Since October 1987, thousands of Americans have come together on Oct. 11 to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender orientations across the country. The celebration not only brings together the diversity of sexual orientations and commemorates “coming out” among the masses, but it also brings focus to the liberties and issues that concern alternative lifestyles.
Associations such as the LEAGUE, AT&T’s TransGayBi employee group and LLEGO, the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization are just a few organizations that were born with the urgent awareness sparked by National Coming Out Day.
How It All Began
What started out as a march for gay and lesbian parity in Washington, D.C. 14 years ago, turned into an unprecedented responsiveness that not only involved the American nation, but also public figures and celebrities.
Jean O’Leary, who was then the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates, teamed up with Rob Eichberg, one of the founders of the Experience (a personal growth workshop), and created a headquarters for the National Coming Out Day movement in West Hollywood, Calif.
From The Oprah Winfrey Show to National Public Radio to major newspapers, including USA Today, National Coming Out Day received nationwide attention. The interest was also on the very first exhibit of the names of Project Quilt, which remembered those who had lost their lives to AIDS.
The image that looks somewhat like a person dancing out of a closet donated by artist Keith Haring, who also died of AIDS, now represents the National Coming Out Day Project.
The Reaction of the GLBT Community
It was not surprising that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community would have mixed reactions to the project. While the majority was in full support of the National Coming Out Day movement, there were also those who thought that it was an invasion of their personal lives.
Lynn Shepodd, a member of the Human Rights Community and an executive director with the National Coming Out Day project, understands the concerns. She emphasizes that the community is prepared to take another step in protecting their rights and engaging the rest of the world in a better perspective of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Her continuous efforts from the initial celebration of the project’s first anniversary in 18 states grew to become a national event by 1990, and even included the participation of seven other countries.