140 Characters to Freedom

The Gay Revolution Will Be Twittered

fox-news-tweetSacramento Bee Online Content Developer Nathaniel Miller says, “I first learned about the Iowa gay marriage Supreme Court ruling from Twitter.” He’s not alone. On Friday, “Iowa State Supreme Court” was the highest trending topic on the site, highlighting how Twitter has quickly become integrated into our daily lives, or at least the lives of the hyper-wired. For gays and lesbians, the service, which allows users to blast short messages of up to 140 characters each, has become not only a source of news, but a way for communities to connect. We asked the gay Twitter horde (by Twitter, naturally), how they’re using it and who they’re following. If you’re just getting started with Twitter or want the inside scoop on the best of the LGBT Twitterverse, look no further.

How Gays are Using Twitter

Twitter was originally designed to allow people to give short status update, essentially answering the question, “What are you doing now?” But in practice, the service has become much more, especially when it comes to news. The immediacy of Twitter, coupled with its ability to deliver messages to your phone or web-client, means that breaking news is even more, to coin a Colbert-ism, “breakier.” All the major news services use Twitter to deliver headlines, but for LGBT folks, gay-specific LGBT twitter news accounts serve as one-stop gay wire news services. Camilo Arenivar of L.A. says Twitter “can be used for news reliably, I like it more for that than anything else, it can be incredibly useful for specialized news.” Kevin Cobb of Ft. Lauderdale explains that “I follow @qrty and @tlrd for national news + entertainment; @SteveRothaus for South Florida news.”

Twitter’s not just for breaking news, however. Unlike traditional one-way media, Twitter allows users to respond to each other, meaning that news becomes a conversation. Consider Same Sex Sunday, an idea hatched by the kids over at the Billerico project. The concept is simple: Tell folks about your favorite gay Twitterers and include the “hash tag” (a way of making similar tweets easily searchable) #samesexsunday. By putting like-minded folks in touch with each other, news carries.

The community aspect of Twitter had special significance for LGBT people the last few months in a way that is both radical and practical. As Prop. 8 protesters marched and rallied for equality, they used the service to organize and keep each other abreast of what was going on as it happened. Bao-Viet Nguyen of California says Twitter is “great to follow during marches and rallies… [I] got updates on March route changes, celeb sightings, police activity, new “chants” going on in other parts of the march, etc…” I have personal experience with this. During the Prop. 8 marches in L.A. I used my Twitter account (that’s japhy79, folks) to keep updated with fellow marchers as well as get news about where the police were moving crowds and let those at home get an on-the-ground view of the marches. Prop. 8 protester Mark Oshiro tweeted his arrest after an altercation with a Yes on 8 supporter and the news was up online in minutes. As civil organizing tool, Twitter is an ad-hoc Nextel device on steroids.

10 Gay Twitterers You Need to Follow

So, who should you be following? We asked around and here are the hottest LGBT twitters out there today (as well as some personal favorites):

qbug_bigger @qrty: Oh, sure its self-promotion, but Queerty’s own Twitter feed was mentioned by nearly every person we asked (and on Twitter, anyone can reply to you, so it wasn’t just our friends). You get our latest posts sent to you as soon as they’re posted, plus we often live-tweet important events, such as the inauguration and the Prop 8 Supreme Court hearings, giving our Twitter followers a sneak peek at our news stories as they happen.

t_lit_up_towle_bigger @tlrd: Andy Towle’s twitter account is a rehash of what’s on his site, but the man has mad skills at covering New York gay news and gay violence reports. Since we’re talking about Towle Road, his last name is pronounced “toll.” We only mention it because everyone keeps talking to us about Andy “Towlie.” Consider it our good citizen move of the day.

davidbadash2009a_bigger @davidbadash: New York based LGBT activist David Badash is Twitter’s gay uncle. In addition to keeping folks updated with news, he can be awfully chatty and enjoys discussing the latest news with people who reply.

fb_prop8_logo_button_bigger @noonprop8: Love or hate em’, Equality California’s Twitter account is a great source for authoritative news about the LGBT struggle in California.

g_bigger @gaysdotcom: While we don’t have time for the world’s “social network” for gays and lesbians, Gays.com’s twitter feed is uniformly excellent, pulling up stories that don’t get covered elsewhere.

qs_logo_twitter_bigger @queersighted: A very gossipy London-based feed, you’re as likely to get tips about how to date via iPhone as you are to hear news about UK gay issues.

flyer05-both-h_bigger @qpocc: A good example of an “event-based” Twitter, Queer People of Color is covering the conference by the same name held this weekend at UC Davis. Feeds like this become watering wells for participants before, during and after the event, keeping the discussion going long after you’re back home.

sig_mug_bigger @msignorile: Michelangelo Signorile’s own feed is an inside look at the work that goes into his radio show (as well as the occasional random discussion about glue traps) and a good example of a “celebrity” twitter done right.

overtun8_crop_bigger @JoinTheImpact: The official Twitter of the Join the Impact site is a great resource for the latest demonstrations and protests across the country, if you can wade through the middle-school-esque acronyms and overuse of exclamation marks.

rainbowflag_bigger @queerunity: A little gem of a Twitter feed, Queer Unity is a San Francisco based feed that wears its activist heart on its sleeve. Worth following just to see the occasional flame wars that erupt between them and social conservatives who provoke them via tweets.

Are you on Twitter? Who are you following? Share with us in the comments.

–Japhy Grant