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Forced Out of the Closet

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"I don't care that you think that my coming out was gonna be a big thing, Martin. Look, you don't get to decide that. I'm supposed to be the one that decides when and where and how and who knows and how I get to say it — that's supposed to be my thing! And you took that away from me."
Simon, Love, Simon

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.

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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, with the reaction being magnified significantly if the person forced out of the closet is a minor. Being forced out of the closet will come hand in hand with Gayngst.

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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.

It is sometimes seen as a specific type of Homophobic Hate Crime.

See also Out of the Closet, Into the Fire, when people face terrible hardships after coming out (which is obviously made much worse if they were forced out).


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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sara from Ai no Shintairiku is (very loudly) outed as trans by her teacher on her first day at school.
  • Ao no Flag: In Chapter 40, Touma decides to finally turn Mami down and come clean to her about how he's interested in men, particularly Taichi, but Kensuke overhears and start a fight over it. The fight calls the attention of everybody and becomes a widespread subject of gossip in the following days, and although some versions are different, all of school ends up knowing that Touma likes men within a few days, even though he only wanted to come out to Mami.
  • In Junjou Romantica Misaki's brother Takahiro reminds him that he was only to stay at Akihiko's apartment until graduation. Akihiko later threatens to reveal Misaki's boyfriend if he doesn't stay. The guy Misaki's dating is Akihiko, who's Takahiro's best friend. Later in the manga, when Misaki was admitting to his sister-in-law he was dating Usami she accidentally lets it slip that Akihiko told her already.
  • On her first day of high school, Akira from Kanojo ni Naritai Kimi to Boku is asked by a classmate if she's a boy or a girl. Before she can answer, her teacher outs her as a trans girl. The teacher didn't realize that Akira likely didn't want people to know. It isn't soon before much of the school knows about Akira being trans.
  • Fumiya from Wandering Son accidentally outs Nitori as being transgender, or at least someone who crossdresses, around her new middle school friends. He gets called out for this by Takatsuki.

    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. Exactly who outed her has never been concretely established, but the original creative team did intend to address it in story but left the book before they had the chance.
  • Renee Montoya of Gotham Central was outed by Two-Face, and it had a catastrophic effect on her professional and personal lives.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Superboy and the Ravers Hero is outed by his "friend" Sparx after he is forced to come out to her to explain why he's uncomfortable with her flirting with him and hanging on him when she refuses to take a hint or accept that the two times "he"'s flirted back and made out with her it was really individuals summoned through the H-Dial, even though she's had it explained to her multiple time that the H-Dial heroes are separate individuals despite sharing Hero's memories and being formed from his own body.

