I'm an early adopter of everything social media related. Partly because it is my job, but mostly because I love it. After I received the press release from GLAAD announcing their win with Facebook to add the additional relationship statuses "Domestic Partnership" and "Civil Union" to their choices, I had to immediately change mine.
Joe B. and I got our Domestic Partnership on December 3, 2009, the day the expanded rights we earned with Referendum 71 went into effect. We drove down to Washington's State Capital in Olympia where the Secretary of State's office is, so we could register in person and guarantee that our partnership was registered on that day. In 2009 it felt like a step forward worth celebrating.
As the Social Media Director for the campaign, I worked my tail off; we all did. The entire LGBT community and our over 200 coalition partners worked hard and very efficiently. I will be proud to be part of that team for the rest of my life, but in 2011 changing my relationship status on Facebook reminded me how much is left to do.
I am a friend hoarder on Facebook. Someday I fully expect A&E to show up at my doorstep with a concerned look and a stern voice to ask me, "Do you really need that friend? You don't really know that person," they will insist.
"I'm at a 10! I'm at a 10!" I'll cry as I hit the unfriend button for some person I've never seen in real life.
But until that day, I say yes to just about anyone that cares to be my friend. And so, it is not uncommon to get several likes when I post something. When I changed my relationship status from "engaged" to "Domestic Partner" the crowd cheered with likes and comments. "Aw," a romantic wrote. "Congratulations!," said an old neighbor.
"But wait just a minute," I thought. "This is old news. We've had this label since 2009 and it hardly works. Why is everyone celebrating?"
I indulged them with polite "thank yous" and reciprocal "likes" on their comments, but I felt dirty. Domestic partnerships are failing Washingtonians. Civil unions are failing in New Jersey. Yes, they are better than nothing, but they are worse than freedom.
The change also felt empty because as congratulations poured in my trans friends reminded everyone Facebook still forces people to choose within the gender binary. There are no transgender, transsexual, gender queer, queer, or better, "fill in the blank" options on Facebook. There should be; not only to let the millions of trans people around the world be authentic on the social network, but advertisers love accurate demographics. I know I do when I spend thousands for my clients on Facebook ads.
With every advancement, there is always going to be a reminder of what's left to do. Facebook's acknowledgment of reality is clearly a change for the better, but I simply can not wait until we can use the labels of our own choosing without repercussions both on and off social networks.