If there is one thing that is never okay, it’s outing someone who has not come out on their own yet. Never. Don’t do it. I’ve already written about why coming out still matters. But coming out is not always possible.
For some people, it’s illegal and could get them killed. There are over 75 countries in the world where it is actually illegal to be queer, trans, etc., many of which carry a death sentence for those who are caught.
Now, as many people will know, the summer olympics are currently taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is where our story today begins. Last week, a straight, white journalist named Nico Hines from The Daily Beast decided to write an article called “The Other Olympic Sport in Rio: Swiping”.
I can’t share the link to the article, as it has been removed and replaced with an editorial comment. But here’s the gist of what happened:
Hines went on Grindr and other dating sites/apps and wrote his article about the olympic athletes he met on there and arranged dates with. Let me repeat: a straight man decided to write an article about how he used gay apps to find olympic athletes.
But here’s where it gets worse, as Curtis M. Wong at The Huffington Post writes:
“Much of the outrage stemmed from the fact that Hines, who identifies as straight, included telling details such as the heights, weights and other physical features of the Olympic athletes with whom he arranged dates.”
Now, Hines swears he didn’t lie about the fact that he was a journalist. But really, shouldn’t a straight man trolling gay apps to find athletes and write articles that could potentially out them be considered lying? I’m pretty sure if you open your nearest dictionary and look up the word “lie”, the definition will say something along those lines.
And while Hines didn’t actually name any of the athletes he described, that didn’t mean it wasn’t possible for them to be discovered. As Mark Joseph Stern at Slate writes:
“With his dubious premise established, Hines proceeds to out athlete after athlete, providing enough information about each Olympian he encounters for anyone with basic Google skills to uncover their identities. (After several minutes of Googling, I surmised the identities of five of the gay athletes Hines described.) I’m not going to repeat his descriptions, because—as Hines himself acknowledges!—some of them live in ‘notoriously homophobic’ countries and remain closeted at home.”
I’ll repeat again: Stern found five of the athletes Hines described using Google in minutes, some of whom live in notoriously homophobic countries, like possibly some of the countries on the list linked above.
UGH. Outing people is never okay. Outing people is never okay. Outing people is never okay. I’d keep repeating this until people actually got the message, but it appears that I’d be here for a billion years. While Hines may think that his article may have been just for fun, his idea of fun could potentially damage someone’s life, or put them in danger, or worse, get them killed.
I sincerely hope nothing happens to those athletes Hines wrote about. It’s never okay to take someone’s coming out away from them. But it’s even worse to out people who could get killed by their own governments just for being born the way they are.