Here at The Antipodean Adrift, we’re celebrating the arrival of the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras season! Today’s featured interview spotlights Andrew Cummings, who was the Executive Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and an outspoken champion of LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) rights. In our interview for The University of Sydney, we discussed the concept of ‘coming out of the closet’ and the role of the media in shaping sexualities.
1. What’s the role of technologies in shaping how someone expresses his or her sexuality?
Some of the new technologies we have in some way act as a screen or buffer to someone’s sexuality. In my generation, the pathway to being ‘out’ was clear cut. You’d align yourself to being part of a group when you found out you were gay in those days. Today though, a lot of young people wouldn’t align themselves to the gay scenes.
2. Will the concept of ‘coming out of the closet’ ever stop existing with the rise of social media?
It would never stop existing. This is a rather strange occurrence. On the one hand, social media allows people to remain anonymous. It changes how we express our sexuality. It shakes and rattles the process of coming out. I think the absence of the need for expressing oneself publicly in some way, sends LGBT people back into the closet. Though this doesn’t apply to everyone, I sense that there is a growing epidemic of falseness, for want of a better word, with the rise of websites like Manhunt and Grindr. We no longer need to identify as being gay. Sex can be casually had without the rituals, without passing those rites of passage from being closeted to being a free person.
3. Are you saying that social media restricts sexual expression? How so?
Yeah, I do believe that it could act as a barrier, an ever-evolving barrier. Social media has provided young men with easy access to ‘anonymous’ sex. I think we’re lacking courage. It’s like one more smokescreen to say to people, “I don’t need to come out”, “I don’t need to be open with myself”. It gives a false sense of security, because it essentially creates a new closet in which LGBTs could hide.
by Vicki Choh, B. Arts (Media and Communications)