National Coming Out Day, established by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary in 1988, according to About, was founded in celebration of the second gay march on Washington a year earlier. The day is designed to celebrate those in the LGBTQ community and the process of coming out.
Coming out is defined loosely as the process by which someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or any other sexuality along the spectrum “comes out” and makes those they hold dear aware of their sexual orientation in addition to accepting their own sexuality. This can also hold true for allies who support anyone along the LGBTQ spectrum.
Captain Hannah Winterbourne is currently the highest ranking transgender officer in the British Army. She says that when she was in the process of coming out, she received a great deal of support from the army and her family and friends.
“I would say to someone reading this, ‘you are who you are and no amount of worrying or angst is going to change that so understand that who you are is absolutely fine’,” she said during her interview with WalesOnline. She said that she transitioned because “it is who I am. There is no choice. You can no more choose than you can choose to be black or white or left handed.”
For those individuals coming out, 12-year-old Braeden Lange knows how difficult the process can be. According to the Advocate, Lange was bullied this spring after coming out to family and friends to such an extent that he contemplated suicide. His father contacted Andrew Goldstein, who was at that point the only openly gay athlete to play in any American sports league. The conversation between Goldstein and Lange’s father sparked the creation of the “Courage Game,” a lacrosse match designed to encourage and support gay youth and promote equality.
In fact, it was Lange’s coming out and ensuing work with Goldstein that led to widespread awareness about how challenging the coming out process can be and how rewarding that acceptance and equality can also be for everyone involved. Lange received a flood of mail from those who watched the piece about him and Goldstein, which aired on ESPN in August. Lange received a letter from a 15-year-old who admits that Lange’s story inspired him.
“It’s (Braeden’s story) given me a new outlook on life and also a new perspective on how different groups such as homosexuals are treated in today’s society. Simply put, this story saved me from heading the wrong direction in life. Braeden, who is three years younger than me, has quickly become my hero and role model in life for his courage and valiance …” the letter stated, according to ESPN Front Row.
It becomes clear that while coming out means different things to those involved in the process, the act itself still matters greatly, not just to those coming out but to those who feel its impact. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Coming out is a deeply personal journey for each individual and we hope that National Coming Out Day can inspire the friends, family members, faith leaders, coworkers and community members of LGBTQ and allied people to come out for equality.”
Retired Welsh hockey player Michelle Daltry said that she believes that, in choosing to “live openly we help to change perceptions and create a better world for those who follow us.”
To be sure, coming out can be a painful process for many, but in reality, there are those involved in the process who report that coming out actually came as something of a relief for their parents.
“When Hannah first told me she said ‘I have got something to tell you and it’s serious’,” says Brian Winterbourne, Hannah’s father. “I thought she was ill or something and when she told me I thought ‘thank God for that, it’s not something serious.’ “
While he may not have been referring to coming out when he said it, perhaps Dr. Seuss said it best when he said, “You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo of female same sex couple by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)