Early in Abigail’s sophomore year, a local church starts distributing anti-gay literature and holding protests near campus. Her friend Delores is very angry and insists their LGBTQ group organize counterprotests and confront the parishioners head-on. Abigail is among those who want to take a less confrontational stand against the church.
After several discussions among their group, half decide on direct confrontation, while the other half decide on a more behind the scenes method of protest. Of the half that chooses not to confront the church directly, at least two thirds choose to focus on their studies and not get involved at all. Abigail leans toward their way of thinking, not wanting anything to interfere with her education. She does feel some guilt at not being more active, mainly because Delores tells her she should. She worries about her lack of involvement, especially since the protest and response make the local news, so Abigail is constantly reminded how little she’s doing.
She spends an evening complaining to Genevieve about how torn she feels at her lack of action.
“I might be able to help you out,” Genevieve says.
“How can you possibly help?”
“I just had an idea. I’ll be in touch.”
Half an hour later, Abigail receives a text from Genevieve: “Login F-B. Zburch.” She includes a password.
Abigail does as she’s been instructed, and finds she’s logged into a profile for a user named Zelda Burch. The profile photo is a blonde child of indeterminate gender holding a kitten. The banner is a dark blue background with a Biblical quote in a stern font, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18.”
She dials Genevieve. “Zelda Burch?”
“Isn’t it great? She’s a thirty-nine-year-old mother of three: Pro-life; pro-NRA; pro-death penalty and she doesn’t care for what she calls ‘deviants’.”
Abigail chuckles. “I bet she posts lots of recipes and memes with cute baby animals.”
“Good call. She’s just the sort to inhabit that group that church uses, don’t you think?”
“She would indeed.”
“Don’t stay up too late. It’s a school night.”
Abigail joins several conservative groups and joins in the discussions with a decided right-wing slant to her posts. She comes on so strong at first, that several people question whether or not she’s legitimate, so Abigail falls back and lurks in several groups until she gets a better sense of how to respond.
Once she’s more confident, she begins responding to posts, using the shorthand common to texting. Since her profile seems more polished than someone of her stated background, Abigail covers by saying her niece set everything up for her and fixes things if they go awry, since, “I’m a real dummy with all this online stuff.” A week and a half after establishing the profile, Abigail joins a group set up by the church that’s been distributing materials and starts monitoring posts for information on their future plans and passes anything she learns to people organizing counterprotests.