What is National Coming Out Day and when was it started?

National Coming Out Day falls on Wednesday, Oct. 11, the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. This year marks 30 years since the march took place. National Coming Out Day was started a year later by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary to commemorate the first anniversary. Since then, every year on Oct. 11 National Coming Out Day has been celebrated.

To truly understand the history of National Coming Out Day you need to know a little about the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights — well, the second one. The first March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights was held in 1979. The second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights was held on Oct. 11, 1987, there were many things that were being marched including an order banning discrimination and same-sex marriage, but the AIDS epidemic and all the discrimination that came with it was one of the main ones. The 1987 march was where The AIDS Memorial Quilt was revealed to bring attention the AIDS epidemic at the time. Thousands of gay men died during the time that Reagan refused to acknowledge the crisis. The LGBT community stood in solidarity with those affected by AIDS. 

Why is it important that we still celebrate national coming out day?

There has been a lot of progress made in the fight for LGBT rights since the founding of National Coming Out Day in 1988. Violence based on sexual orientation is now considered a hate crime, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was put in place and repealed. The first same-sex marriage took place in Massachusetts in 2004 and in 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states. Media representation has also gotten better. There are shows like Will and Grace, The L Word and Queer as Folk in the early to mid-2000s, along with The Fosters, Modern Family and Transparent today. Don't be fooled, there is still a long way to go. The shows are far from perfect, they leave out many identities. You can still be fired and denied housing in the majority of U.S. states for being LGBT. The Pulse nightclub shooting happened in 2016 and in 2017 there have been 21 trans people murdered already. As if trans people don't face enough oppression already, the president tweeted that trans people are no longer allowed to serve in the military. It is important that we continue to celebrate National Coming Out Day for a couple reasons. First, we need to honor those who fought before us. And second, we need to continue the fight and let people know that we are here, we are queer, and we will not stop fighting till we as a community in its entirety have equal rights and protections. 

delfin is the Director of the LGBT Center, faculty advisor to the Latino Student Union, and adjunct lecturer for the Social Work Program and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

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