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Outing is the act of disclosing an LGBT person's sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent. Outing gives rise to issues of privacy, choice, hypocrisy, and harm in addition to sparking debate on what constitutes common good in efforts to combat homophobia and heterosexism. A publicized outing targets prominent figures in a society, for example well-known politicians, accomplished athletes or popular artists. Opponents to LGBT rights movements as well as activists within the LGBT community have used this type of outing as a controversial political campaign or tactic. In an attempt to pre-empt being outed, an LGBT public figure may decide to come out publicly first.
The term outing can also be used to refer to the disclosure of other kinds of information that might be considered private. In this sense, outing might for instance be revealing the real-life information online, or revealing the facts otherwise not linked to the person to that individual's real-life friends, family, or community.
In the culture of hacktivism, the practice of outing private information is called doxxing.
The term originates with the expression coming out of the closet as used in the LGBT community. In the 1990s, the gay media routinely forced celebrities out of the closet, calling the practice outing.
Outing may be deliberate or involuntary. Deliberate outing may be a weapon used by vigilantes or law enforcement officers to punish the person. Involuntary outing may occur when another person thoughtlessly links a person's nickname with another nickname, known as nick linking, or with a real-life person, or unwittingly supplies information that can be used to locate or identify a person.
Some gay activists, however, disapprove of outing as a political tactic, arguing that even anti-gay conservatives have a right to personal privacy which should be respected. Steven Fisher, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said he opposed using "sexual orientation as a weapon."