National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is today!
October 11 s a day folx are encouraged to come out to create visibility and raise awareness about LGBTQ+ rights. Co-founded back in 1988 by Jean O’Leary and Robert Eichberg, both LGBT activists, this specific day was chosen because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. In its first year 18 US states celebrated NCOD, with 3 more states joining in the following year. By its third year, NCOD celebrations were happening across the entire United States, as well as in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
NCOD was based on the premise that homophobia was prevalent due to so many people being ignorant about or not knowing someone who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or as an ally. It was felt that by coming out and making people aware of this LGBTQ+ presence, people would relate to friends, family members, colleagues, and others in a far less homophobic and marginalizing way. It has been said that everyone knows at least one LGBTQ+ person. Nowadays, through social media, TV and movies we know everyone from actors to athletes, politicians to performers, military personnel to musicians who are part of the queer community.
While coming out can often be a difficult and emotional process, it is also a unique experience for every person. In fact, it can even be different each time a person comes out. Coming out happens over and over and over again. Think of all the ways we connect with folx — at work, in school, at home, at parties — and there’s the opportunity for coming out.
Those who come out can also experience a variety of reactions from those they come out to. These can be both positive and negative. The desired response, of course, is one of positivity. Hugs, tears of joy, of caring, a sense of understanding and appreciation. Sadly, this is not always the case. Negative reactions are what we hear about most. These responses can include yelling, getting thrown out, losing a job, being beaten, or killed, feeling pushed to harm oneself or taking one’s own life. For these reasons, no one should ever be “outed” or forced to come out. It is each individual’s choice about when and to whom they come out.
These kinds of damaging responses remind me of Dorothy Riddle and the Riddle Scale which measured the degree to which a person is or is not homophobic. The negative end of the scale has the following levels: repulsion, pity, tolerance, and acceptance. Obviously, anyone at these levels is not the person one would want to come out to. Even being tolerated or accepted is simply not enough. On the positive side of the scale are the words support, admiration, appreciation, and nurturance. Being treated with these levels shows a degree of caring, of encouragement, of love.
If someone comes out to you or you see someone wearing rainbow colors on October 11th, show your support by thanking them. Tell them you admire their bravery. Remind them to appreciate those, like Jean O’Leary and Robert Eichberg, who helped bring about this day. Nurture them by sharing a part of your story. You don’t have to come out (again) to celebrate NCOD.
An amazing way to respond when someone comes out to you is with Queermark’s National Coming Out Day card. With all the colors of the Progress Pride flag, this bold design states “Thank U For Coming Out!” This card says you appreciate their openness and authenticity in sharing this aspect about themselves. And right now, Queery is donating 50% of your purchase of these colorful cards to cards to The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center’s TransMission Program, a small scholarship of funds available to applicants who identify within the trans & non-binary communities to offset medical, surgical, legal, and/or social transition-related expenses which are not otherwise covered by insurance. Simply click the link to get Queermark’s Thank U For Coming Out Card today.
Be aware that some folx may be out to some, but not to others. So, you may want to give your card to someone privately or indicate it’s for their eyes only when mailing.
Have a happy (and safe) National Coming Out Day.