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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 a Closet Gay 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. See also Trans Tribulations and Intersex Tribulations.

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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.
  • Blue 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 the school ends up knowing that Touma likes men within a few days, even though he only wanted to come out to Mami.
  • In volume ten of The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, Jeffrey is outed to his family as gay, causing issues in the family inheritance as he won't be having biological children. While his older brother had found out already from reading his emails, no one else knew—and he didn't know his brother knew, either.
  • Defied in I Think Our Son Is Gay. Both Tomoko and Yuuki, while knowing Hiroki is gay, prefer to make the latter be more comfortable about his sexuality first, and come out of the closet himself later.
  • 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.
    • Right as Misaki was going to visit his brother to reveal their relationship Takahiro catches them kissing in Akihiko's car. It was about as awkward as one could expect it to be afterwards.
  • 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.
  • My-HiME: Shizuru is forcibly outed when Haruka and Yukino catch Shizuru planting a kiss on an exhausted, unconscious Natsuki, and Yukino says she'll tell what she saw Shizuru doing "to Natsuki while she was sleeping" the night before. Natsuki had woken to the sound of arguing and heard everything. Shizuru says she never wanted Natsuki to know about her "wicked love that cannot be requited."
  • 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 the story but left the book before they had the chance.
  • The Girl From the Sea: Morgan is outed to her mom by Aiden, who tells her she's got a girlfriend. She's hurt by this, and he later apologizes.
  • Renee Montoya of Gotham Central was outed by Two-Face, and it had a catastrophic effect on her professional and personal lives.
  • In Ms. Marvel (2014), Kamala's friend Zoe Zimmer has her deleted secret love letters stolen by a sentient computer virus as part of a blackmail plan, and ends up telling her crush Nakia before they are released to the school public. Nakia does not reciprocate but is supportive.
  • 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.
  • One of the issues of All-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).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alto: Frankie and Nicolette's families discover they're attracted to each other by their suggestively dancing together while at the Italian heritage festival. Their families accept them, with some reluctance.
  • In Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Prenter vindictively outs Freddie Mercury in public after Mercury gets tired of his abuse and manipulation and fires him.
  • Bonnie & Bonnie: Yara's secret relationship with Kiki is discovered by someone else, then disclosed to her very disapproving brother.
  • Carmen Y Lola: The title characters are outed to their families after Lola's neighbor sees them kissing together, then love letters they exchanged are discovered too.
  • Eloïse's Lover: At the end, Àsia's found to be involved with another girl. She's anxious over her loved ones' reactions to the point of suicide.
  • Elena Undone: Millie spots Peyton and Elena kissing while in the park, telling Elena's husband.
  • First Girl I Loved: Anne is outed by Cliff putting a picture into the yearbook which shows her and Sasha kissing at a club.
  • G.B.F. 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.
  • Girls Like Magic: Maggie (who is engaged to Jacob while having thought of herself as straight before) and Jamie (who's closeted with her parents) impulsively act on their mutual desire. They're caught red-handed while in Maggie's room half-naked by Maggie's fiancé and Jamie's dad.
  • Happiest Season:
    • Riley and Harper secretly dated in high school. However, when one of Riley's love notes to Harper were found by their schoolmates, Harper framed it as Riley being in love with her, outing her as a result.
    • Sloane spitefully outs Harper as a lesbian to their family after catching her with Abby.
  • 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. (this was inspired by Tom Hanks thanking a teacher for inspiring his Oscar-winning portrayal of a gay man in Philadelphia... although the outing came during said film's release, as Hanks mentioned the still-closeted teacher during interviews).
  • Kiss Me (2011): Tim learns Mia is seeing Frida by spotting them on the street embracing and then kissing each other. He doesn't let her know he saw at first however.
  • Legally Blonde: He was committing perjury, true, but exposing Enrique's lies still involved outing him in front of an entire courtroom.
  • 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. However, there is a difference in exact motive; in the book, Martin outed Simon for taking too long setting the former up with Abby. In the movie, Martin asks Abby out in front of the whole school but is rejected by her and ridiculed by the others as a result, so he posted Simon’s private emails anonymously and revealed him as gay to get the heat off himself.
  • In Mario (2018), Mario and Leon keep their relationship a secret at first, until an unknown team member finds out and tells everyone else. Mario learns their secret is out when he finds gay porn taped inside his locker.
  • 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.
  • In Where the Truth Lies, Maureen blackmails Lanny by threatening to publish audio recordings that would reveal Vince's bisexuality, thus ending their joint career. This leads to her murder.

