National Coming Out Day

If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities—the expression of love—then life itself loses its meaning. -- Harvey Milk

National Coming Out Day is observed annually on October 11 and is a celebratory day for those of the LGBTQIA+ community (AKA "queer community", "alphabet soup", "alphabet mafia") to publicly affirm their sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a way of bringing awareness to the LGBTQIA+ and related issues. The goal is to demonstrate that everyone knows at least one queer person. It was first celebrated in October 1988 and conceived by LGBTQIA+ activities Robert Eichberg and Jean O'Leary. It is current recognized and celebrated by all 50 states of the US, as well as in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. National Coming Out Day is overseen by the National Coming Out Project, sponsored by Human Rights Campaign.

Coming out takes incredible courage and strength. There is no one way of coming out. The coming out process is as unique as each individual. Coming out is not a singular event, but an aspect of everyday life. Members of the queer community are continually coming out to friends, potential lovers and partners, family members, coworkers, managers, doctors, and so many more people and occasions that require a person's authentic self.

Coming out is also NOT a requirement for being queer. Coming out is a personal decision and many queer folks who are at the intersections of race, religion, disability, etc., may not feel safe to coming out. They may face abandonment, unemployment, abuse or harm, and discrimination if they did. So as we celebrate everyone who has been able to come out, we must also recognize those who cannot or otherwise choose not to. In a sense, the closet is safer than the house it's in.

Recommended reading: "On National Coming Out Day, Don't Disparage the Closet" by Preston Mitchum

National Coming Out Day also occurs in October, which is recognized in the US as LGBTQ History Month. LGBTQ History Month was founded in 1994 and seeks to provide role models, build community, and to recognize the civil rights achievements and contributions of the LGBTQ community.

Come Out with Us!

A photograph of two hands with the fingers and thumbs forming the shape of a heart, overlaid with a transparent rainbow.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Join us for a free virtual event suitable for all ages in honor of National Coming Out Day, October 12, 2021 at 6:30 PM.

Be inspired by the stories of others and feel free to share your story. We will be joined by:

  • Ken Yeager, the first openly gay elected official in Santa Clara County and Executive Director of BAYMEC (Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee) Community Foundation
  • Gabrielle Antolovich, from the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center who will share information about the resources the center offers the LGBTQ+ community and their allies
  • Diego Silva González, the LGBTQ Youth Space’s new Outreach Coordinator

We will also have a breakout room where you can ask questions and practice coming out simply to feel the positive reaction that follows.

Celebrate and Get Inspired

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, book cover

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Suitable for young readers with developmentally appropriate language, this beautiful nonfiction picture book traces the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today's world.

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!, book cover

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! by Joy Michael Ellison

Sylvia and Marsha are closer than sisters. They are kind and brave and not afraid to speak their truth, even when it makes other people angry. This illustrated book introduces children to the story of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the two transgender women of color who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. It introduces children to issues surrounding gender identity and diversity, accompanied by a reading guide and teaching materials to further the conversation.

Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement, book cover

Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement by James Haskins

A biography of Bayard Rustin, a skillful organizer behind the scenes of the American civil rights movement whose ideas strongly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. Rustin was outed in the days leading up to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 as a way of derailing and discrediting the organizers of the now famously influential civil rights protest.

Queer: A Graphic History, book cover

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg John Barker

From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.

Beyond the Gender Binary, book cover

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon provides an accessible primer to gender fluidity, showing how a world beyond the gender binary of man and woman creates more freedom for everyone. They equip readers with the knowledge to counter the rise of anti-trans discrimination. This book invites the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color.

Looking for More to Read?

Head over to our Recommended Reading for Adults and Teens to find more LGBTQIA+ history, fiction, romance, and more. We've also got Recommended Reading en español!

For the History Buffs

Check out Gale's Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History free with your SJPL library card!

Outside Resources and Support

You are not alone. If you, or someone you know, are in need of help and support, please consider the following organizations and resources: