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25 April 2011, 2:00 pm 19 Comments

Advice: Outing vs. Honesty

Submission by Branden Lee, TNG first-time contributor

Branden Lee is a writer and aspiring screenwriter from Pennsylvania and currently studying Communications in Boston. His work has previously been featured on Thought Catalog, and you can see more of his writing on his blog
You can also follow him on Twitter @CaspianKasabian

Ellen DeGeneres' career exploded after she came out on an Oprah Winfrey show in 1997, c. Tulane Public Relations

I never understood why people get so outraged over the “outing” of someone. People react like it’s the most heinous act you can commit against a gay person.  Like it’s equal to, or worse than, gay bashing. Many people hate Perez Hilton because he’s “outed” celebrities in the past. I never saw anything wrong with it. It actually makes me take more of an interest in the celebrity. I love discovering which celebrities are secretly gay. I’ve “outed” countless people in the past, but that depends on what your definition of “outing” is.

Yes, I am a gay man. I’ve gone through the journey of self discovery and becoming more comfortable with myself to the point where I can shout I’m gay and I’m proud from the mountain tops. I know what it’s like to be in the closet and not comfortable discussing my sexuality, but that was like in middle school. Maybe it’s because I was publically out of the closet by the end of my freshman year of high school, and came out to my parents over four years ago. I did progress and come out earlier in life than many other gays, but we all go through the same journey. It happens for all of us in different ways, but we all go through the same stages of denial, self-acceptance, and finally get to a point where we can openly discuss our sexual orientation without feeling shame or embarrassment. We all just progress at different rates.

If the person is a celebrity or non-celebrity and have a known same sex romance and it’s common knowledge they’re dating, married, or partnered with this person, despite them not openly discussing their sexuality, it’s still a fact. They’re gay. They know they’re gay. Others know they’re gay. If Perez or any other media outlet discusses that, I don’t see how it’s so “wrong” to discuss them and their life when the outlets are only reporting factual information. Granted there are rumors that every single celebrity is gay, but you can decipher when it’s actually true, most of the time, and when it’s complete bullshit.

I am a celebrity gossip junkie. When I find out that certain celebrities are gay, that makes me take more of an interest in them. There aren’t that many openly gay celebrities out there, and it’s nice knowing that there are famous gays out there who have overcome the adversity and barriers in place that fervently prevent gay entertainers from having main stream success. Granted some are still in the closet, and I’m not sure if the success of closeted gays counts for the success and strives of gays as a whole, but when they come out it will.

I’ve “outed” many gays in the past, but that depends on how you define “outing.” If you can obviously tell someone is gay by the way they walk, talk, dress, or know for a fact they’ve been sexual with someone of the same sex, and you discuss this with your friends who aren’t gay, does that count as “outing” them? Is that such an atrocious act? If you discuss someone you believe is gay with people who tell more people about your presumptions, does that count as “outing” someone?

I would consider my most malicious “outing” to be of a nemesis I had in high school. This nemesis is an obvious homosexual. I could always tell he’s gay and assumed he was out of the closet. Apparently he wasn’t and would try to deny it. I always thought it was really pathetic that he was still in the closet despite being so flaming.

Well my nemesis and a former boy I had been intimate with decided to get my Facebook disabled. I was livid. The guy I had been with confessed all to me before he moved back to the Middle East. He also told me that he was dating the nemesis before he left and that they were official boyfriends, but had since broken up. That somewhat bothered me that they were “boyfriends”. I was with the guy way longer and we weren’t official, but that was by my choosing. I refused to have my first official boyfriend be a secret romance. If we can’t be Facebook official then we couldn’t be official at all. I was hell-bent on revenge.

I told EVERYONE about my nemesis having a relationship with the guy. It wasn’t that much of a shock to most, since he’s obviously gay. It was really annoying when his friends would try to deny it. I knew for a fact that he’d been with a guy. I even shouted it out in a class I had with him, with our teacher in the room.

Things got so bad that we had a mediated session with our “Dean of Students”. It was basically the both of them saying what I was doing was wrong and it’s “not in my determination” to expose or divulge his sexuality. Nemesis even had a girlfriend at the time, and the guy that we both hooked up with sent the girlfriend a message revealing his relationship with her boyfriend, but he put my name on it. So I was getting blamed for it. I didn’t feel remorseful for “outing him”. He’s obviously gay and the fact he had a girlfriend, and that a girl would think it’s possible he was straight, was ridiculous. I felt no sympathy towards the both of them. I was only telling the truth. He’s gay and had a relationship with a guy. It happened. It’s a fact. Should telling the truth be a punishable act?

