What if coming out was as simple as a Facebook status update?
If there is one thing Americans care less about than calorie counts, it’s soccer. So we were a bit baffled when came across Heyfriendsiamgay.com, a website commenting on the recent coming out of retired German “football” star Thomas Hitzlsperger. It’s just a wall of flash with a button you can click announcing, “I am gay.” It then allows you to post this Ellen-in-1997-ish announcement to Facebook. We spoke to one of the masterminds behind the site, Frankfurt-based graphic designer Heinrich Zimmermann, who actually happens to be straight, to try to understand what’s happening here (and in Germany).
I went to your website and, as far as I can tell, the only functional purpose of it is to provide a quick, automatic message to come out as gay on Facebook. Is that correct?
Why is this a thing the world needs?
I think it explains itself. It’s so ridiculous, that we developed this website to help you come out as gay.
And this was inspired by Thomas Hits-berger? Did I say that correctly?
OK, it was a commentary on this soccer star who apparently realized in his early 30s he is gay and came out this week.
He was a major league player and he played for the national team, and never, ever has anyone [in German soccer] come out. This is the first time. It’s started this huge discussion. It’s in the media all the time, and everyone has started coming out on Facebook. It was just ridiculous, so this was our commentary on it.
So Germans are coming out in droves on Facebook this week?
Exactly. It was all over the newspapers: “Who else is gay?” It’s so backwards that it gets so much attention.
So the commentary is that coming out is such a small simple thing you can do it in two clicks?
Kind of. Either you get it immediately or you don’t care.
For the people I know who came out, it was such a long process with so much thought and self-evaluation. It’s nice to think of a world where being gay is such an everyday thing that coming out is done through just two clicks on Facebook. It’s sweet in a way.
Yes, good point.
What is the status of gay rights in Germany? Can you harm your career by being gay?
In soccer, yes. He’s the first one to come out, though it’s mathematically impossible [he’s the first one to be gay]. Germans seem to be very open. Our foreign minister is openly gay and married but in some ways it’s still rigid and closed. If you see the media, you will notice it. Why else would everyone be talking about it?
Have you considered a sequel? Like “My friends, I am bi?”
That’s good but the sequel should be a little more sophisticated, maybe something on the Winter Olympics in Russia.