According to the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) website:
On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE. The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O'Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.
To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly".
The success of NCOD, which from inception quickly expanded to include participation from all 50 states and foreign countries, is because of the hard work of celebrities, volunteers and activists.
- Rob Eichberg and Jean O'Leary were the originators of the idea of NCOD
- Sean Strub and Keith Haring- In 1987, Activist Sean Strub got Haring to donate his now-famous image of a person fairly dancing out of a closet
- Lynn Shepodd - In 1990, Shepodd, who later became a member of HRC’s Board of Governors, was hired as executive director and obtained tax-exempt status for the organization
- Geraldo Rivera- In 1991, Geraldo Rivera hosted a coming out day TV program that featured Dick Sargent, a gay actor famous for playing Darren on Bewitched, openly gay California Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl and Eichberg.
- Wes Combs in 1994 was named HRCF's project director for National Coming Out Day
- Candace Gingrich, half-sister of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, became a National Coming Out Project spokesperson and full-time activist in 1995
- Dan Butler, who played the character Bulldog on NBC-TV's Frasier, was NCOD spokeperson in 1995
- Rock musician Melissa Etheridge did a radio public service announcement, reminding people that "Labels belong on records, not on people."
- Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., spoke at the "Come Out Voting" rally in Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 1996.
- Fashion photographer Don Flood in 1996 shot past spokespeople Bearse, Butler and Gingrich, along with Olympic diver Greg Louganis, actor Mitchell Anderson, newly minted gay activist Chastity Bono and Sean Sasser, who had appeared in MTV's The Real World.
- In 1996, actress Judith Light, pro golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin and, in her first appearance at a gay rights event, Cher spoke at a Come Out Voting rally in Washington, DC
- In September 1997 the project brought in its first straight spokesperson, Betty DeGeneres, mother of actress/comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
- Patrick Bristow (formerly of the Ellen TV show), Dan Butler, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno, longtime activist Donna Red Wing, Betty DeGeneres, Gingrich and SF Mayor Willie Brown were featured in a 1998 NCOD event in San Francisco’s Delores Park
- Chicago-native and founding member of the rock group Styx Chuck Panozzo celebrated a special homecoming in 2001 when he came out at the Human Rights Campaign annual Chicago dinner.
- On National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2002, a benefit CD featuring the songs of openly LGBT musicians and straight allies was released. Cyndi Lauper, Queen, k.d. lang, Jade Esteban Estrada and Sarah McLachlan are among the artists who donated songs to the album.
- Etheridge's name appears on a poster celebrating the 2002 theme along with 18 other openly LGBT artists, including Ani DiFranco, Michael Stipe, the Indigo Girls, RuPaul, Rufus Wainwright and The Butchies
"ACHIEVING PROGRESS THROUGH VISIBILITY" LGBTQNATION Thursday, October 11, 2012
National Coming Out Day, founded in 1988, is observed annually on October 11 to celebrate coming out with regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity and to raise awareness of the LGBT community.
2012 has been a pivotal year, particularly the summer months, and has shown that times most definitely change, and for the better. To look back to when Ellen Degeneres came out publicly in 1997, the news was met with shock, even outrage. She was brave. She stood her ground. She was true to herself. She has done, and continues to do wonderful work for the LGBT community and is a most respected advocate of equality.
Fifteen years later, when Anderson Cooper came out publicly, the news was far from shocking, perhaps even far from surprise, but what is important is that his open acknowledgement was met with applause, good wishes and congratulatory messages.
The following month saw Ellen and Portia mark their fourth wedding anniversary, receiving many well wishes from all around the world. A far cry from the daunting reception, fifteen years previously.
This is progress exemplified. Times are changing, and for the better.
In July of this year, with less than a month to the commencement of the London Olympic Games, Megan Rapinoe, now an Olympic gold medalist, said publicly for the first time that she is gay.
To Rapinoe, “It’s about standing up and being counted and saying you’re proud of who you are.” And referring to the reception: “It’s been good,” she said. “It’s all been extremely positive, which makes me really happy.”
It was about ten years ago when I had my own coming out day. It was something I simply had to do. My time had come to do it. My time was over for concealing it. I wasn’t being me. I was denying me.
It felt so big. It felt life changing. It was life changing and all for very good reasons.
My own announcement didn’t come as much of a surprise to those around me. I worried very much over things that never came about. In fact, very little changed other than my feeling much more comfortable in my own skin. Prior to that, I had been standing in the way of my own happiness.
From that time forward, I gained a sense of personal freedom that I could never lose. What I once perceived as a weight, lifted off me and just like a balloon, I couldn’t get it back even if I wanted to. There is total freedom in authenticity. Being authentic, being you. It feels right. It felt like I had laid a solid foundation for the next chapter of my life. It was something I could then build upon and grow from.
From my own experience, coming out, however daunting at the time, I now connect those memories with a sense of pride, authenticity, freedom and personal happiness. Whatever bad feelings I had attached to coming out were left behind. The chains were broken. I was set free.
When Anderson Cooper came out, he wrote:
“It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something — something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”Coming out is important. Visibility is important. Being out and being visible represents an opportunity to educate people of the reality and normality of the life of a person who is LGBT and the normality of being in a relationship with a person of the same gender. Change comes about through this education.
The effect of visibility illustrates the futility of any opposition, fear, prejudice or intolerance. To Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And we need change. Equality is not yet a reality.
What the notable achievements of many people including Anderson Cooper, Megan Rapinoe and particularly Ellen Degeneres have done, is to dismantle any notions that being gay and being out is of any disadvantage or detriment to succeeding in any part of life, including work and love.
From my own experience, the only disadvantages I encountered about being open in my sexual orientation was that it sometimes required me or even compelled me to assert myself more, defend myself more and believe in myself more. Possibly more than some of my peers had to. Although now I have to wonder, can I call these experiences disadvantages at all? These are experiences that helped build my character. I was caused to find inner strength. These were experiences, that made me stronger, not in spite of being gay but on foot of it. I did struggle, I did feel challenged, but who lives a life free from some form of struggle or challenge?
The singer Pink recently made a very reasonable and optimistic statement, saying:
“I think that the best day will be when we no longer talk about being gay or straight – it’s not a ‘gay wedding’ it’s just a ‘wedding’, it’s not a ‘gay marriage’ it’s just ‘a marriage’. ‘It’s not a ‘black man’ or ‘white woman’, it’s just ‘a man’ and ‘a woman’ or ‘a human’ and ‘a human’. I’d just like to get to that.”Can we get to that? I believe that we can. I don’t see it as a fantasy. It is a goal, an expectation. It is progress exemplified. It is progress achieved. Times are advancing.
If one so wanted, one could marry his or her love today in six U.S. states and eleven countries. Progress is being made in that we can now speak in terms of options and possibility. It is important that every person, LGBT or not, views his or her life in terms of choices and decisions, not limits or restrictions.
On our road to equality, perhaps we’ll meet a day when “coming out” becomes a thing of the past.
There will be no perception of difference, no fear, no worry and no anxiety. No declarations, no announcements, no revelations need be made. Nothing is questioned or second-guessed.
A perfect world some might say? Although, if we didn’t believe it to be a real possibility, then we wouldn’t be fighting for it. Robyn Harper is the Author and Editor of the blog Gay Girl Revolution.