“Outing” someone does get complicated when you are romantically involved with them. The closet cases I’ve been with are always are extremely paranoid about people finding out and constantly swear me to secrecy. I hate when they tell me to “not tell anyone” including my best friends. I tell my best friends everything, and if I’m going to have an ongoing “relationship” with someone, I’m not going never tell my friends about it. Does that count as “outing” if you tell your best friends about the closet case you started hooking up with?

Even when things do get exposed and someone has been “outed,” it’s still just the revealing of the truth. It happened. They had a gay relationship. They’re gay. It’s a fact. Although the person may not be fully comfortable with their sexuality yet, and are not comfortable discussing it, it’s out there. They did what they did. They feel how they feel. They’re dating/having sex with someone of the same sex, and people know about it. “Outing” a celebrity or discussing their sexual orientation, when it’s not just speculation and there’s actual proof, is just discussing the truth. What’s wrong with revealing the truth?


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  • Riiiot GRRRL said:

    I think outing anyone without permission is low, and beneath people of dignity. To out someone just because they are NOT your friend is even more disrespectful especially in a class full of high school peers. It is obvious you have a lot of reading and growing to do.

  • LisaB. said:

    Outing someone is incredibly disrespectful and intolerable, regardless of their relationship to you, or your own belief in others ‘right to know’. Unless a person is thoroughly ‘out there’ they will have specifically chosen who they wish to know about their sexuality for their own various reasons. People have a right to decide who they tell, and thinking that when you have been taken into that confidence you now have the right to tell others is shameful, and to see it as a matter of ‘revealing the truth’ is exceptionally naïve.

  • Levi said:

    For some people, coming out is a very special and carefully thought-out process. By outing them, you’re basically robbing them of the right to do it in their own way on their own time…And that’s just not cool. It isn’t your truth to reveal.

    Also, having a same-sex relationship doesn’t mean that someone actually identifies as gay.

    It also sounds like you were a total asshole in high school.

  • Vincent said:

    The only time I support outing someone is when they are actively harming the LGBT community with one face and suckin d-ck with another. Hypocrites do not deserve our respect.

    On the other points, you make no sense. On one hand you acknowledge that we all go through the coming out process in our own way – in our own time, then in the next paragraph (sentence??) you support forcing someone to deal with these issues before they’re ready.

    Riiot GRRRL is right – you may have some growing to do.

  • Kay hill said:

    How different r u from the ppl who kip tormentin gay ppl, u r actually bakstabin ur own kind. N lyk Ricky Martin said on Oprah cumin out shud be done at the ryt tym. Ppl who r outd in most cases always end up commitng suicide, so pliz celebrities are ppl 2 they cn get depressd. Bt thanx again coz i realised we always out ppl without realisin. So lets stick 2 our own business n stop tokin bout other ppl.

  • Mel Hank said:

    Branden, your privilege is showing. First of all, we do NOT all go through the same journey. Coming out is NOT the same for everyone and doesn’t hold the same consequences. You write about outing another person as an innocuous act with few ramifications. Maybe you forgot that it’s legal to be fired from your job for being gay in 29 states. Maybe you also forgot that many queer people are routinely excommunicated from communities and families, threatened, harassed, injured, and killed for coming out or being outed. Perhaps your road to coming out was relatively painless and safe, but it’s irresponsible and ignorant to generalize your experience to the entire LGBT community.

    Second of all, you described your malicious outing story as an act of revenge, implying that you clearly see how outing can be a hurtful weapon against closeted queer people. Hmm. It sounds like you don’t actually believe that “just telling the truth” is harmless, but are telling yourself it is to justify your immature feelings of rejection and revenge.

    Oh The New Gay… why would you give air time to this bullshit??

  • michael said:

    Um, yeah, sounds like you were a real dick in high school. Very malicious.

    My personal coming out experience was long, protracted and all-together uncomfortable. It might have been much easier if I’d been outed by someone in high school. But then again, I would have had to tell someone or perform a gay act.

    One thing about outing people. If it’s only word-of-mouth or first-hand experience, that’s not proof. That’s “my word against yours” which won’t hold up in any court, be it federal, district or a court of your peers. And taking discreet photos and video are illegal and violate privacy.

    Could opinions like the author’s here be indicative of a side effect of the larger trend of gay kids coming out younger and younger: they do it when they don’t have the emotional maturity to treat their gay peers with respect and discretion? Discuss.

