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There is a longstanding convention among lesbians and gay men in the United States: Do not reveal the sexuality of a gay person to a heterosexual person; unless you are certain that the gay person does not regard his sexuality as a secret. This article looks that this convention as it applies in the context of conversations between individuals about acquaintances, friends, and the person next door. We focus on the outing of ordinary people by other ordinary people because the day-to-day lies openly gay people tell to protect friends and acquaintances often place the tellers in a personal ethical quandary. Moreover, in cumulative effect these little lies seriously limit the number of persons known to be gay. We conclude that the conventional notions of "rights" and "privacy" are not helpful in thinking about the issues outing poses. We also conclude, however, that for now gay people should continue to adhere to the convention of silence. Honesty is not yet the best policy. A wiser policy at this point is for openly gay people to press closeted gay people more aggressively to reveal themselves as gay.

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Michigan Journal of Gender & Law



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