Coming out the closet as a lesbian had a huge impact on my life, so I celebrate National Coming Out Day with a short video of my personal story, an excerpt from my coming-out guidebook, and worship resources.
Every year on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day encourages LGBTQ people and allies be open about who you are and your support for LGBTQ equality.
“I dared to come out, and suddenly the world seemed much bigger and full of beautiful colors,” I say in the video as I step out of a real closet wearing a quilt of rainbows. “Telling the truth transformed my life. I’m free!”
One viewer at YouTube left this comment: “Oh this is a beautiful video. I’m glad you have been living in this colored world for many years. I have been for 6 months by now, and I’ll never regret to have came out. You’re so inspiring, thank you for that.”
I created the video for the Human Rights Campaign’s 2007 National Coming Out Day video contest, where it was one of the most viewed of many videos submitted. A decade later, it’s still one of my all-time most popular videos.
My coming-out experience inspired me to write Hide and Speak: A Coming Out Guide. The book offers a powerful program of self-acceptance and appropriate disclosure for LGBTQ people — and anyone else with a story to tell.
History of National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 to promote equality by encouraging lesbian and gay people to come out and be proud of their sexual orientation.
Since then the scope has broadened to include self-disclosure of a bisexual orientation, transgender or queer identity, or support as an ally of LGBTQ people.
The goal was to raise awareness and change society based on the feminist and gay liberation idea that the personal is political. The first National Coming Out Day was observed on the one-year anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
It was founded by gay activist and psychologist Robert Eichberg and lesbian activist and ex-nun Jean O’Leary. In 1990 they merged their efforts with the Human Rights Campaign, which continues to manage the event.
Artist Keith Haring designed the original logo for National Coming Out Day in 1987. The colorful image shows one of his typical generic people practically dancing out of a dark closet.
“Hide and Speak: A Coming-Out Guide”
My book Hide and Speak tells positive ways to come out to yourself, create a circle of supporters and deal with family, job and school. Each chapter includes real-life examples and tested, highly effective exercises that I used in coming-out workshops nationwide. Readers will learn how to live proud, free and balanced. Here is an excerpt from Hide and Speak:
“Many people, myself included, assumed that LGBT visibility would make books like this obsolete. That day is still well in the future. The difficulties of coming out in the twenty-first century hit home for me recently when a younger relative finally told me he was gay. His big sister, a lesbian activist, had come out to the family twenty years before, but her example didn’t seem to make it any easier for her brother. “It was something I had to figure out and deal with on my own terms,” he explained to me. The newly visible LGBT community is no more appealing to him than the old stereotypes had been to me and my peers.”
Hide and Speak is not just about homosexuality. The book is useful for all people who struggle with secrets and their consequences. Originally published in 1991, Hide and Speak was updated and released in 2006 by AndroGyne Press, a new queer studies press based in Berkeley, CA. The joy of coming out is what inspired me to write Hide and Speak.
Worship resources for National Coming Out Day
A Coming-Out Liturgy by gay Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd is featured in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations, which I co-edtied. Boyd’s liturgy includes these lines:
“Leader: Have you been forced to play a dishonest role in order to survive?
Participant: I have. My family seemed often to require it, at least to desire it. At school it was necessary, and whenever I dropped my mask I was punished. The same was true of my life at work where I sought acceptance and advancement. What I had to confront made me feel confused, emotionally fatigued, and often worthless. Any kind of a relationship posed a threat and a danger. I wondered how much rejection I could stand. When I reached out for understanding or help, I usually received yet another rebuke. However, I just could not be who I’m not. It nearly killed me when I tried so hard and found it hopeless.
Community: We offer you validation for yourself as you have been created and celebration of your gayness as a gift of God.”
This post is part of the LGBTQ Calendar series by Kittredge Cherry. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, events in LGBTQ history, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of faith and our allies.
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