How Facebook Accidentally “Outed” My Friend

how facebook outed my friend image

Because anyone can add you to a group, and the privacy settings don't count.

About one month ago.

She was happy. She’d just joined a chorus.

“I’ve missed singing, Kelly.”

“I know you have.” I smiled.

Four hours later, all hell broke loose.

* * *

We relaxed, a delicious dinner behind us, a rare evening spent together without my two young children in tow.

My phone rang. I didn’t know the number, but I knew the area code.

“Why would one of your parents be calling me Bobbi?” She was twenty-one and lived on her own.

“Shit!” She instantly searched for her phone which had been silent all evening.

She’d forgotten to turn the ringer up.

Her fear was real. For twenty-one years she walked on egg shells for her PTSD and schizophrenic father. Always waiting for the shoe to drop. Ready to take whatever he dished out because it was easier than standing up to him.

She checked the messages before calling him back.

“Oh fuck! Nonononononono.”

Her panic was instant.

This wasn’t a normal phone call she’d missed.

“What, Bobs?”

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!”

“Tell me.”

“Someone from chorus added me to their group on Facebook. And I have him hidden from my updates but he saw this, Kelly. He saw it!”

The light bulb went off in my head as one of her biggest fears came true.

Her dad knew she’d joined the UT Queer Chorus.

All because Facebook allows anyone to add you to a group and then posts these updates to your friends walls, even if they are hidden from status updates.

She had been “out” to me for months, but it had been hard for her to tell me. Not because she feared my rejection. She knew how I felt.

Because it meant admitting to herself the truth.

I am convinced she never would have whispered a word to her dad until the day she planned to marry another woman.

But now her very sick, emotionally abusive, and misquoting-bible-thumping-when-it-suited-him father knew.

That she’d joined the Queer Chorus (yes, that is their name).

Is everyone in it gay? No.

But she was instantly gay for daring to associate with them.

Like they were a disease.

She vanished to my deck for an hour and listened as her father hurled venom and threats at her.

She cried for hours, as her OCD and years of  being the person who fixed things kicked in, blaming herself for hurting him.

I supported her.

I watched the days unfold as he threw ultimatums at her, demanding she denounce all gays. Bow to his will. Repent for daring to support homosexuals.

But this was finally something she could not do. She could not spout hate at those who accepted her.

She stood her ground.

He threatened to disown. He demanded payback for her past. Bills. Insurance.

He lashed.

Her mother stood on the sidelines, until she couldn’t either.

She left to stay with Bobbi.

The lines were drawn.

Bobbi blamed herself.

Then something odd happened.

Her father, stripped of his power, finally ceased the hate.

Her mother went back.

They’ve even had face to face contact once.

Is he accepting of her status, which as far as he knows is still just “a friend to gays”?

I doubt it. He is ill. He is a manipulator.

But he shut up about it.

The irony of how this unfolded is not lost on me.

To me, having Facebook accidentally out her was the best thing that could’ve happened to my friend.

It allowed her to break the cycle of emotional abuse and fight back.

It rid her of the constant fear he would “find out the truth”.

It has allowed her to accept the part of herself she still is getting used to.

Because she is no longer hiding in the closet.

She is out.

And proud.

And singing.

* * *


* * *

UPDATE (1-29-12): What unfolded following “The facebook Outing” wasn’t pretty. 

The glue holding her together (planning the OCD Texas quarterly gathering) vanished as the OCD Texas conference arrived. A week later, she decided to commit suicide – telling no one. The only reason she is alive is her OCD kicked in.

She would spend the next few months so tired of living that death remained the perfect answer. Only promises to me and her therapist kept her from taking the final step.

You can read about her struggle HERE.

There is happy ending.

She still here. Alive.

Out and proud.

Her father knows. Since the giant blow up all those months ago, he has gone back on his medication – for the first time in many years.

I’m told he’s actually nice. He hasn’t yelled at her since “the outing” – and it was once a weekly thing.

Life isn’t perfect, but as she hugs my children close, she cannot imagine missing one moment of their lives.

Suicide is never the answer. Depression lies.

Bobbi sees the light now, and I rejoice every day she had the strength to hang in there.

If you know someone in the dark place, or if you are, please talk to someone. You don’t have to crawl out of the darkness alone.


Update to the Update 10-15-12 –>Living Life

Her dad went off his medication again. Things fell apart. Her parents are split apart–this time likely permanently.

It’s not ideal, but as the one who watched the verbal abuse for years, I feel it is the best thing while he is in that place.

Bobbi has her first girlfriend, who she adores and we are slowly welcoming her into our chaotic household.

This post was noticed by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We met with him last spring, and on October 13, 2012 the article was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Bobbi might be making an appearance on The Today Show this week.

