The Spin Cycle:Happy National Coming Out Day…?

Welcome back to The Spin Cycle, Lilith’s online forum for media analysis.

KraussI think it started with an article in The Nation. Or maybe it was over at good ol’ HuffPo. Or maybe it was Ellen DeGeneres? I’m not sure. All I know is that one particular topic sure is getting a lot of coverage these days. Seriously. It’s all over my newsfeed.

The amazing thing is the tech piece. Good things: Dan Savage initiating the creation of an archive of personal stories on YouTube. The extraordinary Make It Better project. Sarah Silverman’s badass indictment of anti-gay policy, also a YouTube victory. Bad things: The (gay) president of the University of Michigan student assembly getting harassed by the state’s assistant attorney general, via a blog dedicated solely to that appalling purpose. The secretly recorded video of the student at Rutgers, which, blame-games aside, seems to have provided the impetus for a young man to take his own life. 

The much-discussed disintegration of the boundary between the public and private spheres on the internet has real-life implications. As much as DADT is on the radar, as often as gay marriage reaches the senate floor, the transition to high-tech media increasingly brings personal (not policy) stories to the very public fore. These personal stories can end with victory or tragedy. When the now-infamous Jewish Standard, laughably, literally apologized, for running a WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT (wha?? really??), they were roundly and speedily called out. Everybody heard about it, and so they didn’t get away with it. Anecdotes have become the medium, as well as the message, in a world with such broad access to a seemingly infinite number of soapboxes.

Believe me, I’m not one to push for self-censorship on the internet. A) I like anecdotes, and B) it would never work. As I take stock of the wider implications of highly publicized personal stories circulating like wildfire, I’m still not sure how it all shakes out for the political power of the news-cycle. I’m glad the Jewish Standard got caught in their anti-gay bigotry, but I’d sure rather “the deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community to this issue” hadn’t first gotten such a public legitimization. I just hope the sound of the shared internet outcry, our collective horror at the tragic desperation that can be found all-too-often among our queer youth, is heard loud and clear.

–Sonia Isard