October 11th marks the 35th anniversary of National Coming Out Day (NCOD). Activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary created the celebration in 1988 to acknowledge, honor, and support the LGBTQ+ community and give encouragement to those who wanted to “come out” and reveal their sexual orientation to someone. NCOD is also meant to respect the queer community’s authenticity and its challenges in overcoming discrimination.
The LGBTQ+ community includes people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, intersex, and other genders and sexual orientations. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 7% of American adults identify their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and about 1.6% of American adults identify their gender as transgender or nonbinary. A 2022 Gallup poll also concluded that 7.1 % of U.S. adults self-identified as LGBTQ+, up from 5.6% in 2020.
National Coming Out Day helps demonstrate to loved ones, co-workers, clergy, teachers, students, lawmakers, and neighbors that they all know someone who is LGBTQ+.
Effects of Coming Out
“Coming out” versus being hidden “in the closet” as an LGBTQ+ individual is a process, not a single event. Coming out can be an especially challenging journey in cultural settings where it is assumed gender is the sex assigned at birth and heterosexuality, or being “straight,” is the norm or preferred sexual orientation.
Coming out can be risky at any age. LGBTQ+ youth and adults are significantly more likely to experience mental health conditions and suicidality compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. Accessing supportive, culturally competent mental health providers is an important step towards alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Wherever you are at on your own coming out journey, risks of coming out can be outweighed by finding community, acceptance, and queer joy.
Coming out can result in acceptance or rejection by friends and family members, spiritual or religious community, school personnel, employers; and being denied legal protections. To avoid these circumstances, some LGBTQ+ people choose to only be “out” to some people or just themselves.
A national educational organization, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), has a comprehensive list of considerations for the coming out process. Among them:
- Recognize that the individual decides when and how one comes out;
- Coming out can be risky, and stressful; seek a trusted friend, family member, or other LGBTQ+ person to come out to and be able to reach out to for support;
- Build a network of support online or in person by connecting to support organizations (listed below)
For those seeking information about how show support in someone else’s coming out journey, a helpful organization known as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has a list of resources here. They also have chapters around the country and virtual meetings.
In spite of the growing numbers of adults identifying as LGBTQ+, and growing support for same-sex marriage, legislative attacks against LGBTQ+ youth and adults have reached record numbers this year. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in the U.S. in 2023. Of those, 20% have been in Texas. A record number of bills – 74 – have passed nationwide. Due to these alarming factors and the need for more compassion, knowledge, and understanding in our society, National Coming Out Day’s continued existence is vital for all LGBTQ+ people and their families, friends, and allies!
If you need support in coming out or processing your sexual orientation, contact Lone Star Circle of Care at 877-800-5722 to schedule an appointment with a therapist. We are here to help.
Blog post written by Lisa Morales, LPC, RPT, NCC
Lone Star Circle of Care – Behavioral Health at Harker Heights
Borelli, G. (2022, November 15). About six-in-ten Americans say legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society. Pewresearch.org. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/11/15/about-six-in-ten-americans-say-legalization-of-same-sex-marriage-is-good-for-society/
GSLEN (n.d.). GLSEN Coming Out Day Resource. GLSEN.org. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from https://www.glsen.org/activity/coming-out-resource-lgbtq-students
PFLAG (n.d.). LGBTQ+Glossary. PFLAG.org. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://pflag.org/glossary/
Peele, C. (2023, May 31). Weekly Roundup of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation Advancing In States Across the Country. HRC.org. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/weekly-roundup-of-anti-lgbtq-legislation-advancing-in-states-across-the-country-6
Human Rights Campaign (2023, April 27). Texas Legislators’ Relentless Political Attacks Make Texas Unsafe for LGBTQ+ People. HRC.org. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/texas-legislators-relentless-political-attacks-make-texas-unsafe-for-lgtbq-people
Jones, J. M. (2022, February 17). LGBT Identification in U.S. Ticks Up to 7.1%. Gallup.com. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/389792/lgbt-identification-ticks-up.aspx
The Trevor Project (n.d.). Thetrevorproject.org. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/guide/the-coming-out-handbook/