Alex Diaz, a Filipino actor and former VJ, was outed earlier this week by a fitness coach who shared personal messages between the two on Instagram. Personal messages are supposed to remain, well, personal, and by outing Diaz, his coach may have placed his career and even his life in danger. In case you forgot, outing someone is dangerous, harmful, and never OK.
The controversy started — as so many do — with a DM slide. In a private message, Diaz had asked his fitness coach, Miguel Chanco, whether he would accept an “indecent proposal.” Chanco said no, and after Diaz apologized, he started threatening the actor, saying: “Do you have any respect?” He then reminded Diaz that his family relies on his acting career.
Chanco is gay and has since deleted the Facebook account where he posted the screenshots.
His trainer has not apologized, but in a series of Instagram posts, Diaz came out as bisexual. He also expressed regret for sending the messages and vowed to “champion change, acceptance, and representation for the bisexual community and/or anyone who is met with prejudice in our society.”
In a statement, Diaz claimed that saying in the closet was both a personal and professional decision, citing “the state of our nation in regards to acceptance and representation” of LGBTQ+ people. Same-sex couples are currently banned from marrying in the Philippines, while President Rodrigo Duterte has flip-flopped on the issue several times.
This controversy serves as a reminder that LGBTQ+ people around the world often face harassment and even violence for who they are. In September, Jessa Remiendo, a trans woman, was found violently murdered on a beach in the Philippines as a bill protecing queer and community from discrimination has been sitting in Congress for almost decade. It has gotten little aid from Duterte who has suggested that he supports conversion therapy and said LGBTQ+ people should use segregated bathrooms.
While the Philippines is one of the most LGBTQ+ affirming nations in Southeast Asia, reports show that most LGBTQ+ people don’t feel safe going to the police when they do need help. In a report cited by Reuters, law enforcement agents often assume gay men and trans women are sex workers and refuse to help them.
But in addition to exposing LGBTQ+ people to physical violence in spaces where it may not be safe for them to be visible, outing a person can also be damaging psychologically. In a 2013 survey, Australia’s National LGBTI Health Alliance found that in one in five transgender people have been threatened with being outed. This leads to many individuals “avoiding certain situations due to fear of discrimination and/or fear of being outed,” which can cause feelings of isolation and depression.
What’s more, studies show that 30 percent of LGBTQ+ teens experience physical abuse after coming out and another 26 percent of LGBTQ+ youth are kicked out of their homes. That rejection is likely to be further compounded if they are forced out of the closet before they are ready.
While Diaz appears to handling the situation as well as can be expected, previous outings illustrate just how grave its impacts can be. Eighteen-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi took his own life after his college roommate secretly recorded him kissing another man and then posted it online, as did Dr. Anne Vanderbilt, a trans woman who was outed in an interview in Grantland. To put it bluntly: Outing can kill.
But in a statement, Diaz spoke the truth that all LGBTQ+ people need to hear: He knows trying to hide his real self was the real problem, not being bisexual.
“Never again will I be shackled by the fear of what might be said about who I am for fear of losing my career…” he said. “I see now that my actions are not caused by, but rather the effect of the unhealthy and toxic suppression of all of who I am as a human being…”
Everyone should have the chance to come out on their own terms, especially if they live somewhere where LGBTQ+ face persecution or marginalization (which, let’s be honest, is basically everywhere). It’s shameful of his former coach to post those screenshots, but here’s to Diaz finally being able to be his authentic self.