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Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are

Abigail C. Saguy

Publication Date - 12 February 2020

ISBN: 9780190931667

192 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Shows how the concept of coming out has been used in five distinct contexts: the American LGBTQ+ movement, the fat acceptance movement, the undocumented immigrant youth movement, the plural-marriage family movement among Mormon fundamentalist polygamists, and the #MeToo movement


While people used to conceal the fact that they were gay or lesbian to protect themselves from stigma and discrimination, it is now commonplace for people to "come out" and encourage others to do so as well. Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are systematically examines how coming out has moved beyond gay and lesbian rights groups and how different groups wrestle with the politics of coming out in their efforts to resist stigma and enact social change. It shows how different experiences and disparate risks of disclosure shape these groups' collective strategies. Through scores of interviews with LGBTQ+ people, undocumented immigrant youth, fat acceptance activists, Mormon fundamentalist polygamists, and sexual harassment lawyers and activists in the era of the #MeToo movement, Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are explains why so many different groups gravitate toward the term coming out. By focusing on the personal and political resonance of coming out, it provides a novel way to understand how identity politics work in America today.


  • Shows how the concept of coming out has been used in five distinct contexts: the American LGBTQ+ movement, the fat acceptance movement, the undocumented immigrant youth movement, the plural-marriage family movement among Mormon fundamentalist polygamists, and the #MeToo movement
  • Provides a close look at how identity politics works by focusing on the dynamics of social recognition and social change across stigmatized groups
  • Draws on 146 in-depth interviews, as well as participant observation and textual analysis of five different social movements

About the Author(s)

Abigail Saguy is Professor of Sociology and of Gender Studies at UCLA. She has been a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University (2000-2002) and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2008-2009). She is the author of What is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (2003) and What's Wrong with Fat (Oxford, 2013), which received Honorable Mention for the Association for Humanist Sociology's Best Book Award. She has also written scores of scientific journal articles and several op-eds published in leading news outlets.


"[S]hows how 'coming out' is at once a cultural concept, a way to resist stigma while reaffirming an authentic self; and a political tactic, a master frame for worldmaking.... Saguy explodes the meaning of coming out.... Like all good books, Saguy's Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are raises many more questions than it can possibly answer." -- Amin Ghaziani, Public Books

"Abigail Saguy's new book, Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are, offers a fascinating and powerful analysis of how various groups are using "coming out" to gain personal power, allies and increased civil rights." -- Ms. Magazine

"[T]his methodically researched book worthily broadens the idea of coming out, which Saguy rightly observes, is about sharing stories that provide language, concepts, and tactics for people who have been invisible or in hiding to become visible.... Saguy gives us hope that as more people come out to resist stigma, we can all band together, despite social distancing, to advance a more just world." -- The Bay Area Reporter

"For individuals silenced by social stigma and shame, coming out is a bold and potentially dangerous act. But for contemporary social movements, coming out is necessary first step to claiming dignity, rights, and recognition. Saguy deftly traces the surprising power and perils of the coming out narrative in the fight for social justice." -Christine Williams, The University of Texas at Austin

"Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are brilliantly describes how the many ways of being different have given rise to a universal push for visibility and recognition. Not just gay activists, but the fat acceptance movement, Mormon polygamists, and many, many others now claim the right to reject stigma and come out of their various closets. While the comparisons across these cases are instructive, this book's attention to similarities is what readers will find most surprising and intriguing." -Steven Epstein, Northwestern University, and author of Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research

"The 1970s rallying cry to come out of the closet has proved to be an enduring metaphor for liberation, a transferable social movement principle, and an elastic concept both within and outside of LGBTQ life. In Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are Abigail Saguy and her colleagues tease out the multiple meanings, uses, and lessons of coming out across a variety of movements and identities. An astute, inventive sociological biography of a powerful symbol and strategy." -Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco

"This fascinating book reveals how the term 'coming out' travels between social movements in recent decades to define how groups gain recognition-from LGBTQ people to people embracing their fatness, the undocumented, polygamists and those who turned to #MeToo to denounce harassers. Meticulously researched, it shows the power of narratives and tells an essential story about how cultural change happens in contemporary America. This surprising and engaging study should be required reading for anyone interested in destigmatization and social justice." -Michèle Lamont, Harvard University

Table of Contents

    About the Authors

    1. Introduction

    2. Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
    With Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer

    3. Coming Out of Glass Closets

    4. Overcoming Fear
    With Laura E. Enriquez

    5. Producing a Sense of Linked Fate
    With Nicole Iturriaga

    6. Airing Dirty Laundry and Squealing on Pigs

    7. Conclusion


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