A "glow up" or "glo up" is a play on the phrase "grow up" and is used to describe a person's incredible transformation. This can be anything from having a better sense of style, to having a better sense of self. Sometimes, it can be your typical "before-and-after" photo where someone transforms their lifestyle into a healthier one. Other times, it can show someone's personal growth. Often, people share their glow up photos to show the difference between their awkward, prepubescent self to their current self.
But on Sunday, 17-year-old Twitter user Caitlin Crowley decided to share a different kind of glow up photo. She tweeted two side-by-side photos of herself. The "before" photo is from her freshman year of high school where she's pictured with a boy named Dylan who was her date to the homecoming dance. The "after" photo is from senior year homecoming where she's seen kissing her girlfriend. The pair have been dating for a year now.
"Freshman to senior year, does this count as a glo up???" she wrote in the tweet.
"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," Crowley told BuzzFeed. It may have started as a joke, but it became meaningful for many other people.
Crowley's tweet has been shared more than 35,000 times and has over 136,000 likes since she first posted it. But the best part were the responses. People replied to her tweet by sharing their own glow ups featuring before-and-after coming out photos. Like Crowley, many of their "before" photos show them with someone of the opposite sex dressed up for a formal or dance. Their "after" photos show them with a significant other of the same sex — and they look much happier and affectionate.
The tweet and the responses that followed reminded many people who have struggled, or are struggling to come out as LGBTQ+, that they're not alone. It also gave many people the opportunity to see the stark difference between being uncomfortable about their sexuality and being proud of who they are.
Crowley was surprised by the response to her joke tweet, but is glad to see how positively people responded. "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," she told BuzzFeed. "To anyone who's still in the closet: take your time, you are not alone, and you are valid!"