National Coming Out Day is a day to celebrate the diverse identities of LGBTQ+ individuals and the bravery it takes to live authentically as yourself in a culture that may not accept who you are.
Coming out is a continuous process. Each new person or setting and LGBTQ+ person comes into they must assess for safety and decide how much of their identity to disclose to those around them. This adds to the mental load of LGBTQ+ individuals, impacting their health and sense of belonging in the world.
Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 by Richard Eichberg, a psychologist and Jean O'Leary, a gay rights activist, to raise awareness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and its civil rights movement. They chose October 11th to mark the anniversary of the second major National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place 1987. With estimates of half a million people participating, it was nearly five times the size of the first march in 1979. National Coming Out Day is observed throughout the U.S. and other countries around the world.
On October 11, 1987, over half a million people marched for queer rights in Washington, D.C. — an event that resulted in the founding of several LGBTQ organizations. The progressive momentum of the movement continued over the following year, and LGBTQ activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary decided to create National Coming Out Day on the march’s first anniversary. NCOD’s logo was famously created by the late artist and HIV activist Keith Haring.
Eichberg, who died of AIDS complications in 1995, was a psychologist and founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience. O’Leary was an out lesbian political leader and long-time activist from New York and was the head of National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles at the time of NCOD’s founding. Rather than react defensively to oppressive anti-LGBTQ actions, Eichberg and O’Leary’s vision was to create a holiday that celebrated queer identities in order to decrease stigma and homophobia.
For more information on National Coming Out Day and LGBTQ+ resources visit the American Psychological Association’s National Coming Out Day page.