“Trans people are extraordinary, strong, intelligent, persistent and resilient. We have to be. And we will not stand for the picking and choosing of rights. We still have hope.” — Grace Dolan -Sandrino
National Coming Out Day celebrates and normalizes coming out. The day seeks to raise awareness about the LGBTQ community and offer support for those in need. National Coming out Day was founded by gay rights activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’ Leary in 1988. It is celebrated annually on October 11th.
The first ever National Coming Out Day was celebrated on October 11, 1988. This was the one-year anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The march was held in response to the government’s inaction regarding the AIDS crisis, as well as in protest of the Supreme Court upholding anti-sodomy laws in the state of Georgia. During the march, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was unveiled for the first time to commemorate the lives that had been lost to the virus.
Activists, Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, recognized the impact this march had on the Gay Rights Movement, and decided to memorialize it with the celebration of National Coming Out Day. By 1990, National Coming Out Day was celebrated in all 50 states and is now celebrated globally.
There is some controversy surrounding the idea of National Coming Out Day. Some believe that by celebrating a day for “coming out” it normalizes heterosexuality and the gender binary; reinforcing the idea that individuals who do identify within the LGBTQ+ community must announce their identities to society to be recognized. Others uphold that the day is a painful reminder to those who are not able to come out and live as their authentic selves due to personal safety or other reasons. While both of these points are accurate and important to recognize, many within the LGBTQ+ community believe National Coming Out Day holds great personal and political importance.
In more recent years, as the LGBTQ+ community has gained more ground toward equality under the law, many question why the celebration is still needed. Activist Rob Eichberg said it best when he spoke on the importance of humanizing the LGBTQ+ community. Homophobia and hate thrive in silence. It is much easier to hate and discriminate against a nameless, faceless group of “others.” The idea behind National Coming Out Day is to bring awareness to the widespread and multifaceted community that is the LGBTQ+ community. Almost everyone likely knows someone who is a member of the community. It is much easier to build empathy and acceptance between people who already have established connections.
As legislation continues to focus on not only adult members of the LGBTQ+ community but also vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, it is important for those who are able to speak out to do so. By making our presence known, we continue to be beacons of support and strength for those in the community who are the most at risk.