    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.

    Visual Novels 
  • C14 Dating has an accidental case that ranges from consequence-free to an outright positive outcome. If Melissa makes the right choices during the festival, she will enter the museum while a visitor is flirting with Hendrik. Hendrik's close friend Rosemarie, who is watching the conversation from a distance, makes a few comments about Hendrik being oblivious to the flirting and lets the word "ace" (which can be short for "asexual") slip before suddenly acting like she said something she shouldn't have. When Melissa asks if she was about to say "ace geologist" (a nickname Rosemarie was once seen giving Hendrik, who is very passionate about his geologist job), Rosemarie claims it was indeed the case. After Rosemarie ends their conversation, Melissa turns out to have actually perfectly understood the piece of information Rosemarie let slip. If the player gets to the point where the character comes out to Melissa himself, he finds out that she already knows because of the event above. He also realizes that Melissa had that knowledge on hand when she accepted to go on a date with him and said knowledge is not keeping her from having enough romantic interest in him to give a Long-Distance Relationship a shot. For that reason, he decides to forgive the person who let the information slip.

    Webcomics 
  • Shay (who is trans herself) from Between The Lines (2006) 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 afterward and was especially pissed that his own parents found out after overhearing people talking about it at the grocery store.
    • And Nanase's mother bursts into her hospital room and sees her kissing Ellen. In an aversion, Nanase's mother really doesn't care — she thinks it's a phase. Also, Nanase could probably have covered for it (Ellen made an attempt at saying they were rehearsing a play), but she'd just decided to stop keeping secrets as much as possible. She still would have probably preferred to decide how she told her mom.
    • Sam is a trans man, 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.
  • In Sleepless Domain, only girls can get magical powers, so Zoe's family thought they wouldn't need to worry about another of their children having to fight monsters every night up until the call came knocking. Everybody accepted her being a girl immediately though, and it's only the magical side of things that is sometimes troubling to deal with.
  • Unsounded: When Master Marnier hears that Duane is working on a paper with Sarthos he grabs him and tells him to stay away from Sarthos or Sarthos will ruin him. When Duane asks what his mentor means Marnier points out that the school Sarthos mentioned attending previously is a girls school. As Sarthos cannot legally even hint that they were ever not a man they are shocked when Duane asks them why they never told him they were a woman.
  • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • Gameboys: Cairo, courtesy of his former best friend Risa, which triggers much of the plot.

    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.

    Real Life 
  • During a 1982 interview with Us magazine, Johnny Mathis offhandedly mentioned that "Homosexuality is a way of life that I've grown accustomed to." The quote was meant to be off the record, but was published anyway without his consent, resulting in death threats that kept him silent about his sexuality for a long time. It wasn't until 2017, 35 years later, that he confirmed that he was gay on his own terms.
  • Elliot Page publicly came out as gay in 2014 (and later as a queer trans man in 2020), but nearly a decade prior, during production of X-Men: The Last Stand, director Brett Ratner would reveal him as gay to the crew, down to saying to a woman "You should fuck her to make her realize she's gay", which Page would later say was very uncomfortable.
  • A veteran Marine of the Vietnam War named Oliver Sipple saved President Gerald Ford from an assassination attempt in 1975, and soon after Harvey Milk outed him to the media. Interestingly enough Milk was gay himself, but he thought outing Sipple would dispel the stereotype of gay men being cowardly. Unfortunately, Sipple hadn't come out to his parents yet and, as a result of this, they disowned him to his face. He ended up drinking himself to death at 47.
  • George Michael bore the brunt of this after his 1998 arrest for public lewdness (he tried to solicit an undercover cop for sex).
  • Lilly Wachowski was forced to come out as Transgender after a tabloid threatened to expose her status in an article. The emotional stress of the incident led to Lilly dropping out of working on the second season of Sense8.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Forcibly Outed, Forced To Come Out

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Proud Gay Oompa Loompa

Colin Jost unknowingly outs an Oompa Loompa.

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