Web 2.0 is the aspiring model you meet on OkCupid who is obviously not into you but still booty calls you every couple of weeks despite not actually knowing your name. On the one hand, it has provided queers with community and informational resources unrivaled in the history of our movement(s). On the other, operating the internet is no fucking secret, thus for every educated, informed safe space on the web there are 15 or so wretched hives of scum and bigotry where even the most progressive and sensitive of people may indulge in the decadent pleasures of othering and Admiral Ackbar macros. Worst of all, they never pay their half of the Waffle House bill. Bitch. I should have known you'd break my heart.

In the two years that I've been out as trans, I have come out in person to four people, all in one on one situations and usually when there was some sort of background activity or noise to occupy our attention in case there was an awkward silence. For example, I came out to my brother while we played Smash Brothers on the Wii, and to this day he claims that I used the temporary distraction caused by the breaking of the news to give me an opening for a cheap shot to win the match. He was only mostly wrong. Ell Oh Ell. By then, I had already come out on my LiveJournal, and a few months later, after I had accrued enough “photographic evidence”, I changed my name and uploaded new pics on my Facebook, which for many of the iGeneration is “coming out”. While I admit to purposely avoiding “spilling the news” to loved ones in person, I didn't do so out of fear of their reactions or to my safety. I laugh when I'm nervous. And any situation that can not be diffused by my “talking blueberry muffins” joke makes me nervous. Many winters ago the girl I was seeing threatened to stab herself in the leg with a knife if I didn't promise to never see my best friend again. I laughed. So she cut herself. Apparently I got the answer wrong. She was bleeding and, freaking out, I laughed some more. She can no longer wear short skirts because I am a slow learner. Ell Oh Ell.

The beauty and convenience of social networking is that a Facebook or Myspace profile is essentially a digital badge of identification. It's got your face, your name, interests, politicial affiliation, sexual orientation, and even a link to the person you're involved with. Announcing any major changes in this public identity of yours can be (but sometimes isn't, as many trans folk who tried to chane their names on facebook have learned) as simple as clicking “female” or writing in “Green” where “Democrat” was writ before. And you're done. You're out. If you wish to customize your user experience, as the underpaid girl in the blue polo would say (if I ever shopped there), you can post a note/blog/journal update on the subject, or get an app, like SGO, which allows queers to list their sexual orientation (if Facebook's “interested in” does not do it justice), how long they've been out, who they're out to, their gender identification, etc. My SGO profile even lists my transition journal, which is a classy, four star way of saying “a link to my paid LJ account”. I hadn't felt so empowered with such little activity since I learned that my DVD player remote had a subtitle button. With all the time I saved from not navigating the DVD menu, I was able to memorize and forget the first 10 digits of Pi. And blame it high fructose corn syrup.

But there are no free three-martini lunches (look it up, n00b) on the internet. Like the virus that cripples your PC because you downloaded what you thought was I Think I Love My Wife before it came out in theaters (pirating software is like buying drugs: don't do it from a source that doesn't have a solid street rep. Or in front of your grandma. If she heard about this it would kill her. Just kill her), using social networking as the runway upon which to debut our more authentic identities carries with it a lot of bullshit. Some of it is preventable. Most of it is not. And that's not your fault. There was a time when social networking was considered a privilege for the outgoing and tech savvy (for instance, Facebook used to require a valid school e-mail ZOMGWTFBBQ), but is now becoming more and more vital to societal and economic interaction. Everyone has to have one. Or two. As the accessibility of the product increases, the general IQ and social tact of its userbase will decrease. A person is Isaac Newton, people are Tea Baggers. It's as stone cold of a human truth as they come. How and why will this basic fact of human nature interfere with your user experience? More after the break.

And now, some math.

I have 341 friends on my Facebook. 8 are family (this is actually a low figure compared to others), 25 are friends and classmates from college (Arizona), and 28 are friends that I've made since moving to California. These are people who I feel comfortable (i.e. allow) to take pictures of me. That leaves 280 people. The “miscellaneous” pile that includes high school classmates who I haven't seen in 6 years, other bloggers, friends of friends, people I see at social functions but never talk to, and the people I meet once at a party, friend, and never hear from again. That is a rather wide gap of casuality. But with Facebook's randomly selected “you should write on this person's wall” and the plethora of apps available that allow you to answer random “interview style” questions such as “does x look good in a mini skirt” or “if you were in court and x was a judge, would they let you off the hook”, the distance from A to B becomes shorter every day, and out of nowhere you get a flurry of questions or comments from someone you don't really remember anymore. Below are some nuggets of my own awkward mine.

