How NOT to Out Youth

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the term outing and the consequences of outing LGBTQ2S youth.
  2. understand the importance of respecting the privacy of youth we work with.

Outing [someone] is when someone reveals another person’s sexuality or gender identity to an individual or group, often without the person’s consent or approval; not to be confused with “coming out”.

When working with LGBTQ2S youth, it is important not to out them to others. The matter of one’s identity is not only very personal, but can also be very fluid. Outing someone while they are exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity can be damaging not only in exposing them to the harsh stereotypes and phobias of others, but can be detrimental to their self-exploration. It should be the youth’s decision when to disclose their identity to others.

Scenario:

A youth you are working with states they need to access the clothing room for a job interview on Friday. You tell them that the clothing room is not open today, but she can access it tomorrow from 12-6. You send an email to your colleague who coordinates the clothing room to make sure there are items suitable for job interviews.

Which of the following versions would you use?

  1. A resident has a job interview on Friday. Are there any interview appropriate outfits for her or should I refer to a partner organization for clothing?
  2. A trans resident has a job interview on Friday. Are there any interview appropriate outfits for her or should I refer to a partner organization for clothing?

Hopefully you selected the first answer. The fact that the youth is a trans woman is not relevant.

If a youth discloses that they identify as LGBTQ2S you can ask them who else knows. It is important that workers do not out youth to others who may not have been informed by the youth. It is up to the youth to share their identity(/ies) with how they want to know.

  1. Outing a youth in an already vulnerable position is not only an abuse of your position, but of that client’s trust.
  2. It is a person’s right to their privacy.
  3. Exposing a youth before they are ready can put them in less than favorable situations, leading to bullying (psychological and physical) and/or potential violence.
  4. Information can travel faster and farther than any person intends, including to the ears of employers, who aren’t always LGBTQ2S allies.
  5. You can’t tell a youth’s gender identity from the way they look or dress, ALWAYS ask before assigning a pronoun. If unsure, use the singular They until you can ask the question PRIVATELY so as to not embarrass or out them.

Sources:

Molloy, P. (2014, January 24). Op-ed: The Deadly Effects of Outing. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/01/24/op-ed-deadly-effects-outing

Mount Sinai Hospital. (n.d.). The Are You an ALLY? Campaign. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.mountsinai.on.ca/about_us/human-rights/ally

 

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