Forced Out of the Closet

A variation on the Coming-Out Story where someone is outed, but not by their own choice. Usually it's the actions of another person who either inadvertently or purposefully outs them. Sometimes the outer has good intentions and believes that it's for the character's own good, while other times it's good old blackmail or simple Jerkassery. The one doing the outing is almost always straight and/or cisgender, meaning they have no experience with being in the closet themselves and fail to realize how important willingly outing yourself once you're ready is to someone and why taking the chance to do so away is so devastating. For worse, often the person who does the outing was the very first person the closeted character ever told the truth to, which makes the betrayal extra potent. Expect the character who did the outing to get called out on it by either the character they outed or others who understand how serious this is.

Originally, involuntary outing was used as a method of protest by LGBT activists who noted that certain political and cultural figures who were closeted homosexuals still voted on anti-gay legislation or supported those who did. The outing of such figures was often referred to as being acceptable under "The Frank Rule" after openly gay Representative Barney Frank, who applied it to (mostly Republican) politicians. Outing such figures exposed their hypocrisy and also proved that homosexuality was normal and common across political persuasions. While such public and politically powerful figures are still widely considered fair game, merely being in the closet is not. Among real-life LGBT people, outing someone who's not ready is considered very bad form, especially since it can literally endanger someone's life, making it often overlap with Kick the Dog. Being forced out of the closet will come hand in hand with Gayngst.

Whilst this kind of storyline can be well used for creating drama and imparting morals, if not done well it may alienate an LGBT Fanbase, especially if it's either Played for Laughs or isn't treated with the seriousness it deserves.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fumiya from Wandering Son accidentally outs Nitori as being transgender, or at least someone who crossdresses, around her new middle school friends.
  • Sara from Ai no Shintairiku is (very loudly) outed as trans by her teacher on her first day at school.

    Comic Books 
  • This formed part of the backstory of Batwoman Kate Kane, since she was a cadet at West Point when Don't Ask Don't Tell was still active, and someone saw her kissing her girlfriend and reported it to her superiors. When given the chance to claim it was a joke and strongly encouraged to do so by the superior officer who confronted her about it so she could stay, Kate instead came out rather than lie and was separated from the military.
  • Renee Montoya of Gotham Central was outed by Two-Face, and it had a catastrophic effect on her professional and personal lives.
  • In Runaways, Karolina Dean is driven to out herself as a lesbian in front of all of her friends in an attempt to get Xavin, her unwanted fiancee, to leave her alone. Xavin is nonplussed, saying that gender is fluid for their species and changes into a girl right then and there.
  • One of the issues of New X-Men has Young!Jean Grey reading the mind of Young!Bobby Drake, discovering from this that he's gay, and not-so-subtly forcing Young Bobby to out himself as gay, which also forces the older Bobby to do so as well (and thus pulling a Retcon of Bobby's constant womanizing for all of these years as his attempts to get The Beard).
  • The Pride has a variation - in the wake of the team going public, Harvey Castro's HIV-positive status is leaked to the press, much to his chagrin.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Sweet Home Alabama Reese Witherspoon's character, Melanie, outs Bobby Rae (possibly her best friend) as gay —to a bar full of mutual friends in rural Alabama— while in a drunken tirade brought on from frustration at her Southern roots. Apparently no one really cared and there was a Pair the Spares where Melanie's gay friend from New York and Bobby Rae Hooked Up Afterwards.
  • In & Out has Howard, a high school English teacher in a small town, who is outed by a former student live on national TV as he accepts an Oscar. Problem - Howard isn't gay. He eventually realizes he is gay by the end of the film.
  • GBF has Tanner and Brent, both closeted homosexuals, download an app for tracking other homosexuals onto Tanner's phone. Girls from their school track Tanner's signal down, and Tanner tries to stop them in public — and failing, revealing to the whole school that he's gay. Upset about this forced outing, he confronts Brent later, and in a fit of petty rage, outs Brent to his mother.

