Since 1988, October 11 has been observed as National Coming Out Day.
Initially beginning as an awareness day in the US, National Coming Out Day is now a worldwide celebration highlighting the beauty of being true to yourself and having the courage to share yourself with others.
The first National Coming Out Day was held one year after the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights in 1987. This march was in response to the government’s inaction towards the AIDS epidemic and demanded legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
Building on the momentum of the march, Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary organized the first National Coming Out Day on October 11, 1988, to increase visibility and promote self-acceptance among the lesbian and gay community.
National Coming Out Day created a safe space in the lesbian and gay community for individuals to be authentically themselves through sharing stories and experiences.
Eichberg and O’Leary also recognized the political power of coming out and the community becoming more visible. They believed that it’s much easier to discriminate against people you don’t see and that if individuals across the nation began coming out, the US would have to acknowledge the movement and the struggles lesbian and gay people face.
The beginnings of the movement for queer rights were fractured and very exclusive prior to the 1980s. The first organizations were focused on gay men only and barred lesbians from membership.
In response to this, the lesbian community began forming their own organizations and conducting their own organizing for lesbian rights. Both the gay and lesbian communities refused to acknowledge and include trans individuals who were known at the time as “drag queens” or “cross-dressers.”
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that gay and lesbian organizations began to come together and include trans individuals in their fight.
As our understanding of the queer community continues to grow, so does the need for awareness, visibility, and inclusion. This is one reason why National Coming Out Day continues to resonate with the LGBTQ+ community despite the issues today being vastly different than those in the 1980s.
Having the space to share stories and experiences about living your truth encourages others to do the same and provides a beacon of light to those who may not be able to come out safely in their current environment.
National Coming Out Day celebrates the joy of living your truth and being authentically yourself while also reminding us of the struggles LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face.
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