National Coming Out Day 2022 — It’s Never Been More Important

A list of support resources is provided at the end.

October 11 was declared National Coming Out Day in 1988 to mark the first anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It had been almost 20 years since the 1969 Stonewall riots when thousands of us descended on Washington DC demanding our rights and our dignity.

Nine years earlier, in 1978, San Francisco District Supervisor Harvey Milk, California’s first openly-gay elected official, spoke at a rally in De Longpre Park in Los Angeles following LA’s 8th annual Gay Pride Parade. In this now-historic speech, Milk made an impassioned plea for everyone gay and lesbian to come out of the closet. You can watch it here.

At the time Milk delivered this speech, the LGBTQ+ community in California was fighting for its life against Proposition 6, also called the “Briggs Initiative.” If passed by voters, would have required school districts to terminate employment of any LGBT or straight people who expressed any sympathy toward homosexuality, whether on or off the job.

The LGBTQ+ community and its allies successfully defeated Proposition 6 at the ballot box by a vote of 58.4% to 41.6%. This was a monumental victory for 1978! Just a few months earlier polls showed two-thirds of California voters opposed LGBTQ+ rights. What made the difference in this dramatic turnaround was a massive visible coming out by LGBTQ+ people. Together with our allies, the LGBTQ+ community organized and reached out in a way we never had before.

National Coming Out Day was established to advocate and support every individual in coming out to live his, her or their authentic life. Authenticity and pride are powerful weapons against bigotry and oppression, and it frankly just makes for a happier and more satisfying life too!

LGBTQ+ Rights Face Historic Assault Today

Today the LGBTQ+ community is facing Proposition 6-like attacks across the country at a pace and magnitude never before seen. Florida is best known with its high profile “Don’t Say Gay” law but the ACLU lists over 250 bills that have been considered in states across the country — just in 2022 alone. Anti-transgender legislation specifically has jumped 800% since 2018.1John Stewart citing the ACLU on AppleTV, ‘The Problem with Gender’. The bills against LBGTQ+ rights often use anti-trans bigotry as cover and a gateway to broadly attack gays, lesbians and our entire community.

Source: Human Rights Campaign

Counting the lists posted on the ACLU website, I find that so far this year 30 of these 250-plus bills have succeeded. That’s only 18% one might think, but I count 24 that became law last year. Just one bill is too many — and the pace is increasing. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court this term will consider whether LGBTQ+ citizens are entitled to protection in basic public accommodations. It’s worth remembering we lost the famous “wedding cake” case in 2018 under a less conservative Court.

You can read more in my post, Deja Vu All Over Again: The New Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks. But the message for today — October 11th — is that coming out has never been more important!

Coming Out Has Never Been More Important!

The next few videos talk about coming out. There’s a common theme in some of these videos — people coming out and speaking up in response to attacks against the LGBTQ+ community.

This first video features George Takei, Star Trek’s Sulu, talking about his coming out. Takei struggled much of his life hiding in the closet, fearing for his career if his secret became known. To his surprise, his life improved vastly after he went public. Takei was inspired to come out after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a Marriage Equality bill that had been passed by both houses of the state legislature. Takei came out in part because he was famous and hoped his voice might help make a difference — but we all have a role to play. Takei’s voice counted because he helped reinforce the message of the other thousands of us marching and speaking out.

Sir Ian McKellen describes his experience coming out, its benefits and importance. Like Takei, McKellen decided to come out in response to government attacks against LGBTQ+ people. In 1988 British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced “Section 28,” a new law making it illegal to “promote homosexuality” in the schools — an echo of California’s Proposition 6 ten years earlier and an early forerunner of today’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws in Florida and other states.

Of course not all LGBTQ+ people are famous actors or public figures! This video explores the experiences of average people coping with the closet and resolving to come out. For most, their experiences in coming out were positive, but not always. An important point they emphasize is that one must be ready before coming out, and the environment must be safe. If possible, it’s recommended to find one or two people you can trust to tell first. They can provide support and help work through any problems.

The Personal Struggle — and Reward — in Coming Out

Before the political aspect, coming out is a deeply personal experience. Whether closeted or out, we’re LGBTQ+ around the clock. It’s an integral part of who we are. We can’t get away. When the daily noise and distractions pass, we are LGBTQ+ as we sit alone or lay in bed at night with our thoughts.

