While some are having a blast trying to decide what to be for Halloween, others are struggling with who they are. The month of October isn’t only for Halloween fanatics, but also for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA) community. National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is celebrated by many this fall.
This year marks the 28th anniversary of NCOD celebration. National Coming Out Day was founded Oct. 11, 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary on the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
“National Coming Out Day is a day that those in the LGBTQIA community can come together, support those who haven’t come out yet or who are struggling with their sexuality,” said Morgan Dunnuck, an animal science junior at Lansing Community College. “We can rally around them and hopefully give them the hope, trust and support that they deserve. For those who are already out, it is a time to remember where we’ve come from, to celebrate our pride.”
What does National Coming out Day mean to members of the LGBTQIA community?
“National Coming Out Day is a significant day to most LGBT [community] members, but it symbolized more to me before I was ‘out.’ It symbolizes a day where LGBT people can look back or look forward to when they can or did come out,” said Brenna Johnson, a pastry chef at Gigi’s Cupcakes in East Lansing. “Before, I looked at National Coming Out Day in hope. In hope that one day I could have a significant day. Now that I am out, I don’t really have a coming out story — which I’m grateful for. My dad asked me one day, ‘So is she your girlfriend or something?’ and I said, ‘yeah, you could say that.’ And ever since, nothing has changed between my family and me, in fact we grew closer.”
National Coming Out Day promotes awareness of the issues that members of the LGBTQIA community face. It is also a chosen day for people to come out to themselves, their family and their friends.
“My greatest advice for someone coming out would be to truly, deeply, love yourself. Even if you’re unsure of these feelings or how deep or how serious they are,” Johnson said. “If being with that person makes you happy, be with them. Fight for love, for equality and for yourself.”
“This day is both celebratory and mournful. A celebration of living and being queer, but there are folks who aren’t to that place in their lives, and may never be,” said Casey Miles, Assistant Professor in Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State. “And then there are the people who we’ve lost, either because they came out, or because they didn’t. I’m talking about the violence of both murder and suicide that comes with this day.”
Because the month of October is seen by many as just the month of Halloween, where does that leave those who feel “closeted?”
“I’m not sure. Halloween is often seen as ‘gay Christmas,’ so some folks might feel left out,” Miles said.
What can we do as a community to make sure everyone feels accepted and comfortable with who they are? Attending LGBTQIA events helps people find their community. Straight allies are always welcome to these events as well.
Finding a safe place is important, whether it be an actual place, family member or friend. One of the most important things is feeling comfortable in your own skin, especially before exposing yourself to others.
Some advice for anyone who might not yet feel comfortable coming out: “Find someone to talk to: a 1-800 help line, a counselor, a mentor. The first thing I did was say it out loud to myself: ‘I’m gay,’” said Miles. “But also, you don’t have to come out. Keeping yourself safe is an act of survival and sometimes survival means silence, and that’s ok.”
Allie Wilson is a senior professional writing major from Niles, Mich. She currently works in the Writing Center and is an intern for Espresso Book Machine. When her nose isn’t buried in a book, she spends her free time obsessing over Grey’s Anatomy and eating. Wilson aspires to be an editor for a publishing firm that specializes in young adult fiction.