Today is National Coming Out Day, dedicated to raising awareness of civil rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign says that National Coming Out Day is meant to help create an environment where living openly and honestly is possible.
“Coming out is one of the most courageous acts any LGBTQ person makes, and on this National Coming Out Day that courage remains essential to our continued progress toward full equality,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a press release today. “As LGBTQ people across the nation and around the world continue to come out, opposition to equality will continue to crumble. Sharing our stories is a key way each of us can fight back against attempts to turn back the clock on LGBTQ equality.”
The idea for the day was the culmination of four months of momentum where more than 100 activists were gathered in Manassas, Virginia near Washington D.C., according to the HRC, conceived by psychologist Richard Eicherg and activist Jean O’Leary on October 11, 1988. Their meeting followed the second march on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 11, 1987, in which half a million people participated and the AIDS Quilt was displayed.
In the 1980s, AIDS and HIV disproportionately affected the gay and lesbian communities in the U.S., but many felt the epidemic was not being researched because of discrimination against that community.
A recent study sponsored by GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said that 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ. According to the National Coming Out Day Report sponsored by the HRC, about 42 percent of LGBT youth say the communities in which they live are not accepting of LGBT people.
The American Psychological Association says positive feelings about one’s sexual orientation foster greater well-being and mental health. They define coming out as "self-awareness of same-sex attractions; the telling of one or a few people about these attractions; widespread disclosure of same-sex attractions and identification with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community."
The three stages of coming out, according to the HRC, are opening up to oneself, coming out and living openly.
Coming out can be a difficult time for many in the LGBTQ community, advocates say, and many organization offer counseling and support.
“National Coming Out Day has become an important holiday for LGBTQ youth. Each year around this time we speak with a great deal of young people weighing whether or not to come out to their loved ones. As many folks who have done so can tell you, coming out is a deeply personal experience, and it’s different for everyone. We work with each individual caller who is seeking support on the issue to make sure that if they do feel ready to come out, they have a plan to do so safely. We help them explore friends and family who may possibly be a support system for them. We want to make sure that young people aren’t coming out just because they feel pressured to do so by a holiday, but are doing so because they themselves have made the choice best for them, ” Amit Paley of CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project told ABC News.
The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, has counselors to help LGBTQ community members come out.