Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

What is National Coming Out Day?

In another Info Page I wrote about harassment at school. Now, I want to take a more proactive theme and focus on the process of coming out. But why address this topic in October? Well, many people may don their alpine hat, tracht and liederhausen and enjoy Oktoberfest. Others will spend lots of time and money on Halloween decorations (the second most decorated holiday of the year…who knew?!) But October is also Gay and Lesbian History Month and October 11th each year is National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day was founded on October 11, 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary to celebrate the first anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington (I was there!) And it has been celebrated annually ever since.

What is Coming Out? Coming out means identifying and accepting yourself as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person. The first person you have to reveal this to is yourself, and you can do it at any time in your life, your teens, middle age or old age. Coming out to others is something that you are likely to do repeatedly as you move through life and different social contexts. The atmosphere culturally is gradually improving providing laws, language and exposure of and for GBLT people. Almost every night there is a news article or a TV program with positive, though often still stereotypical, stories of us and our lives (Positive role models or living examples are still few and far between for persons of color). If any of these shows are watched at your house notice how your family reacts to get clues about what might happen when you come out.

Coming out is a very personal decision and only you can decide if, how, when and to whom to come out. There is no rush to come out. Take your time. What is important is that you love and accept who you are even when others around you do not. Don’t do anything before you feel ready. To help you in your decision think about: What kind of views do your friends, family, and teachers have about GLBT people? Do you have emotional support? Are you financially dependent on your family? Is there a chance that the reaction will be so bad that they would ask you to leave or you would need to leave? Make sure that you have thought out your decision, have a plan and supportive people you can turn to. Try to be prepared for the reactions your family and friends may have. You have been adjusting to your “news” for a long time and they also may need time to adjust and go through their feelings like you did. For now, and if you want to take some action for National Coming Out Day then take YOUR next step which may be exploring your own questions about yourself a little further online or with reading material; it could be putting a rainbow sticker on a book bag or book; it might be coming out to someone you trust or coming down to the GLYS Drop in Center and checking it out. Whatever you do, even if you decide to do nothing in particular this year, remember that you belong to a large and increasingly visible and diverse group of persons who want exactly what you want from this life: to live freely and to love and be loved for who they really are.


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