The closet can be a dark and lonely place. It’s not where we should hang out any longer than is absolutely necessary. Below I will list some resources for anyone struggling with being LGBTQ+, with coming out, bullying, family issues, legal issues, and more.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

These final two videos look at the struggle of being in the closet and the rewards that await once the door is opened.

Morgana Bailey had been hiding her true self for 16 years. While a bit unconventional, she decided the best way for her to come out was on stage at a TED Talk. That was followed by over a half million views online. Go Morgana!

The Rhodes Brothers come out to their father by telephone. Watch on YouTube.

Aaron and Austin Rhodes have been popular vloggers on YouTube. They’re twins, but share more than that: they’re both gay. They came out to their father in 2015 in a moving vlog entry they posted to YouTube. To date it’s gotten nearly 28 million views.

About a week after they posted their video, Ellen DeGeneres invited Aaron and Austin to appear on her show along with their father.

A year later, on Coming Out Day in 2016, Aaron Rhodes wrote, produced and posted this video: EVOLUTION | I Am Gay.

He wrote,

“Today for National Coming Out Day I wanted to tell my story in a different way. Evolution | I Am Gay explores the five stages I’ve experienced in fully accepting my sexuality.

“We all have a different story to tell and there is power in that. Today is a day to celebrate those stories. Even if it is told to just one, it is further exposing visibility for the LGBTQ community and helping push toward full equality.

Though it is a day of celebration, it is also a day of reflection and education. Reflecting on the fact that still in 2016 coming out matters and can be a very difficult thing to do. Educate yourself on the appropriate steps you should take that would be best for your coming out process. And ALWAYS remember, you are a beautifully unique individual. I promise you it will get better. Stay strong always.”

Aaron donated all proceeds from the video to The Trevor Project, an organization that provides information & support to LGBTQ+ young people 24/7, year round.


◼︎ The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people. The Trevor Lifeline provides confidential crisis intervention and suicide prevention assistance 24/7/365 toll-free at 866-488-7386. TrevorChat is a confidential online instant messaging service connecting youth with a Trevor counselor. It’s accessed via computer and is available 24/7.

◼︎ Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
GLSEN was founded by a group of teachers in 1990 on the knowledge that educators play key roles in creating affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth. In addition to activating supportive educators, GLSEN believes in centering and uplifting student-led movements. GLSEN has a national network more than 1.5 million strong, with students, families, educators, and education advocates working to create safe schools. More than 500,000 GLSEN resources are downloaded by students and educators each year.

◼︎ Genders & Sexualities Alliances (GSA)
Founded in San Francisco in 1998, GSAs are student-run organizations that unite LGBTQ+ and allied youth to build community and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities. GSAs have evolved beyond their traditional role to serve as safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in middle schools and high schools, and have emerged as vehicles for deep social change related to racial, gender, and educational justice.

◼︎ SAGE National LGBTQ+ and Elder Hotline
SAGE LGBTQ+ Elder Hotline connects LGBTQ+ older people who want to talk with friendly responders who are ready to listen. If you are an LGBTQ+ elder or care for one, call the free SAGE Hotline, toll-free, at 877-360-LGBT(5428).

◼︎ Trans Lifeline
Trans Lifeline is a toll-free confidential 24/7 hotline available in the U.S. and Canada staffed by transgender people for transgender people. In the U.S. call 877-565-8860. In Canada call 877-330-6366.

◼︎ Parents and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG)
PFLAG is a network of over 400 chapters across the country providing confidential peer support, education, and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies. PFLAG chapters are in communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. With 200,000+ members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas, PFLAG has been saving lives, strengthening families, and changing hearts, minds and laws since 1972.

◼︎ Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
The Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people plus community members who use different language to describe identity are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

◼︎ National LGBTQ Task Force
The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. They are working to build a future where everyone can be free to be their entire selves in every aspect of their lives. Despite all the progress made to end discrimination, millions of LGBTQ people face barriers in every aspect of their lives: in housing, employment, healthcare, retirement, and basic human rights. The Task Force is training and mobilizing millions of activists across the country.

◼︎ Lambda Legal
Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Lambda Legal does not charge its clients for legal representation or advocacy. It receives no government funding but instead depends on contributions from supporters around the country.

◼︎ The Transgender Law Center (TLC)
Transgender Law Center is the largest national trans-led organization advocating for a world in which all people are free to define themselves and their futures. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

◼︎ American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.

Title image is a screenshot from the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

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