Today is Day 16 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to to think about borders in your life, and how to be your authentic self both online and off. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
I remember the moment clearly: palms sweating, stomach in knots, anxiety swirling through my head. Reading and re-reading the status, I hesitated as long as possible until, in a rush of resolve, I finally pushed the button.
There was no turning back; I was “out” on Facebook.
This moment was a long time coming. I spent two years meticulously hiding evidence of my “gay lifestyle” online. Like any good millennial, I feared the power of the internet, the unstoppable flow of information, and the permanency of the digital world. There might as well be a weekly column chronicling the young, usually female, persons paying the price for past indiscretions and bad behavior online.
At the same time, we’re taught the power of storytelling. The internet holds an amazing power to connect folks from different places, different cultures, and different traditions. How can we have it both ways?
I come from a small town in the Bible belt, and was surrounded by gays and lesbians and queers who have been so deeply hurt by the church. Who still feel the pain of rejection and want nothing to do with faith. In these crowds, admitting I’m a Christian feels like coming out. In many ways, it felt like I was living multiple lives.
Eventually, the walls I built in my digital world began to crumble. The support and encouragement I received from my “friends” on Facebook became as superficial as my posts. The very people I wanted to stay in touch with no longer knew who I was.
There’s a community there that I was refusing—a communion I feared taking. Imagine if we approached our “real life” communities with the fear and trepidation we carry into the online world? Imagine how much we’d miss if we were too afraid to participate in conversations with our families or our faith communities?
We know how walls can tumble and hearts can melt with one powerful narrative. As the newest staff member at Believe Out Loud, I spend my days encouraging folks around the country to share their testimony of how they came to support LGBTQ equality. How can I ask for their transparency when I’m too afraid to share myself?
Yes, living openly and courageously online has certain risks, but the rewards of community are great if we choose to participate in this space. My only hope is that, by example, we can all encourage the kind of authenticity that builds community, online and in our “real lives.” It is only by claiming our space that we can hope to make a difference.
For today’s action, think about the borders in your own life, and whether they are serving you, or if you can find ways to move beyond them. And if you feel inspired, share it on social media—maybe by sharing this post on Facebook, tweeting something authentic about yourself, or uploading a photo on Instagram that conveys the borders you encounter in your day-to-day life with the hashtag #30daysolove.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Editor at Believe Out Loud, a Georgia native, and a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Follow Alison on the website South & Out and on Twitter @queerfaith.