When Naples High senior class President Caitlin Crowley tweeted a photo last month of herself kissing her girlfriend, she was not expecting to get much attention.
But the tweet quickly started garnering hundreds of retweets. Then thousands. Then tens of thousands.
As of Nov. 1, the Oct. 22 tweet had amassed 36,000 retweets, 137,000 likes and 1,000 comments.
The tweet juxtaposed two photos of Crowley: one from the homecoming dance freshman year with her male date, and another from the same dance her senior year with her girlfriend of one year.
“Freshman to senior year, does this count as a glo up???” the tweet read.
Freshman to senior year, does this count as a glo up??? pic.twitter.com/zyH1GRE3hw— Caitlin Crowley (@caitlincrowley_) October 23, 2017
A glow-up typically refers to a child’s physical evolution into an attractive adult. Crowley, however, used the term to describe her personal and emotional growth.
Hundreds of other girls replied to Caitlin’s tweet, showcasing their own glow-ups from before and after they came out.
The response has been “unbelievable and unexpected, but completely heartwarming and humbling,” Crowley said.
“It reminds you that you’re not alone.”
In addition to the overwhelming public response, Crowley said she received about a hundred direct messages on Twitter and Instagram, many from other young gay teens seeking advice and support on how to come out.
The experience has put her in her “big sister shoes,” she said.
“I tell them that there’s no one way to do it, no one timeline to go by,” she said. “It’s whenever you think that you’re ready (to come out). If you’re not ready then the world definitely isn’t going to be ready for you.”
Crowley's own experience coming out was especially scary considering how conservative Naples is, she said.
Naples hosted its first gay pride event this year.
“I honestly never thought I’d be completely out,” she said.
But Crowley said she was met with overwhelming acceptance and support from most people, though it took a bit of time for others to get used to.
As for her message to others who are in similar positions, she said: “As with everything, it just takes time. But it gets better. It truly does get better, and you’re not alone.”