  • Jean said:

    Using the phrase “obviously gay” repeatedly just emphasizes your lack of understanding of gender and sexuality issues. Saying its ok to “out” someone because they are “obviously gay” or “flaming” means that you believe that you can decide someones sexuality based completely on your own perceptions on how “gay” he or she acts. That’s utterly sophomoric. Additionally, as Levi said, having a same-sex sexual experience does not make an indidivual gay. At all. An individual is gay or queer or bi or trans when he or she identifies as such – not when your immature and ignorant self decides so. Do some research and ask some questions before you attempt to take command of a subject as serious as coming out.

  • Nemesis said:

    Sexuality isn’t as black and white as you make it. It is fluid for some people; you don’t just wake up one day and say I’m going to gay today. At the time, I liked my girlfriend a lot. Sexual attraction to a woman is something you clearly haven’t experienced, but that doesn’t mean everyone hasn’t. Rather than walk around thinking you know everything, why not take some time and think about that?

    Also, there are tons of other gays that are friends with you, why not try to out them? You targeted me and say you hate people being in the closet, yet you let friends of yours pretend they’re straight, along with the guy you lost your virginity to. Consistency is key.

  • Allan said:

    You, sir, are the worst kind of person. What gives you the right to determine someones sexuality? Many, many explore their sexuality in there teens/early twenties. Through those experiences THEY determine their sexuality not YOU! How could a fellow gay out someone? Thats the kind of behaviour I chock up to the insecure super macho types I dealt with in high school. The ones I suspect who outed me in high school. I am an “obvious”, as you say, gay. After I found out in the middle of lunch I was to have my first date I was elated. That elation soon turned to horror as when I walked into last period all eyes were on me. Some asshole jock (who I suspect outted me) askes me with a snide smirk on his face, “So, I hear you got a date with a guy on saturday?”. My heart sank and in the weeks coming I dealt with so much shit I didn’t want to leave the house.

  • mim said:

    Wow, I’m sorry, but that’s probably the most selfish piece I’ve read on this site. Really. How does one miss the number of suicides caused by bullying due to percieved sexual orientation, the number of families that have been broken up due to not being able to handle something as simple as a member being queer or the amount of people whose careers have been sacked for exactly this reason? One doesn’t. You have no excuse for ignoring the consequences of yours or anyone else’s actions.

  • Sean said:

    Hi. I live in a pretty damn conservative area. I am trans.

    Me getting outed? Could feasibly end with me getting murdered.

    Don’t out people without their permission.

  • aidan said:

    I’m sorry but this is a very egocentric, uninsightful, and slightly offensive article.

  • Sean said:

    Legit hoping that this is dude’s first and last contribution to TNG.

  • Widget said:

    Considering this is a guy who’s also written:

    LeAnn Rimes did it. Alicia Keys did it. Angelina Jolie did it. Even my favorite classic Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor (RIP) did it. I want to be a homewrecker!…

    …So I’ve had many attempts at being a homewrecker, and even though 2010: Year of the Homewrecker is over, I haven’t given up my dream. I’m not as preoccupied with destroying someone else’s relationship as I used to be, but I’m not completely over my homewrecking phase. I will be a homewrecker one day!

    Maturity and respect don’t seem to big his strong suits.

  • Stine said:

    Yikes. I feel like I just read some terrible troll piece cross-posted from a video game forum. The author reads as being very young and not particularly kind. For the good of everyone he comes in contact with, I hope experience will lead him to regret publishing this litany of egregious viewpoints.

  • Manuel said:

    Outing people, really? How idiot can you be?

  • Amber said:

    I applaud this article and I couldn’t agree more. Well written, well done.

  • Brizanne said:

    People who have lost their minds in an ever-deepening crevasse of tyrannical self righteousness, do true and lasting harm to the unification of human sexuality. Banging at the door of their selfish minds are the vilest of frailties; self victimization and revenge. Social evolution, like any other form of organic change, takes wide and slow steps in constant motion. We move forwards, we move backwards, we leap ahead, take steps back. The pendulum of our existence. Polarized sexual identity is deeply rooted in our culture, at the dawn of an era where we ourselves decide how to navigate the dark waters of personal expression freely. Exploration of ones own truth is a lifetime of work. That is a freedom many cultures, including north American, are lucky enough to experience. That is a freedom you steal when you out someone. It is shameful, dangerously petty, and just plain tacky. The bad form of a graceless rube.