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.