Virtually Supportive: Self-Disclosure of Minority Sexualities through Online Social Networking Sites
Nearly four decades after nights of riots outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and their symbolism as the most visible first battle in a war against antiqueer oppression captured the imaginations of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people in much of the world, and a half-decade after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the basis for the criminalization of homosexual behavior (Lawrence v. Texas see U.S. Supreme Court 2003), the disclosure of same-sex attraction by sexual minorities remains a topic of interest both in the social scientific literature and in the popular media. Increased social acceptance of “queerness” evinced by its more frequent, diverse, and positive representation in the media, as well as by its political potency, means those who realize their samesex attraction earlier in life less often have cause to try to repress or secrete their identity (Vary 2006), though a social support network of other “queers” still is considered important to the coming-out process (Gonsiorek and Rudolph 1991). Increasingly, self-disclosure of minority sexual identity is made in adolescence and young adulthood. Coincidentally, online social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook, in the few short years since their introduction in 2003, have grown immensely popular among teens and young adults especially. They present the possibility of providing a virtual social support function in an environment which appears non-geographically restricted.