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National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an LGBTQ awareness day that celebrates coming out—the public revealing of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. It initially was a day when private and public figures came out as gay; public figures often did so in the media to raise awareness. It has since expanded to also be a celebratory holiday where people wear pride symbols and has broadened from being a day where people came out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, to also include those who come out as transgender, genderqueer, or another gender identification. The day is celebrated by allies of the LGBTQ community as well.

NCOD was started in 1988 by Robert Eichenberg, a psychologist and founder of a personal growth workshop, The Experience, and by Jean O'Leary, an activist who was head of the National Gay Rights Activists in Los Angeles at the time. They wanted to create something positive and proactive, instead of having to fight for gay rights defensively by responding to anti-gay action. Coming out can be seen as a basic form of activism, where participants are true to themselves and share that truth with others openly. Their stories of coming out can inspire others. Organizers believed that homophobia prospers when there is silence and that if people know loved ones who are gay or lesbian, their views will shift. Not only will their personal beliefs shift, but they will be more likely to support gay rights under the law as well. October 11 was chosen as the date because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The day was first organized in offices of the National Gay Rights Activists in West Hollywood, and eighteen states participated during the first year. The headquarters was moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the following year, and twenty-one states participated in the day. In 1990, NCOD was celebrated in all states, as well as in seven other countries around the world. It also merged with the Human Rights Campaign that year. The HRC now sponsors the day as part of their National Coming Out Project. From 1999 until 2014 there was a theme for the day each year as well.

How to Observe National Coming Out Day

The day may be celebrated by the LGBTQ community, as well as by their allies. The Human Rights Campaign, as part of the National Coming Out Project, offers resources, such as a resource guide to coming out, a resource guide to coming out as bisexual, a guide for allies, and others. Members of the LGBTQ community who have not yet come out may use today to do so. Everyone could celebrate the day by reading stories of those who have come out, and by displaying pride symbols such as rainbow flags and pink triangles. LGBTQ-themed films could also be watched, and books about LGBTQ issues could be read.

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