Thirty-two years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, National Coming Out Day was first observed as a reminder that one of the most basic tools for the LGBTQ+ community is the power of coming out. One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10.
National Coming Out Day (NCOD) was founded on October 11, 1988 by Robert Eichsberg and Jean O’Leary marking the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then, on or near every October 11, thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and allies celebrate NCOD; with workshops, speak-outs, rallies and other kinds of events all aimed at showing the public that LGBTQ+ people are everywhere.
Eichberg, who died in 1995 of complications from AIDS, said, in a 1992 interview, “Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”
And that is the point of National Coming Out Day – to let people see those who they already like, know, and respect – who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. That is the strongest tool in the movement toward full human rights. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law.
Initially administered from the West Hollywood offices of the National Gay Rights Advocates, the first NCOD received participation from eighteen states, garnering national media coverage. In its second year, NCOD headquarters moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and participation grew to 21 states. After a media push in 1990 NCOD was observed in all 50 states and seven other countries. Participation continued to grow and in 1990 NCOD merged their efforts with the Human Rights Campaign.
People from all walks of life including celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Matt Bomer, Wanda Sykes, Cynthia Nixon and others took to social media to show their support for NCOD. Even the NFL organization posted on Twitter writing, “On National Coming Out Day, and every day, we support you. It takes all of us, and you deserve to be all of you. #ItTakesAllOfUs #BeAllOfYou #NationalComingOutDay”.
In honor of National Coming Out Day The Pride LA also celebrates those who have made the decision to come out. It takes bravery and strength and we commend you. For those who have yet to come out remember you are loved whether you are able to be out or not.