When Caitlin Crowley shared a picture of herself before she came out, beside a photo of her with her current girlfriend, she thought the images would make her friends chuckle. However, she had no idea she’d inspire a powerful trend.
Crowley comes from Naples, Florida. Like many people, Crowley was still working out who she was when she was a teenager. As part of this process, the young woman had to come to terms with the fact that she was gay.
Moreover, her sexuality took a little while for Crowley to figure out. But when she met Kirrin Chew at a college prep program, Crowley knew that she was the girl for her. So, after forming a friendship, the two girls started dating in 2016.
However, despite their relationship, at first neither Crowley nor Chew felt ready to come “completely out of the closet.” As a result, the couple waited until they’d been dating for six months before telling their family and friends that they were gay.
After coming out, in October 2017 Crowley and Chew said they’d experienced an “outpour of love” from the people they knew. Finally, the girls felt at ease with who they were. Consequently, Crowley began celebrating their relationship on social media.
Indeed, a quick scroll through Crowley’s Twitter profile reveals picture after picture of the young couple posing together. However, in October 2017 Crowley shared a completely different photo. The image in question showed her standing alongside a boy.
The photograph was from Crowley’s freshman year dance, an event she’d attended with her good friend Dylan. However, looking back at the image, the now 17-year-old found something funny about their awkward pose with one another.
And, since she and Dylan were still buddies, Crowley decided to poke fun at their “date” photo. Sharing it alongside an image of her sharing a passionate kiss with Chew, she wrote, “Does this count as a glo up?”
The aim of the side-by-side images was to show how much Crowley’s confidence had grown since coming out. And she likely thought that her friends would find the comparison funny. However, Crowley had no idea of the impact her post would have.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Crowley later explained, “It was meant to be a funny joke between my friends and I, because Dylan and I are still friends and laugh at our freshman year selves very often.”
However, Crowley’s candid update soon went viral and has since clocked up an astonishing 35,000 retweets and 138,000 likes. Furthermore, the images have attracted almost 1,000 replies, many of them documenting other “gay glo up” stories.
Among the people who related to the post was 18-year-old Sydney Carlson who, like Crowley, came from Florida. Carlson met her girlfriend on the internet two years ago. And the pair finally hooked up in person in May 2017, after Carlson came out.
When she saw Crowley’s post, Carlson told BuzzFeed that she “immediately related.” She added, “I used to date only guys… but now am in a happy relationship with the girl in the picture.” So, she too shared her glo up images.
Another person to get in on the action was Manny Arraiz. The 24-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, was so inspired by Crowley’s images that she sorted through her old photographs to create her own post.
In Arraiz’s first image, she stands between two boys as they each plonk a kiss on her cheeks. In the second, Arraiz looks overjoyed as her fiancée Lacey Guyton proposes to her on one knee at a pride parade.
Arraiz hoped that her heartwarming update would help other young gay people accept who they are. “I thought it was important to share [the photos] to let people know that even when you’re still in the closet and deal with all the problems – and awesome things – that come with being a young gay person, it all gets better,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sabrina Herstedt of Massachusetts said that the inspirational thread helped her embrace her sexuality. While she’d been out for a year, she said she had a “lingering fear” of what people think of her. But thanks to Crowley, Herstedt realized that the opinions of others didn’t really matter.
So, after telling her girlfriend Katia that she loved her, Herstedt openly acknowledged their relationship on Twitter. “I woke up this morning and made a vow to myself to not let some kind of internalized homophobia win and just share my life,” she later told BuzzFeed.
Soon, countless people had joined Crowley’s thread to share their personal experience of coming out. And although inspiring such a response was never her intention, the reaction left Crowley moved.
She later revealed, “Hearing the stories of complete strangers and their own coming out fears really hit me hard, because when I was first coming to terms with my sexuality I didn’t know a single lesbian.” And to others going through a similar experience, Crowley added, “To anyone who’s still in the closet: take your time, you are not alone, and you are valid!”