Social Media as a Friend of the LGBT Community


HuffPo Outlaw MarriagesI’ve been skeptical about the merits of social media since the phenomenon arrived on the scene a few years ago. My reluctance has a lot to do with my professional background. That is, I’m a former newspaper reporter who worked “back in the day” when it mattered if a media entity spelled words correctly and followed grammar rules—two concepts that are pretty much passé in social media.

Even so, my recent experience with what I’d call a “social media tsunami” has made me re-think my opinion of this new entry into the communication world.

That experience began when the Huffington Post ran a slide show about my new book, Outlaw Marriages ~ The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples. Each chapter in the book tells the story of a different couple from the past, and the slide show included photos of eight of those couples.

Many of the pairs consist of one famous person and a partner who previously hasn’t gotten much public attention. Among the couples are actress Greta Garbo and her partner Mercedes de Acosta, playwright Tennessee Williams and his partner Frank Merlo, and author James Baldwin and his partner Lucien Happersberger.


The HuffPost ran an introduction to the book, which I wrote, along with the photos. Above this content, someone at the website—one of the most popular ones out there—placed the attention-grabbing headline:

“8 Legendary Same-Sex Couples.”

And then the tsunami began.

Within two days, more than 1,500 readers had posted comments. Yikes!

Many of the comments were complimentary of the book, such as, “Looks like an interesting book. Thanks.” and “Very cool! We need more of this kind of American history!”

Other readers used the slide show as a jumping off point to speak in support of same-sex marriage. Among my favorites were “These couples inspire me!” and “All great and legendary people who—shock—did not destroy the fabric of America, but helped build it. Thanks for the tribute.”

These comments are part of social media, and I loved them. Of course my publisher loved them, too, convinced that the more buzz Outlaw Marriages receives, the more copies will be sold.

Another aspect of the phenomenon that I enjoyed watching as it unfolded was the threads of comments that spun out from two or more readers. These threads often began with an anti-gay statement but then prompted responses from other readers. Here’s one example:

photo_Stein_and_Toklas“I cannot condone homosexuality. I know that many people are out there living in closets and suffering because they’re afraid to come out, but I want them to stay in those closets. Homosexuality is wrong because God said so, not me.”

“My God didn’t say that. Your God must be awfully mean to tell other people how to lie and who to love.”

Here’s another example of a thread that began with a negative comment but then led to positive ones:

“Outlaw ‘marriages’, nope. Marriage back them [the reader clearly meant to write then rather than them] was between one man and one woman, as marriage should be.”

“How have GLBT people ever harmed you?”

“Why does it matter to you what two people you don’t know and will never have to interact with who are in love do?” [This sentence could have been written more clearly, but, hey, it is what it is.]

Again, these threads never would have been created—or read by other people—if it wasn’t for social media having come into existence.

Even more significantly, without this new phenomenon, a reader wouldn’t have had a venue in which to write this:

“And then there was me and Keith…1966-2003 (his death) Not famous or anything, just in love with life and each other.”

Nor would other readers have been able to make these comments to the statement:

“that makes you both famous and blessed in my book”
Rodger Streitmatter
“A tear for your love ending when Keith died.”

If social media allows a platform on which statements like these can be written, I’m all for it.

By Rodger Streitmatter
© LGBT-Today

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