  • Discussed Truth in Television example in The Atrocity Archive. Back in the day in the UK it was illegal to be gay, which meant gays working in the British intelligence community (including the Laundry) were vulnerable to blackmail (i.e. "work for me or I'll blow the whistle on you"). Nowadays the Laundry just requires you to be openly gay, the idea being that you can't be blackmailed if you aren't hiding anything. Hence Bob's Camp Gay flatmate Pinky drags his Straight Gay partner Brains out to Gay Pride once a year to maintain their security clearances.
  • The Heroes of Olympus has an encounter with the Cupid, the god of love, end this way — Cupid refuses to help them until Nico di Angelo is true to himself, essentially forcing the character to admit their homosexuality.
  • Part of the Trauma Conga Line faced by the titular character in Reconstructing Amelia was this happening to her when she's filmed lying naked on the floor with another girl. For worse, the one who outs her, Zadie Smith clearly realizes how bad this is and takes pains to not out Dylan who was the other girl with Amelia at the time by making sure Dylan's face isn't visible.
  • Subverted in the Nantucket Trilogy, where Marian Alston chooses to come out as a lesbian in order to get out in front of the rumors about her and Swindapa's relationship.
  • In the backstory for Super Powereds, Titan was a well-respected Hero, who always stated how much his family meant to him. Then an Intrepid Reporter caught him having sex with another male Hero in a hotel room. The revelation sent shocks through the largely conservative public, and the resulting scandal forced Titan to leave the Hero life behind and run away, abandoning his family. His sons have never forgiven him. After he returns to active Heroing in Corpies, he finds out that other people also resent him for leaving, as standing up for himself and owning who he was would have gone a long way towards paving the way for the public acceptance of LGBTQ Heroes. Many LGBTQ Supers, who had dreams of becoming Heroes, abandoned them after Titan's scandal. By the time the book takes place, there are openly-gay Heroes, as society has gotten a little more accepting of them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Glee, both Santana and Karofsky are outed against their will.
    • When Finn and Santana are having an argument in "Mash Off", he tells her to come out in the middle of the hallway. When everyone stares at them, he continues attacking her for loving Brittany. It's later revealed that a student went and told her uncle, who is running a TV commercial outing her to the whole state in order to discredit the school. She is then threatened with rape around school. In her wedding vows she includes "I've been outed and bullied".
    • Karofsky moves school in season 3 but still meets up with Kurt to try and woo him — when a footballer from his new, more homophobic school, sees them talking he assumes the worst and texts the team, resulting in his locker being spray painted "FAG" and everyone finding out before cyberbullying him and causing him attempt suicide but not succeed in "On My Way".
  • In Barney Miller, a recurring cop character is gay. Everyone in the squad knows but they all basically agree not to say anything, especially to Internal Affairs. Then one time when Wojo is getting hounded by IA over some trifling thing he accidentally blurts it out.
  • Showed up a few times in Law & Order. Either the victim was being threatened with outing or the killer was or one of the red herrings.
  • One episode of CSI featured a football player who was outed during an investigation. One of the straight female investigators gets called out on this, but she fails to see why it's such a big deal.
  • In Veronica Mars there's one episode where Veronica investigates blackmail letters that certain students have been receiving, including one girl whose gay status would be revealed if she did not pay up. When Veronica figures things out, she discovers that the perp was a gay student who just wanted to out her girlfriend so they could be together in public.
  • Liz Lemon drunkenly outs her cousin on 30 Rock.
  • Drew Boyd in the U.S. adaptation of Queer as Folk. A blackmailer sent incriminating photos of him to a tabloid, prompting Drew to make a public statement about his sexuality. But he never would've done that if he hadn't felt forced.
  • In Pretty Little Liars, Emily's boyfriend Ben catches her kissing her new neighbor, Maya, and calls them "fucking dykes". Later, pictures of Emily and Maya kissing are shown to the whole town.
  • The Commish: An off-duty closeted police officer is a witness to a gay bashing incident. Tony strongly encourages him to write up a report, which the officer says will force him out. He does so, and then is beaten by the same group of gay bashers.
  • In the CSI: Cyber episode "L0M1S", a lesbian senator who'd been hiding her sexuality is unwillingly outed by the titular hacker, who ruins strangers' personal lives For the Evulz.
  • In Faking It, Shane tries to out Karma and Amy as lesbians to the school because he thinks they shouldn't have to hide themselves. This is complicated by the fact that Karma and Amy aren't actually a couple and neither see themselves as a lesbian at the time. Merely two episodes later it turns out that Shane was right about Amy, at least, however.
  • At the end of series one of Gossip Girl, Georgina outs Eric van der Woodsen to both his mother and sister. They're shocked at first but soon become supportive of him.
  • In the backstory of Conviction (2016), Jackson Morrison was forced out of the closet as a teenager, resulting in him spending much of his early adult life in near-celibacy in order to avoid creating scandals for his parents.
  • ER. Fed up with her hem-hawing and acting terrified to be seen in public with her, Kerry Weaver's girlfriend Sandy grabs her and kisses her in full view of the ER staff. For the most part, they seem completely unfazed, presumably because they already suspected or knew, or contrary to her fears, didn't care.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • In the Back Story, Justin was outed by his friend Melissa, who falls under the "accidental" type in that he'd come out to her and then she'd told her sister, who was the town's gossip and promptly spread it around town. He was extremely mad at her for this for years afterwards, and was especially pissed that his own parents found out after overhearing people talking about it at the grocery store.
    • And Nanase's plan to keep her relationship with Ellen a secret gets demolished when her mother bursts into her hospital room and sees them kissing. In an aversion, Nanase's mother really doesn't care — she thinks it's a phase.
  • On Venus Envy, Lisa was outed by Grace before the beginning of the plot, and Zoe is outed as transgender by accident to several people throughout the course of the comic.
  • Shay from Between the Lines outs a former bully of hers as a trans girl in front of Dani.
  • Yoona from Welcome To Room 305 is outed as being gay by her brother in front of Hom and Jung Hyun. Hom, who is gay himself, notes this is not a proper way to come out and facepalms while the homophobic protagonist is just in stunned silence. Yoon Sung's intentions were good however he did it incorrectly. Yoona is deeply closeted and self-hating, Yoon Sung had been pretending to be gay in order for her to accept her sexuality, and they were having an argument about him being gay.
  • Lavali from Sandra on the Rocks is forced to come out to her brother Alex after he walks in on her and her girlfriend angrily breaking up. Actually Played for Laughs, since while this may have been a surprising reveal to the readers, as far as Alex and their parents are concerned, she's been in the world's most Transparent Closet for years. As in, they've all caught her naked with other girls several times, which she attempted to explain away with laughably flimsy excuses.
  • In Goblins, Big Ears isn't outed by the direct actions of another, but rather an artifact that takes the form of what you lust after most, which turns into a goblin male. He seems distressed by this but no one else seems to care.

    Western Animation 
  • Stan in American Dad! told the father of one of his neighbors his son was gay, and it turns out that the son was pretty open about it except with his dad.
  • In BoJack Horseman, BoJack's former best friend and business partner, Herb Kazzaz, got kicked off the show he wrote and produced after getting caught having sex with a man in a public park.

Alternative Title(s): Forcibly Outed