National Coming Out Day, observed every October 11, is a day of awareness in which society recognizes and celebrates the people who have been true to themselves by coming out publicly as homosexual or another sexual minority. By coming out, these people are becoming visible in their communities and they are making it known that the fight for equal rights impacts people everywhere.
The origins of National Coming Out Day came from the 1987 March on Washington, which over half a million people attended, demanding equal rights for the LGBT community and other oppressed groups. Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary organized the first National Coming Out Day, held in 1988. They chose October 11 as the date because that was the date the March on Washington had occurred the year before.
Eighteen states recognized National Coming Out Day as a day of civil awareness in its first year, due to a heavy media push, as well as added publicity from the celebrated artist Keith Haring, who designed the National Coming Out Day logo. By 1990, National Coming Out Day was observed in all 50 states and is now an internationally observed day of awareness, branching out as far as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Since 1990, the Human Rights Campaign has been in charge of drawing national awareness to National Coming Out Day.
Today, even more than 25 years on, National Coming Out Day is important because the more LGBT people that people know and love, the more likely those people are to support equality. In fact, last year’s National Coming Out Day theme, “Coming Out Still Matters,” echoed that sentiment.
Former spokespeople for National Coming Out Day include Candace Gingrich, Melissa Etheridge, Chaz Bono (then Chastity) and Cher, Judith Light, Ellen DeGeneres, k.d. lang, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah McLachlan, and others.
For more information on coming out and to view resources HRC has on offer to help people do so, visit hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out.