One thing I think the article failed to communicate was how all of this took place within months of a facebook completely altering privacy settings, the ability to have someone add someone to a group without approval, and what does and doesn’t show up on someone’s wall. The language surrounding these things was extremely vague and it was implied if someone was blocked from your status updates, they also wouldn’t see when you joined a group.

Facebook sent her an apologetic email, which only served to piss her off more. I don’t blame her. They seem to want to absolve themselves of any culpability, but they have altered some of the language to make the privacy issue slightly clearer. Slightly.

She’s happy, but still dealing with being out, proud, and dating someone.

Thanks for reading.



About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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23 Responses to How Facebook Accidentally “Outed” My Friend

  1. Liz McLennan says:

    Man, you are posting some amazing stuff these days, Kelly.

    I don’t know what’s changed, because although I’ve been loving your stories and observations for months now, the pieces you’ve been crafting lately are powerful and resonate long after I’ve read them.

    This was life-affirming and wonderful and scary as hell.

    That Bobbi – she’s destined for great things. I can FEEL it!

    • I wouldn’t say she’s destined for greatness.

      She is already there.

      Thank you for your words too.

      Much of my writing is therapeutic, but if someone I care about is hurt, the claws come out.

      I am so glad they resonate with you. Thank you.

      She is what inspired the Pay It Forward Challenge, only then she wasn’t officially out to everyone, so I couldn’t say so.

      Any passing on, sharing, or linky love of these posts is very wanted.

      To raise awareness. To stop hate.

      Thank you again for your comments and love, my dear.

  2. Dang girl! You are writing in your sleep, right?

    Or hiring babysitters 24/7 because you won the Powerball?

    This is an awesome piece.

    And I give Bobbi a lot of credit.

    That is not the way anyone would choose to come out to their family.

    I’m glad to know she has you as a cheerleader.

    Because, you are nothing if not that.

    But seriously, I don’t understand where all this magnificent, magical content is coming from. I’m with Liz. What is up? Something is different.

    Where are the children? Seriously?

    Lucy, you have some ‘splaining to do. 😉

    • I slept four hours Sunday night. I think about five on Monday night.

      My brain is kicked into full “advocacy” gear.

      Plus my children were gone for 3.5 hours today and I used every bit of uninterrupted free time to write.

      Then my daughter fought her nap, didn’t nap long enough, and wouldn’t stop screaming.

      I’ve used every spare minute writing the last few days. Sending forms to news stations. Or reading. Or moderating. Or tweeting and sharing on facebook.

      So any help you want to toss me to help “see if we can make this go viral front” or linky love for any coming out or OCD posts would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Wow. I knew this story. We talked about it. Skyped maybe. But to read it in your words. Wow. Powerful.

    You’re changing the world for good, my friend.

    • It was sobering to see someone treat their own child like that.

      I was glad I was there to support her.

      I am glad she is now stronger and more “out” than before because she no longer lives in fear of discovery.

  4. Frelle says:

    thank you so much or sharing her story. wow.

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  6. Jackie says:

    Wow. I am virtually speechless, but I do thank you for sharing this story.

  7. Tara R. says:

    I’m sorry for the pain your friend went through when this happened, but glad for her that she is now, like you said, no longer hiding. She’s lucky to have you as such a loving and supportive friend.

  8. Shell says:

    How hard that must have been!

    I never thought about that aspect of facebook.

  9. It makes me so sad that anyone, even someone who is mentally ill, will spend so much energy on hate. I’m glad your friend and her mom could stand together to make it stop (or pause, at least). You mention that you think it was the best thing that could’ve happened to her, which made me curious how she is feeling about it. Off to check out your links. : )

  10. Powerful story. I’m glad it had a [somewhat] happy – or at least hopeful – ending.

    Intolerance over one’s sexual orientation drives me absolutely insane. For all the reasons you stated in your other post.

  11. Jackie says:

    You’re friend is awesome. She finally stood up and that’s great… she’s well on her way to happiness.
    And you… you’re a great friend for being there for her and supporting her!

  12. angela says:

    Your friends are lucky to have you. Truly.

    I know you said it’s a good thing that it happened, but it does make me annoyed at Facebook, especially because I don’t pay attention to/understand all of the updates/changes/subscriptions/etc. that are constantly shifting permissions and privacy settings.

  13. Kristina says:

    Great post Kelly. It amazes me how hateful people can be, especially towards their own children. Logically, I understand the path that leads them there. But my heart will never understand.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

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  15. Gayletrini says:

    Liz comment says it the best for me. WOW this was a emotion filled piece thanks for sharing.

  16. Jerry says:

    Great post! Thanks for commenting on my blog so I could find you. I cringed the whole way through this post, but I’m so glad it had a happy(ish) ending. Congrats to Bobbi!

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  18. Some really deep stuff!!!

    Kudos to Bobbi for standing her ground!
    That can be one of the most difficult things to do, especially with your father.

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