The History of Coming Out
In the Beginning, There Was a March
On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE. The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.
To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.
2012- Come Out. Vote.
Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2012
Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors have advanced the movement for equality this year. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.
Singer, songwriter, producer and hip-hop icon Frank Ocean came out this summer as bisexual. In a beautifully written letter on his tumblr, Ocean said, “I don’t know what happens now and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.” Ocean’s coming out garnered support from several hip-hop artists and media moguls, including Russell Simmons, who tweeted, “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.” Ocean’s coming out helped to prompt an ongoing dialogue within the hip hop community about sexuality and equality.
Megan Rapinoe not only helped lead the US Women’s National Soccer team to an Olympic gold medal this summer, but she’s also played an important role in paving the road to equality for LGBT athletes. In an interview with AfterEllen earlier this year, Rapinoe spoke with joy about her life as a gay woman: “I’m obviously very proud of who I am. I couldn’t be happier with who I am. [Coming out] was something that was important to me.” Rapinoe’s likability and charm has earned her a widespread fan following since 2011’s World Cup, and the self-confidence she projects continues to steer the sports world in a direction of openness and acceptance.
Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel)
Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel came out this year as transgender and began her transition to living as Laura Jane Grace. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Laura recalls coming out as trans to her wife, Heather, and Heather’s reaction is an example of unconditional love: “He told her he was transsexual, and her response was, ‘Of all the things you could have told me, that is the least worst.’” Heather notes, “My friends have been like, ‘What about you?’ But I’m fine. I just want him to be who he is, and for us to get on with phase two. You know. Just… charge!” Laura and Heather have a young daughter, and Laura explains, “The thing I keep coming back to is that there’s no better example I can set as a parent than being true to myself. I hope…that’s what she learns from me.”
Anderson Cooper came out this year and emphasized the joy his identity brings him. “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He went on to explain the significance of being recognized as an equal human being: “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”
Perhaps the most famous of this year’s coming out moments came from President Obama, who came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. His announcement came on the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass Amendment One, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, banned recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and stripped away other vital protections for unmarried North Carolinians and their families. Obama is the first president to ever declare his support for marriage equality, marking a historical moment for the LGBT community. President Obama declared, “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”