On this October 11, National Coming Out Day will continue to raise awareness for individuals within the LGBTQ+ community, and champion the idea that homophobia thrives in silence. On this day, many people who identify as LGBTQ+ will “come out” (a term stemming from the phrase “come out of the closet”) to friends or family about their sexuality, which is a very big moment! Beyond this, the history of the LGBTQ+ movement is a beacon of light — its champions are honored, and it underlines the personal being political. It’s also a chance to celebrate the liberation spirit — many do this by waving flags associated with LGBTQ+ groups or donning pins.
History of National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day was inspired by a single march. 500,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987, generating momentum to last for 4 months after the march had ended. During this period, over a hundred LGBTQ+ identifying individuals gathered outside Washington, DC, and decided on creating a national day to celebrate coming out – this began on the 1st anniversary of their historic march.
It was Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary who first proposed the idea of NCOD. Eichberg founded a person growth workshop, The Experience, and at the time, O’Leary was the head of National Gay Rights Advocates. Eichberg, who would later die in 1995 of complications from AIDS, had said the strongest tool in the human rights movement was to illustrate that most people already know and respect someone in the LGBTQ+ community, and NCOD helps these people come to light.
Over the last 15 years, the Human Rights Campaign has chosen a theme for every National Coming Out Day — 2014 and 2013 were both themed “Coming Out Still Matters,” and the earliest theme (1999) was “Come Out To Congress.” There have also been different spokespeople for each NCOD. Some notable names include “Frasier” actor Dan Butler and Candance Gingrich, half-sister of Newt Gingrich, in the 1990s.
NCOD gains popularity and participants every year. Since its inception, countless public figures and celebrities have openly identified themselves as LGBTQ+, and yearly share messages of support and hope for those still in the closet. Notable celebrities who tweeted in support of NCOD in 2019 include Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and actress and advocate Sara Ramirez. The event plans to continue its efforts to eradicate hate and homophobia with friends and family coming out to dispel stereotypes.
National Coming Out Day timeline
- May 17, 2004
The First Same-Sex Marriage
The first legal same sex marriage takes place in Massachusetts.
- October 11, 2002
The Beat of Their Own Drum
On National Coming Out Day in 2002, a benefit CD was released featuring donated songs by artists who were either in the LGBTQ+ community or were allies — it included Cyndi Lauper and Queen.
- October 11, 1987
National March on Washington
This impactful event is honored by National Coming Out Day being on the same day.
- June 28, 1969
The riot against police at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan triggered the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement.
The First Documented Gay Rights Organization
The Society for Human Rights was founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago.
National Coming Out Day FAQs
Where else is National Coming Out Day celebrated?
National Coming Out Day is also recognized in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK.
What are some LGBTQ+ organizations I can support?
Some of the most prominent LGBTQ+ supporting organizations include the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, The National Center for Transgender Equality, and the It Gets Better Project — as well as many more!
Where can resources for those considering coming out be found?
The Human Rights Campaign has created a comprehensive Resource Guide to Coming Out, which discusses how the conversation might go, how those involved might feel, and what benefits might be gained from coming out.
How to Observe National Coming Out Day
Contribute to the Human Rights Campaign
This organization not only sponsors NCOD, but also dedicates itself to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality in many ways. It’s a worthy cause to support!
Support someone coming out
No way around it - coming out can be a difficult experience. Be an ally by accepting those that choose to share this part of their lives with you. If you yourself are on the fence about whether or not to share that important bit of your identity, consider taking advantage of the extra love today and make the leap, if the time is right for you.
Don a Pride symbol to raise awareness
The symbolic representations of the different groups encompassed in the acronym ‘LGBTQ+’ can be a very welcome sight to see for some who feel discriminated against or alone. Raise awareness of the movements by donning a pin or waving a flag, or post your support on a social media platform that you feel comfortable with!
5 Important Facts About National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day includes more than gay or lesbian
LGBTQ+ has grown to encompass bisexual, transgender, and many more sexual identities - so more and more people are able to participate in NCOD!
It has grown in National support
On the first National Coming Out Day, only 18 states participated — this number skyrocketed with media attention and sent the event worldwide.
It used to be much more dangerous
In this decade and in Western culture, it is statistically less dangerous to come out as gay or lesbian - many who are part of the community instead celebrate their identity and wear pride-supporting accessories!
Knowledge drives out hate
One study shows that those who know a loved one is in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to maintain oppressive and homophobic views.
It was once headquartered in West Hollywood
When NCOD first began, the headquarters of National Gay Rights Advocates was in West Hollywood, California, but has since moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Why National Coming Out Day is Important
It’s a celebration of diversity
When different people come together, we are all stronger. Hate and homophobia thrive in silence, according to the Human Rights Council, and this day serves to bring into light and accept the differences we have.
It shines a light on an important movement in history
A recent poll shows that 5% of Americans identify with the LGBTQ+ community - and that’s not even counting all the allies and supporters! The movements that stand behind NCOD is working to give all these people freedom, voice, and choice in how they live their lives.
It can be life-changing
The decision to live your life out of the closet — truly genuine, and not hiding any aspects of your identity — is a huge step for many people around the world. NCOD can represent this new beginning, and be one of the most important days in a person’s life.