    Fan Works 
  • Becoming Free:
    • Freya mistook her friendship with her childhood friend for romance and kissed her. Her friend freaked out and told her family. This caused her family to burn Freya's house and run her out of town. When they meet years later, Freya's friend is apologetic as she didn't know her family would try to kill Freya. She even mentions she was going to name her daughter after her due to believing she had died.
    • An assassin attempts to reveal Elsa's Secret Relationship with Freya. He fails because no one believes him.
  • Bloom:
    • Rachel Amber reintroduces Max to Chloe without talking to Max about it first, which is a problem because the last time she saw Chloe Max had been going by Maxwell. Rachel knew this and thought it would be a fun surprise. While it ultimately turns out for the best, Max and Chloe call Rachel out for it and she later apologizes.
    • Rachel also threatens to tell Victoria's friends about their fling if she doesn't back off of Max. She later admits that this was wrong.
  • Farewell to Life the Way We Knew It:
    • The Jem fanfic Farewell to Life the Way We Knew It is set in a dystopia where an American Morality office arrests anyone deemed immoral, including homosexuals and bisexuals. Stormer has never told her bandmates that she's lesbian due to worries that they would react badly. While trying to enter Chicago, the American Morality office decides to give everyone a background check in order to keep certain types of people out of the city. The check includes a blood test that can reveal if someone is not heterosexual. Stormer gets outed to her band when they arrest her.
    • Stormer came out to Kimber (though, Kimber more-or-less forced Stormer to share her secret) when they were recording their second album together. It turns out that Kimber told her band afterwards. Stormer is a bit annoyed, but takes it in stride.
    • In the sequel story, Clash gets forced out the closet when she's arrested and has to call The Misfits to bail her out. In hindsight, the Misfits think it was a bit obvious, though.
  • Subverted in the Ever After High fic Girlfrenemies. After Raven lies and tells Blondie that she's dating Apple, Apple believes that Blondie has told the entire school. As it turns out, Blondie knows better than to out people without their permission. This, however, results in Apple accidentally outing herself in front of the entire cafeteria. To make it worse, it turns out later Apple is (even unknown to herself) actually in love with Raven after all, so she really did out herself.
  • In the original version of The Longest Road's chapter 28, Ash learns that LGBT people are banned from being gym leaders. Ash outs Erika as revenge for her banning him from her gym for disliking perfume. The chapter was later rewrote to remove this element.
  • Oh Darling is an Ever After High oneshot that deals with casual homophobia amongst the cast. After "Dragon Games", the entire school is debating whether it was CPR or True Love's Kiss. Apple avoids the issue by saying it didn't matter. This all hurts Darling, who has been prematurely forced out of the closet and feels uncomfortable with everyone speculating her sexuality.
  • In the fourth Perfect Diamond World story, Elsa and Anna accidentally go to see a play that is based off of them. The play was written by a villain who knows about their relationship and depicts them as a somewhat Villainous Incestuous couple. Most people think it's just Malicious Slander, however Rapunzel realizes that it's truthful and is disgusted by the sisters.
  • Humans unintentionally out Julien in Princess. Animals can understand humans, but humans don't understand animals. Julien's friends get confused when the caretakers call him a "beauty" and a "girl". This leads to the other zoo animals learning he's trans, which is only something the other lemurs know.
  • A Song of Grumbling & Cotton Candy: Prior to the story, Clash was outed when tabloids leaked pictures of her with Pizzazz. Clash's parents disowned her and she lost her job.
  • In the Ever After High oneshot You Built This House, Apple and Darling are both outed after the events of Dragon Games. The entire school knows that they're destined to be together. This is even more problematic because Apple doesn't even know she's lesbian yet. Apple doesn't realize that Darling, not her brother Daring, kissed her until several days after the event.
  • A downplayed version appears in Entering a World of Chaos, a The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants Super Fic, with Melvin's hero identity being outed as trans when a reporter asks where he is, forcing George (mercifully with Melvin's permission) to announce the pregnancy. Melvin is also spending the story devastated that being pregnant will likely force him to come out as trans to his peers because the signs won't be able to be hidden indefinitely.
  • Eakin's Hard Reset: Played for Laughs. Twilight tells her friends she's a lesbian; they are, of course, supportive, but a few days later she clarifies that she doesn't want anyone else to know until she's more confident. Fluttershy awkwardly says she already told someone: A parrot. Who told his owner. While in the middle of the market on the busiest day of the year.
    Twilight: I got outed to all of Ponyville... by a parrot?

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Prenter vindictively outs Freddie Mercury in public after Mercury gets tired of his abuse and manipulation and fires him.
  • 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.
  • Handsome Devil is told through a framing device of Ned reading out an essay on the moment in his life he's most ashamed of; it's revealed that he outed his best friend to the whole school (at a pep rally, with a megaphone) because of a fight they had.
  • 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.
  • Love, Simon, like the novel it's based on, has Simon get outed by Martin, after months of the latter blackmailing him with the threat of it.
  • In Sweet Home Alabama Reese Witherspoon's character, Melanie, outs Bobby Ray (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. The muted reactions from everyone else suggest it was already something of an Open Secret among their peer group. At the end of the movie there's a Pair the Spares where Melanie's gay friend from New York and Bobby Ray Hooked Up Afterwards.
  • First Girl I Loved: Anne is outed by Cliff putting a picture into the yearbook which shows her and Sasha kissing at a club.

