National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender—coming out regarding one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity being akin to a cultural rite of passage for LGBT people. The holiday is observed annually by members of the LGBT community on October 11.
NCOD was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg, a psychologist from New Mexico and founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, an openly-gay political leader from Los Angeles and then head of the National Gay Rights Advocates. The date of October 11th was chosen because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
The first headquarters was located in the West Hollywood, California offices of the National Gay Rights Advocates. 18 states participated in the first NCOD, which was covered in the national media. In its second year, the headquarters moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and participation grew to 21 states. After a media push in 1990, NCOD was observed in all 50 states and seven other countries. Participation continued to grow and in 1990 NCOD merged their efforts with the Human Rights Campaign Fund.
National Coming Out Day is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement. The holiday is observed in a wide variety of ways: from rallies and parades to information tables in public spaces. Participants often wear pride symbols such as pink triangles and rainbow flags.
National Coming Out Day is observed in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign sponsors NCOD events under the auspices of their National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives. Candace Gingrich became the spokesperson for NCOD in April 1995.
“Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.” – Harvey Milk
One of the single most powerful and empowering things you can do is to come out. For yourself, for your community, for future generations…I urge you. Come out. You will make a bigger impact than you will ever possibly know. Be the butterfly and flap those wings…