veil of discretion that allows for a surprising level of honesty and openness that you may be less than willing to expose face-to-face. “I didn’t have to have the same conversation a thousand times,” says one bi-sexual man about Facebook. “Plus, there’s a radical empowerment that comes from declaring your identity in the public sphere.”
For now, Facebook remains a tool the worldwide LGBT community embraces and utilizes in spreading tolerance and recruiting support. And Facebook, in rewarding the loyalty of the community, has made a great social statement in return.