National Coming Out Day 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-gay political leader from Los Angeles and then head of the National Gay Rights Advocates. October 11th. was chosen because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights where over half a million LGBT’s and our straight allies participated in. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations.
NCOD’s first headquarters was located in the West Hollywood, California offices of the National Gay Rights Advocates. 18 states participated in the first NCOD, which was covered in the national media. In its second year, the headquarters moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and participation grew to 21 states. After a media push in 1990, NCOD was observed in all 50 states and seven other countries.
The goal of the day is for gay, lesbians, bi, and trans people and their allies to celebrate coming out and encourage those who haven’t to make their voices heard.
The late great Harvey Milk firmly believed that the only way for us to break down homophobia–“the last major dam of prejudice in this country”– and to gain our equality was for us the LGBT community, and our straight allies to make themselves ourselves visible: to step out of the closet, and into the consciousness of the nation. Unless an individual makes the conscious decision to overtly express who they are we remain a member of an invisible uncounted minority. Harvey argued that this invisibility only fosters homophobic stereotypes, fear, ignorance and hatred.
He was right.
Every gay person must come out, As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell your neighbors. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. And once they realize that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.” – Harvey Milk