    Literature 
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Sammy Clay is publicly outed as a result of his questioning by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.
  • This occurs to Liza in Annie on My Mind. After a teacher catches her and her girlfriend having sex, they out her. Annie is spared because she goes to a different school and Liza refuses to state her name. Liza ends up forcibly outed to her family and her school, while Annie decides to come out to her family at a later date. Two teachers at Liza's school also end up outed as a couple as a result and end up fired.
  • 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.
  • 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. Ironically, she isn't actually dating Swindapa at that time, but the two hook up shortly afterwards.
  • The book The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey is about a 12-year-old transgender boy who is outed as trans by a classmate.
  • 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.
  • Happens in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Halfway through the novel, Simon himself is outed after Martin accuses him of taking too long to set up Martin and Abby (even though Abby has no interest in Martin by this point and never did).
  • 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.
  • Symptoms Of Being Human is about a bigender teenager whose blog goes viral. Someone at their school connects the blog to Riley and threatens to out them.
  • Leo from The Art of Being Normal comes out as trans to his crush Alicia, but she rejects him. Alicia's friends find out his secret and out him to the entire school.
  • Stone Butch Blues: Jess' old unionist friend accidentally outs her as a women in the factory by using the wrong pronouns. She quits her job there before they can fire her (or report her actions to the police).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Liz Lemon drunkenly outs her cousin on 30 Rock.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Control Z: Isabela is outed as transgender in the first episode. Gerry is outed for watching gay porn (but he insists he's not gay). Later two more guys are outed as gay, along with Gaby. All this is done by the hacker.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Dates: Erica accidentally leaves her phone on in a call with her brother when talking to Kate (a conversation that includes shouting she's gay).
  • 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.
  • 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 (though she's probably bi)..
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • On I Am Not Okay With This, Brad outs Sydney during the homecoming dance, having stolen her diary and found out that she kissed Dina and has romantic feelings for her. This is just one of several mistakes that culminate in his messy death.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Throughout the series run on The Smoking Room, Robin had been failing to conceal his crush on Ben from the post room, to the point that it was an open secret among the other denizens of the smoking room. In the final episode, after Janet happily announces her engagement to a man in her church's congregation, an embittered Robin pours scorn on the relationship and suggests she's only going through with it out of fear of loneliness. Janet snaps back that while her relationship might not be something out of Wuthering Heights...
    Janet: ...at least it's a real relationship. I am not, like certain people I could mention, dreaming my best years away - or the tail-end of them at any rate - on some pointless, soul-sapping crush!
    [Long awkward pause]
    Len: Fuckin' 'ell...
  • The Truth About Alex is an award-winning short film from 1986 in which the titular Alex is forced out after a trucker attempting to pick him up beats him upon being rebuffed.
  • 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.
  • Schitt's Creek: David is under the impression Patrick's parents know Patrick is gay and is David's boyfriend as well as business partner. It's a natural assumption given how open Patrick is in the town. However, when David invites the Brewers to a Surprise Party for their son, Johnny welcomes them to the motel and outs Patrick by referring to the romantic side of David and Patrick's relationship. Johnny is mortified and literally runs to find David and warn him. David goes to see Patrick, and Patrick explains that he is worried about changing his relationship with his beloved parents. David then goes to the motel and introduces himself to the Brewers, who turn out to be loving and supportive and only hurt that their son did not tell them sooner. They agree Patrick should go through the process of coming out on his own terms, and so they let him do so at the party. After everyone has gone home, David and Patrick share a romantic dance and Patrick reveals it was obvious his parents already knew when he told them and he thanks David for handling the situation and making it one of the happiest days of his life.

    Podcasts 
  • The majority of King Falls AM episode 68 deals with the aftermath of Greg Frickard outing host Sammy Stevens live on-air to both the fictional in-universe characters as well as to us. It's hard to tell if Sammy is more distraught over being outed as gay or being reminded of his failure to find and bring back his fiance.

    Roleplay 

    Theatre 
  • Unintentionally done in The Children's Hour. An Enfant Terrible named Mary spreads fakes lies that her two female teachers are sleeping together. This causes a huge stir in their community after Mary's grandmother gets all of the parents to remove their children from the school. The rumors and failed lawsuit ruin Martha and Karen's lives, made worse when Karen's boyfriend leaves her due to believing the rumors. As it turns out, Martha actually was a lesbian and was in love with her best friend, however she had repressed it heavily until Mary acted as a negative Closet Key. This all results in Martha being Driven to Suicide in the end.

    Webcomics 
  • Shay (who is trans herself) from Between the Lines outs a former bully of hers as a trans girl in front of Dani.
  • 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.
    • Sam is a transmale, but a previous attempt to come out as a lesbian (which ended very badly) has made him very unwilling to share this with anyone. When Grace accidentally finds out, he's terrified that she'll out him. Thankfully they talk it out peacefully before drama comes into play, and he's grateful to actually have someone to talk to about it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On Venus Envy, Lisa was outed by Grace before the beginning of the plot via a Home Porn Movie that was leaked to the entire school, and Zoe is outed as transgender by accident to several people throughout the course of the comic.
  • 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 stunned into 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.

    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, Forced To Come Out

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