Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day — the internationally observed day to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and LGBT civil rights movement.
The term “coming out” refers to publicly acknowledging one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and is widely considered a cultural rite of passage for LGBT people.
National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg, a psychologist from New Mexico, and Jean O’Leary, an openly gay political leader from Los Angeles, on behalf of the personal growth workshop, “The Experience and National Gay Rights Advocates.”
The date of October 11 coincides with the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Writes Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, in a column for the Los Angeles Times:
“For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans all across this country, coming out is one of the hardest things they will ever do. No matter what state you call home, a conservative church, community, or even your own family can inadvertently force you to suffer in silence.
“Even today, living openly in the face of that pressure can require almost superhuman personal strength…..If you feel like you’re not living as openly as you could, consider changing that on Saturday. And if someone close to you chooses Saturday – or any other day – to honor you by revealing the truth about his or her life, know what courage that took, and offer every reassurance and affirmation you can.”
National Coming Out Day is observed in a wide variety of ways: from rallies and parades to information tables in public spaces. Participants often wear pride symbols such as pink triangles and rainbow flags.
In addition to the United States, National Coming Out Day is also observed in many countries, including Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Croatia, and Poland.
What’s your coming out story? (Share it in the comments.)