National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is observed annually, on October 11th, to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement. The first decades of observances were marked by private and public people coming out, often in the media, to raise awareness and let the mainstream know that everyone knows at least one person who is lesbian or gay.
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 lesbian political leader and long-time activist from New York, and (at the time) the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles. They founded NCOD in order to promote visibility, maintain positivity, and celebrate coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
The initial idea of NCOD was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.
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.
In more recent years, the idea of the “lesbian and gay community” has been largely subsumed into the idea of the LGBTQ+ community, and the idea of “coming out” expanded to not only include the voluntary self-disclosure of a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation, but also transgender, genderqueer, or other non-mainstream gender identity
National Coming Out Day is also observed in Ireland, 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.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, Facebook has now added an option to Life Events: you can add “came out” to your profile and include your coming out story. This is the icon that accompanies it: