October 11, National Coming Out Day

If the LGBTQ+ community has its own holiday, it would be October 11, National Coming Out Day, a day when LGBTQ+ folks can share their authentic selves and claim their right to express their sexual/gender identity openly.  What about LGBT Pride?  “Pride Month” is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred on June 28, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Bar in New York City fought back against constant police harassment. However, not all Pride celebrations are in June, but National Coming Out Day has been on October 11 since it was first celebrated in 1988 in the United States.

National Coming Out Day was created by psychologist (yay!) Robert Eichberg and activist (yay!) Jean Leary. The date was chosen because it commemorates the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that was held on October 11, 1987, that was estimated to have drawn 750,000 participants The goal is to celebrate coming out as LGB (at the time) and now T as well as other acronyms (really, coming out isn’t just for sexuality).  It is a day of visibility and liberation. Keep in mind however, that coming out is not a one time event.

Why come out?  The benefits of coming out are enormous. These include building more authentic relationships, increases in self-esteem, connecting with other members of the LGBTQ+ community, and decreases in stress that come with having to self-monitor and hide one’s identity.  Overall social attitudes have changed as a result of LGBTQ+ visibility. Support for LGBTQ+ people has increased dramatically in the past twenty years. One reason is that knowing LGBTQ+ folks increases support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Unfortunately, coming out is still risky for many. Visibility makes LGBTQ+ people easier targets for discrimination and violence. They may be risking family relationships and negative consequences in employment, housing, education, and healthcare.  Because coming out may be dangerous for some folks, we should celebrate the vulnerability and courage of those who do (and understand the motivations of those who choose not to come out).  

If you are not part of the LGBTQ+ community, why should you care?  Because you support equality and care about your friends, family members, and colleagues. And on October 11, someone may come out to you.  Lucky you, this means that they want to share their authentic self with you!  BTW, don’t forget about the giving of gifts on this holiday.  If you are not part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may not know that we love plants, gift certificates, and of course shiny objects.  But money is best. Have spare $20 bills on hand in case someone comes out to you.  As a psychologist, I can tell you that rewards are important. Happy Coming Out Day!

Here are a few links that might be useful:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/national-coming-out-day

What coming out as an LGBT ally taught me https://psychologybenefits.org/2013/10/11/coming-out-lgbt/

Dr. Christine Smith

Dr. Christine Smith is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Dr. Smith teaches courses on women and gender, social psychology, and research methods. She has done research examining the partner preferences of lesbian and bisexual women, the impact of fat stigma, and the relationship between cognitive flexibility and homophobia. She has also written on the romantic relationships of lesbians and gay men at midlife. Dr. Smith has served on the board of Rainbow Over Wisconsin, an LGBT community foundation in northeastern Wisconsin and is the co-founder of BIPOC R.I.S.E., a peer mentoring program for students of color. Her other passions include animal rights, travel, and stand-up comedy (watching it, not doing it).

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