The evolution of “coming out”

Gay men have been “coming out” as early as the 1930s. Today, the term has been used by those coming out as undocumented, fat, and even polygamist.

Historical context

Originally used when elite young women would come out into high society, the gay community originally borrowed the term in the 1930s to describe coming out into gay culture. There was literally coming out to balls where gay men would dress in drag and enter gay culture, but as the 1940s arrived, it became more of a spoken coming out. The term did not become radicalized until the late 1960s. Coming out was then extended to expressing social change rather than just inclusion.

Closeted Thinking

“We often think of coming out as disclosing something about yourself that other people don't know, like coming out as gay, in a context that people didn't know that you were gay. But sometimes it means talking openly about something that people know… Coming out is telling a friend, a loved one, a classmate, a teacher something that otherwise you would have kept private. It is using our lives and stories as a political tool for change. Sometimes people talk about other groups co-opting or appropriating. But what I found is that it's actually the same people, right. It's people who are members of both groups that see the parallel and feel like it’s something similar,” author of Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are Abigail Saguy explains to Brut.

Who else uses the term?

In the past, there have been movements for the plus-sized community, #MeToo, polygamists, and undocumented immigrants that have utilized the phrase “coming out” to bring awareness and to put faces to their causes. Especially in the cases of #MeToo and undocumented immigrants, social media has played a huge role in how individuals come out. While there are debates about the term being used outside of the LGBTQ+ community, what they can all agree on is that going through this process takes back the control often taken from these minorities.