October 11th marks the 30th annual National Coming Out Day. According to HRC, “Thirty years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, we first observed National Coming Out Day as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10.”
While Pride Month (June) is a month-long event intended to celebrate and honor LGBT activism pioneers and those who now live out and proud, National Coming Out Day is a day to honor the risk each LGBT+ person takes when they choose to come out to others to live authentically.
In addition, National Coming Out Day is also an excellent opportunity for all people to speak up about the need to support and protect LGBT+ people. It is a time when allies and activists can use their voices and social media platforms to let others know that they are accepted for who they are. It is a time for all to speak about the current political issues related to legal protections and community support for LGBT+ people, whether to discuss how your community is open and equal or whether you live somewhere where politicians are fighting against equality.
In the past year, many celebrities have come out as identifying as LGBT+. These include singer/actress Janelle Monae, Venezuelan Olympic diver Robert Páez, singer Kehlani, Alyson Stoner, actor Josie Totah, visual and performance artist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Georgia Representative Renitta Shannon, Canadian hockey player Jessica Platt, captain of Virginia Military Institute’s swim team John Kim, Actor Bex Taylor-Klaus, Former University of Kentucky punter Landon Foster, and so many others.
On the importance of coming out, especially when a celebrity, Ian McKellen has shared some words of advice:
While this may not seem like a big deal to those who have long been out and proud, every celebrity that comes out offers hope and encouragement to those not yet out. When a person hears supportive news stories or reads positive social media posts about a celebrity coming out, it lets them know that they are not alone. It also lets them see that people in their own lives would likely support them if they, too, came out. In other words, when you post celebrating someone coming out, you may very well be telling a loved one, “it’s safe for you to come out to me when you’re ready.”
It can be easy for some to think, “who cares?!” However, everyone should care! In fact, coming out and being in a supportive accepting environment is healthier for people than remaining in the closet. Leading LGBT+ Expert and Dual Licensed Social Worker Kryss Shane says, “the stress and anxiety of trying to hide yourself and your life in the workplace or with family can be immense. No one should be forced to live that way for a day, let alone indefinitely.”
This stress can negatively impact a person’s ability to do their job well, meaning that companies that are not accepting of someone’s orientation or identity are instead accepting less than the employee’s best work. “If families truly want their loved ones to be healthy and happy and if employers truly want the very best from their employees, they have to accept and affirm,” says Shane.
In addition to the ways that companies benefit from supporting their existing employees, many job seekers are now researching companies’ LGBT+ support before applying for jobs. Out & Equal is a company that describes its organizational vision as, "To achieve workplace equality for all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or characteristics ." As such, they, like Shane, offer training to employees and companies alike. Both recognize that employees today prioritize being able to bring their entire selves to work each day. As a result, companies that are not openly inclusive and consistently working to support LGBT+ employees are likely to lose out on the best and brightest workers.
While many countries celebrate National Coming Out Day this October 11, it is vital to remember that not all people in all countries have the opportunity to celebrate or even acknowledge this day. This is because homosexuality and transgender identities are still criminalized in many parts of the world. This means that, on October 11th, not only can you be spending the day honoring those who have come out and supporting those who may want to, you can also work to support those in nations where they cannot.
Maybe you show this support by using social media to broadcast your love and acceptance to all. Maybe you write letters to politicians to encourage and implore them to support policies that affirm all. Maybe you hashtag the names of nations that are not yet affirming. You may even have a local gathering place of people from a nation that is not affirming where a supportive event may be occurring (or you could contact them and offer to host such). Whatever you decide to do on October 11th, may you spend it honoring and acknowledging the risks, the bravery, and the necessity of Coming Out!
(If you are in need of support in preparation to come out, you can find some great resources here: https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-out-resource-guides and here: http://www.rucomingout.com/. If you are struggling with coming out, not coming out, or anything else related to your identity, you can always contact The Trevor Project Lifeline here: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/.)