National Coming Out Day: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Saturday, October 11, 2014 is National Coming Out Day. The annual holiday is a day recognized by the LGBT community to support those who have yet to “come out.”

1. It’s the 26th Anniversary

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The first National Coming Out Day (NCOD) was held on October 11, 1988.

It was founded in cooperation with Robert Eichberg, a psychologist and personal growth leader from New Mexico, and Jean O’Leary, a political leader, ex-nun, and then head of the National Gay Rights Advocates from Los Angeles.

Eichberg and O’Leary ran the first NCOD from the National Gay Rights Advocates headquarters in West Hollywood, California. In its first year, 18 states participated in NCOD. In its second, NCOD headquarters were moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which helped bolster involvement to 21 states for 1989.

By 1990, a major media campaign got all 50 states to recognize NCOD, as well as several other countries. In the same year, NCOD merged its efforts with the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

2. October 11 has a Special Meaning to the LGBT Community

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Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary chose October 11 for NCOD because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

On October 11, 1987, 500,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. in support of gay rights. After the initial march, momentum continued to grow in the LGBT movement. Four months later, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals gathered outside of D.C. in Mansassa, Virginia, to decide what to do next. Eichberg and O’Leary were among these people and here the idea of NCOD was born.

Realizing that LGBT community members often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, the Eichberg, O’Leary, and other activists decided to go on the offensive. With NCOD, the idea of “coming out” became a celebration, not of ridicule.

3. It’s a Day of Celebration

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Whether an observer is LGBT or a straight ally, NCOD is a day of celebration.

The holiday is often accompanied with parades, rallies, and information tables in public places.

Participants frequently dress up for the occasion, and can be identified by pink triangle pins or rainbow flag buttons.

4. It’s Supported by Many Celebrities

Women's Rights, LGBT, and Human Rights Groups Protest Sultan of Brunei's Human Rights Policies

Celebrities often publicize NCOD.

In the past, spokespeople for NCOD include Betty DeGeneres (Ellen DeGeneres’ mother), Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sally Field, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Anne Hathaway, Cyndi Lauper, Don Lemon, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato, Mo’Nique, Pink, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Stanley Tucci, and Lana Wachowski.

5. It Coincides With a Turning Point in Gay Marriage

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This year marks a milestone for NCOD and the LGBT movement.

Recently Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming, and West Virginia either have joined the ranks of states allowing gay marriage, or are currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the unconstitutionality of banning gay marriages.

With those states included, a majority of the states in the union now recognize or will soon recognize same-sex marriage unions.

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