“When did you trade in your man card? Lol”

“Ha! Nice pics! Costume party?”

“I didn't know you were a drag queen. How long have you been gay?”

What is the best way to respond to questions like this? Your guess is as good as mine, boyo. Trying to follow my lead on this will yield you the same results as using the Dune film adaptation as the basis of your book report. When I'm polite and try to be informative, it invites people to make even more problematic comments because obviously “I'm a good sport about it”. When I'm firm or snarky, I am chastised for being one of those mean trans folk who doesn't give “regular people” a chance to be educated. I have had some minor success in simply deleting the wall post/comment and writing that person a short e-mail about the problems with their comments or assumptions. But by then it might be too late. That person might tell two friends. Who'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on. The sleeping giant has become a nuisance. 280 casual acquaintances becomes a perpetual Q&A session. Not that we need such an archaic means of gossip spreading to complicate our lives anymore. Most of us can be looked up on google. Now anyone, regardless of how little your identity is their business, can get all the “dirt” they need to deny you a job, post pics of you on /b/ for others to mock, or just flat out harass you. That which has given us our voice takes away our privacy and dignity.

Now you might decide to do the “smart, reasonable thing” and a) hide or subdue your queerness on the profile you use to interact with your family, coworkers, etc and/or b) create a separate profile with which to fully express yourself. All you need is an e-mail address to start a profile, and those might as well grow on trees. I have five. So do what you need to to protect yourself and your reputation. With that, I can agree. For now. Four or five drinks later, I will tell you that there is no reputation to defend. Myspace, especially, is up to its knees in trans folk who create profiles with the sole purpose of fetishizing themselves (and by extension, all trans people), who fill their pic galleries with scans of forced femme art and outfits they wish to own one day, lament about not being a“real girl” in their status updates and decorate everyone's comments page with glittery graphics. They refer to themselves as a “tranny” or “t-girl” in their profile, unaware of the furious in-fighting that has occurred in the trans community over the use of those words.They seem to embody every negative stereotype that cispeople paint us as, and ultimately, they get just as much representation on the web as you or I may. Perhaps even more so, since people with these kinds of profiles tend to be much more generous with the friend requests, perhaps because they don't risk losing any face in doing so. Now, before you hit me with that laser beam, check yourself: I'm not hating on fetishists. In fact, as someone with a FetLife account who used to blog almost exclusively about her kink activities, I would say I feel an affinity for fetishists and deviants everywhere. However, you cannot deny that no matter how much we may love our fellow queer, there are some that we wouldn't want being considered as the “template” for the rest of us by the majority. I know this, because I'm one of those people. You do not want me as a mascot, community. Please remember that I said that. Just in case I don't.

Action and reaction. It is the law of the internet. For every queer who uses the internet to stand proud and promote awareness of themselves and the community, there is a cisbigot (or 5) who will use it to make us targets for mockery and harm, or a well-meaning n00b reinforcing negative stereotypes.

The interwebs cannot be a substitute for real, meatspace representation. Joining myspace groups and posting to LJ comms will not give the public a true sense of our presence and numbers. Coming out by changing a few profile settings on Facebook will not spare you the invasive questioning and unwanted comments (unless, you know, you're smart about it and delete everyone you don't trust to be sensitive with that, but if I had done that I'd have no story to tell). We must remain active in the flesh and blood community, and maintain our visibility, while simultaneously using tools like Facebook and Livejournal to connect with queers from all o'er the land and show not only the world but ourselves that we are not alone and our pride extends borders, both physical and poetic. If you can update your facebook via twitter, I think you can manage this.

Relying solely on social networking as a community and for spreading awareness and education to people who might actually be interested in knowing will only make us invisible with time. On a related note, I think I'm super cereal about joining a support group. I know my Tamagotchi is there for me and all, and I totes appreciate it, but she simply can't give me the validation and support I need to get through this.

And that's all I got to say about that.

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