October 11th is National Coming Out Day, which coincides with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It is a celebration of individuals coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQIA+), and Care New England formally recognizes National Coming Out Day to remind our employees that you have the right to come to work as your whole self—whoever you are, whoever you love!
National Coming Out Day is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and the 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. In more recent years, because coming out as LGBT is now far less risky in most Western countries, the day is more of a holiday. Participants often wear pride symbols such as pink triangles and rainbow flags.
Coming out is a unique experience for each LGBTQ+ person. It’s not a one-time event; many LGBTQ+ individuals who come out to their closest friends and family may later come out at work or school, to their extended family, or to casual acquaintances.
For some, coming out is no longer a big deal – it can be a simple matter of correcting someone’s assumptions about you, or introducing your partner. For others, coming out is still a huge challenge. The very real fear of facing discrimination, bullying, or judgment can cause LGBTQ+ people to stay ‘in the closet’, struggling with anxiety while they strive to be themselves.
National Coming Out Day affirms the message that the act of individuals “coming out” is powerful, and transformative and lets everyone know that members of the LGBTQIA+ community matter.
One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian, and for transgender people, the number is only one in ten. The reality is when people know someone who is LGBTQIA+, they are far more likely to reduce their prejudices, increase their sensitivity, and support equality.
Even within the LGBTQIA+ community, “coming out” is regarded as powerful and a tremendous act of bravery because coming out to friends and family can literally bring physical harm to some, while others are immediately isolated from their families. Today, the estimated number of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ is ten to twenty percent of the general population, while there is still a large population of individuals under the age of 18 years old who live in communities that do not accept LGBTQIA+ individuals—resulting in increased rates of depression and suicide.
Talking about coming out and sharing our stories can help to strengthen our community and support one another with this experience. While coming out can be daunting and scary, it can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ individuals are able to be truly open with the people closest to them.
Over the last few decades,since National Coming Out Day was first recognized, we’ve seen huge progress for the LGBTQ+ community, with legislation on same-sex marriage, discrimination laws, and educational reforms all helping to protect and support LGBTQ+ people.
However, these legal developments don’t mean that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is over. In the UK, we continue to see LGBTQ+ people suffer from attacks, hate, and abuse. Across the world, LGBTQ+ people are still campaigning for laws and attitudes alike to change. For many, coming out can be dangerous – or simply not an option.
Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or an ally, celebrating National Coming Out Day is an important way to raise the visibility of our communities: reminding us all of the ongoing struggles LGBTQ+ people face just for being themselves, but also of the joy and pride of being openly LGBTQ+.