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With nearly all smartphones equipped with the ability to capture high-quality images, it would be easy to take a picture, even to make a lot of money from the photograph; however you pause for a moment, you begin asking yourself why this celebrity is living a lie; maybe he is afraid for his career; perhaps he is bisexual, perhaps he is worried about hurting his family.
Over the years having well-known celebrities declare their gender and sexual identifiers has had a positive impact on the global LGBTQ+ community, not only to the members of the community but also to those coming to terms with their gender or sexuality. Often as part of the process of acceptance, we look to others who are similar to us or who identify as we do, the role model to follow or just the inspiration in helping us accept our true self. If you are unable to identify with or only have decade-old stereotypes as a reference, there is a risk that some may begin self-loathing, even drawing further into themselves, denying who they are. So, if your favourite celebrity, pop star or football maverick declared that they were LGBTQ+, it would give many the confidence to accept themselves. It sounds like a cliché; however, if a person can identify with someone from a similar background, they often find it easier to accept themselves in a positive way.
What is outing?
The term outing dates back to the 1980s when it was a political tool used to out or to publicly reveal individuals that were hiding their sexuality. By outing an individual, especially those that were openly against and vocal about LGBTQ+ matters but privately, they themselves were in same-sex relationships, it showed the hypocrisy and helped to stop the rhetoric.
Growing up in the 80s, many struggle to understand how difficult it was to accept who you were, there was an epidemic with many of the LGBTQ+ community dying from Aids, a disease that at the time was unfairly labelled as the gay disease, which was contracted through unprotected sex and contaminated blood. The disease did not discriminate, and it was affecting members of the LGBTQ+ community and conservative heterosexual couples alike. At the time, there was anger and a rise in fear around people from within the LGBTQ+ community. Knowing that someone was gay, regardless whether someone had HIV or not, meant people would often think twice about touching them, using anything they have used, as there were misconceptions around how the disease was contracted. Not only that, but this was the 1980s and the terms “queer” and “fag” were freely and frequently used by adults and children alike. Role models were few and far between, and those in the public eye were often portrayed negatively, it was a difficult time for a young man or women to identify as gay.
The press and members of the LGBTQ+ community would out well-known individuals, often to bring them down. Some were open about their sexuality but often forced to reveal who they are in order to manage the story or narrative. Outing for some well-known individuals was a positive experience; they were living a lie, afraid of sharing their true self with the world and what the effect might be to their career and life. Having someone do it for them meant they were reacting, forced to accept it and for those still in the public eye in 2019, they continued having successful careers and many going on to become advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.
Outing had become so widespread that it is not just celebrities that were outed, children at schools were outing classmates, even when there is little to no evidence or in the era of social media, rumours were spread without any evidence or basis of fact. Though some members of the LGBTQ+ community may feel outing overall is positive, there are many negative aspects associated with being outed. Firstly, many are lacking empathy for the individuals concerned. Without knowing someone’s family, beliefs, social-economic background, you cannot assume that outing them will have a positive effect. What if a person is unsure of their sexuality and is exploring, only to be outed and have any decision taken away? Positive role models are crucial and essential for the wider community, but so is having willing participates, people that have made the decision themselves to share with the world a part of who they are.
Outing, in my opinion, is a harmful, outdated practice. By fostering an environment in which people want to identify and be part of the community, you should not need to force them to accept who they are. Some may struggle their entire lives to accept their truth, but all we can do is provide support and help. In 2019, there are so many well-known, positive role models, people living ordinary lives, the stigma of being gay has become less and less; however, that is not true for every country around the world. Religious beliefs and discrimination are still heavily featured within the legal systems in many countries, and people are being assaulted, even losing their lives because of their gender or sexuality, aspects of themselves that they are powerless to change. There is now a new threat, the rise of right-wing politics where many individuals are looking to undermine the progressive laws in the hope of taking the world back 100 years.
Whether you take a photograph, share it with the world and even take the money is your decision to make, however ultimately accepting who you are is a personal and private matter. In 2019, should we not continue making positive developments within the community and make sports and pop stars alike find it easy to accept who they are and want to come out when they are ready. Being LGBTQ+ is not a choice between being or not, it is who you are, and if you are unable to find someone similar to you or with beliefs you may hold, you could be the first, the inspiration for someone else in the future.