Monday marks the 22nd annual National Coming Out Day, celebrated worldwide by LGBT equality advocates to promote acceptance and visibility of the LGBT community.
The civil awareness day was first organized by the Human Rights Campaign in 1988 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then, National Coming Out Day has grown exponentially in popularity and underscores the importance of civil equality in October, which was designated GLBT History month in the early 1990s based on a suggestion by Missouri history teacher Rodney Wilson.
“Wilson saw that gay and lesbian Americans had no place to learn the history of their community; gay history was not taught at home, in public schools or in religious institutions,” explains LGBT historian Kat Long. “GLBT History Month was suggested as a movement against ignorance and toward understanding.”
National Coming Out Day is now widely considered the keystone event of GLBT History Month, and LGBT equality advocates around the nation see this year’s observance as particularly significant given the astounding number of tragedies endured by some of the community’s members recently. Vicious anti-gay bullying led to the suicides of at least eight LGBT youths, including an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who leapt from the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with another male was broadcast over the Internet. In New York City alone, several recent anti-gay attacks have outraged the LGBT community, including a brutal Oct. 3 hate crime during which two teen boys and a 30-year-old man were allegedly tortured by nine suspects in the Bronx. LGBT advocates have organized community events in response, including an Oct. 3 vigil in Washington Square Park, an Oct. 8 “Die-In” flash mob at Grand Central Terminal, and an Oct. 9 “NIGHT MARCH: Solidarity Against Hate” ending at the historic Stonewall Inn.
“The more we as LGBT people tell our stories and engage others, the closer we are to achieving equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement. “The recent tragedies involving young gay Americans, and those perceived to be gay, increase the urgency for all people of good conscious to Come Out for Equality. Our youth need to have ‘out’ role models and see the visible support of non-gay Americans.”