When I was younger and learned about the act of “coming out,” or people sharing their LGBTQIA+ status or identity to others, I soon after learned about “outing.” Outing occurs when someone shares or discloses someone else’s LGBTQIA+ status or identity without the person’s permission. Outing someone can be upsetting to that person, but it can also be traumatizing and even dangerous. I personally feel as though the dangers of outing someone are not often enough or even properly discussed.
Why is it dangerous to out someone? There are a lot of reasons that outing someone can be upsetting, traumatic, and/or dangerous. To begin with, you have to remember that this is not your status or identity to share. This is not your information to share. It is a violation of privacy. When a person is ready and willing to share their status or identity, they can do so as they please. To be outed by someone can very much be upsetting, as the person in question may not have been ready to share this information. Or, this person may have had a reason for not sharing. Whatever their reason may be, it is still valid, and it is definitely not someone else’s decision to make for them. Now, outing someone can also be dangerous to that person for various reasons. There have been multiple cases in which people have been outed and it has resulted in mistreatment, violence, or even death.
How do I avoid outing someone? Outing can be easily avoided. To avoid outing someone there are multiple steps and precautions you can take. One of the most basic steps you can take is to have a conversation with your friend to learn if they are out in any way, and if not, topics of conversation to avoid in order to not out them. By having this conversation, you not only learn how to avoid outing someone, but you also learn what your friend is or is not comfortable with.
Ultimately, coming out is a process and can be very difficult for someone to do. This can be due to discrimination or homophobia from the people around them and at large. To out someone not only prevents someone from sharing their status or identity when they are ready and comfortable, but it can also be traumatic and dangerous for them. There are steps you can take to avoid outing someone, and they can be as simple as thinking before speaking and having a conversation. As mentioned prior, it is always important to remember that this is not your information to share, neither is it your identity to share. So be kind, be considerate, and be an ally.