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Preventing accidental outing: Tips for closeted LGBTQIA+ people

The physical and digital worlds are increasingly intertwined when it comes to safety. Prejudices that manifest online can lead to physical harm, and LGBTQI+ people are increasingly prone to security threats. It is therefore necessary for LGBTQI+ citizens in Commonwealth countries with restrictive legislations to be aware of the intersection of their human rights and technology. This article aims to act as a guide with practical means for LGBTQI+ individuals to take their rights to privacy and security into their own hands.

The Sexual Offences Act, which came into force on 27 July 1967, decriminalised private sexual activity between men over the age of 21 in England and Wales. Scotland followed in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982. Since then, more than 30 countries have decriminalised homosexuality across the Commonwealth.

However, in many other Commonwealth countries, there are still many barriers preventing LGBTQIA+ people from enjoying full equality. From the ban on same-sex marriage to hate crimes, abuse, harassment, jail and even the death penalty, the list of perils threatening LGBTQIA+ people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics is lengthy.

While activists and advocates are lobbying intensively for the reform of discriminatory laws, it may take years or even decades for their efforts to come to fruition. In the meantime, LGBTQIA+ people run the risk of being tracked down, persecuted and subjected to violence, especially in the wake of the pandemic when most activities have shifted to the virtual space. Thus, it becomes incumbent on LGBTQIA+ people to ensure their own safety and security in both the physical and digital worlds.

Here are a few safety measures for you, as an LGBTQIA+ individual, to protect yourself online and offline, particularly to avoid accidental disclosures when you need to keep your identity secret to avoid persecution.

1. Delayed posts

You are at the beach, soaking in the sun and sipping on a fancy cocktail. But are you even on vacation if you do not post a picture of it on social media? And if you do, you might as well be slapping a huge sign on your front door that says “Out of Town!” That house tour video you posted when you first moved in is now a map to enter your home in your absence, especially if you have been placed under surveillance. Spies who have been assigned to keep an eye on your whereabouts could use this opportunity to break in and collect evidence of your lifestyle and contacts. Similarly, your