800,000 Americans Came Out as LGBT on Facebook in the Last Year


Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

More than 26 million Americans put a rainbow filter on their Facebook avatar after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land on June 26. And according to data just released by Facebook, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision day also saw a spike in users “coming out” on the social media platform.

Facebook says that “the last year has seen a steady rise in the number and rate of people coming out,” an act the company defines as either updating one’s profile to indicate an interest in the same gender or both genders or specifying a custom gender identity using the tool rolled out in February 2014. More than 6 million Americans are now out on Facebook, according to the company’s criteria. According to the graph below, the total number of U.S. users who have come out on Facebook has increased by approximately 800,000 over the last year. The rate of comings out is also booming: “the number of people on Facebook coming out per day is on track to be three times what it was a year ago,” the company reported.

News events have a clear effect on the rate of status changes. The biggest spike occurred on the day of the Obergefell decision: The number of people who came out on that day was roughly two and a half times higher than on Oct. 11, 2014, which is, ironically enough, National Coming Out Day. Other spikes occurred in April, driven, Facebook speculates, by both the April 28 Obergefell oral arguments and Caitlyn Jenner’s televised interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired on April 24. Not all the real-world events that drive status changes are positive, of course—although Facebook doesn’t offer an explanation for the spike around New Year’s 2015, I suspect the publicity over the suicide of trans teenager Leelah Alcorn may be responsible for the bump.

Facebook also reported that support for LGBT groups, as measured by the number of fans acquired by LGBT-related pages, has increased by close to 25 percent over the last year. This seems like a good time to suggest that you like Outward’s Facebook page