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Op-Ed: Facebook Keeps Me Gay

xorje at pride

Why I'm one of the proud billion daily users

Pictured: Xorje Olivares (left) and friends at Pride in New York City

"What's on your mind?" Facebook asks me daily. Honestly, Facebook, I'm hungry and could go for a chicken bowl with guacamole from Chipotle because I need a more constant reminder of my ethnicity. No, I'm bored and have finally determined after ten minutes that cat's cradle isn't really fun when you're alone at the office. Actually, scratch that, I'm kind of tired because somehow I allowed a fellow gay to convince me that #ThirstyThursday and a pitcher of lime margarita is a thing (Does anyone else think that last line was a bit blurry?). OK, you know what, I'm just going to skip this whole status update part for right now and scroll through my friends' happy memories because I'm not at all bitter about their engagements and crawling toddlers.

With news that one billion people logged onto Facebook in a single day this week--and yes, you should definitely take some time to process that because it's a pretty obscene number--I think it's safe to say that I share certain characteristics with some of my fellow users. In fact, I can guarantee you that I'm not the only openly gay Latino utilizing the social media site for news, nostalgia and my own narcissistic tendencies, though I may be the only one whose Selena obsession completely dominates his page.

But like a good portion of those billion users, I distinctly remember my life as both a closeted young adult and now as an openly gay person whose journey has been dependent upon Facebook and its incredible reach, especially within my own family and friends.

Since joining 'The Facebook' after my freshman orientation in the summer of 2006, the site and I have both undergone several changes, some physical, others not. I think the greatest revision lies within our privacy settings. The openness in which I now talk about LGBT issues and my own sexuality is quite staggering, particularly if you knew the kid from South Texas who greatly hesitated even sending a Facebook message to his first boyfriend for fear that others would somehow find out. Today I talk about grabbing cupcakes after bad dates and the beauty of being an LGBT Catholic. And I'm sure you can imagine what my posts looked like during the most recent Supreme Court decisions surrounding same-sex marriage. The best part is: I'm not alone, particularly among my Facebook family, which consists of several LGBT-identifying people.

A lot of this, of course, comes from the fact that my professional life revolves around my LGBT identity. I constantly share interviews with LGBT celebrities and excerpts from my broadcasts as a way to update friends on my progress. And frankly, this is how most of my relatives eventually found out about my being gay. It didn't take an awkward exchange of green beans at the Thanksgiving table, though I know that's how it's happened for others. Ask anyone on Facebook how they even know I'm gay, and 90% of them will say it's solely because of my digital presence.

Which is why Facebook keeps me, and millions of others, gay. Our status updates, our photos, our memes, and Real Housewives GIFs speak our truth, one that I understand is a lot easier to verbalize in a country where homosexuality isn't criminalized. It's also a truth that's easily searchable using a handy timeline function. Try comparing my 2007 and 2013 lives.

So what's on my mind? As an 'out,' brown, single millennial living in New York City in 2015--and among a billion global Facebook users--what isn't?

Xorje Olivares is an on-air personality and a producer for SiriusXM Satellite Radio. His monthly OutQ show is titled "LGBT: Let's Get Busy Talking."

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