What the heck is National Coming Out Day 2023?
National Coming Out Day takes place on October 11, 2023 and is observed in the United States, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. I was shocked to learn that it’s been recognized since 1988, as I remember first hearing about it just a few years ago. Perhaps it’s only because that was the year that Facebook and Google confirmed I was queer based on my browsing history and started showing me ads for rainbow-colored kitchen mixers.
Anyhoo, when I first heard of National Coming Out Day I had very mixed feelings about it. You may have those feelings too. So, let’s talk about it.
Embracing Authenticity on National Coming Out Day
It’s one thing to come to the realization that you’re “not straight” or as my partner and I now like to say “heterodivergent.” It took me a solid 8 years or so before I could admit with honesty and not only accept but love the fact that I was a lesbian.
Coming out is a different ball of rainbow wax. It’s no longer just how you feel about yourself; you suddenly get to see how everyone else feels about you too. There are not many opportunities in one’s life that I can adequately equate to what it’s like coming out as queer or trans or non-binary or asexual. (If you can think of one, please share it in the comments.)
In my own coming out experience, it felt like an overwhelming majority of people approached me with love and support. People I hadn’t talked to in decades came out of the digital woodwork to express caring, supportive sentiments. I felt more love from people than I can remember ever feeling before in my adult life. And it was pretty darn awesome that I could have a coming out experience that was met with such positivity, since that most likely wouldn’t have been the case just 10 years prior.
But aside from the supportive crowd, there are always others. Sometimes those others are the ones closest to you in your life– family members who told you love was unconditional until they met this condition, or friends who seemed fine with the LGBTQ+ crowd until it meant that they’d be associating with someone from that crowd. Not all of us are prepared for these shifts in connection. And having a date on the calendar encouraging us to take the risk and make that shift isn’t worth it to everyone.
The History and Importance of National Coming Out Day
Which brings me back to National Coming Out Day. A day for celebration and visibility. Coming Out Day was originally started to encourage the queer community to identify themselves and help further the belief that if more people realized they already knew, were friends with, or loved a queer person in their life, they would be more understanding.
Robert Eichberg said in 1993, “Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.” Even if you don’t realize it, someone you know in your life is not straight. According to a 2021 global survey from Ipsos, nearly 1 in 5 young adults does not identify as straight.
Queer visibility is what Harvey Milk campaigned for back in the 1970’s and the need for it has not decreased. Community visibility is also why I’ve found it so important to be vocal about my own coming out experience here on my blog, on my podcast, and in my memoir Perfectly Queer. I recognized that as a grown adult, I was in a privileged position to be able to come out and say to people “Remember when you loved me because you thought I was straight?”
Visibility is hugely important in achieving equality and normalizing same-sex relationships and gender identities that are outside of the binary or different from what we were assigned at birth. Our phobias most often stem from fear of the unknown. Know me. Let’s listen to each other and prove that this boogieman you’ve been warned about is not real.
Harry Potter Wore an Invisibility Cloak & You Can Too
With that being said, visibility is not for everyone. And maybe visibility is for you… but perhaps just not right now. Although Coming Out Day is observed on October 11th, you do not need to come out on October 11th. Not this year, not next year, not any year for that matter.
Due to the vulnerability of coming out, it’s important that you take your time and come out on your own schedule, in your own way. Anyone who has been “outed” prematurely, myself included, knows how damaging it can be.
- You do not need to come out if it’s not safe to do so.
- You do not need to come out if you don’t feel as though you are in a healthy mental state to do so.
- You do not need to come out if you feel no desire to do so.
- You do not need to come out to everyone.
- You do not need to come out just because there are Facebook memes encouraging you to do so.
There are plenty of people within the queer community who don’t believe in or are frustrated by having to come out at all. Heterosexuals do not ever need to announce their sexuality, so why should we?
The truth is as long as compulsory heterosexuality is present and people continue to default to assuming everyone is straight, I will need to continue to correct them. I will need to correct the contractor asking if my husband will be present when I make a home decision. I will need to correct the lady from the credit card company who, when I ask to add my spouse to my card, asks me what his name is. I will need to correct my kids’ school administrator when they warn me about “the gay agenda.” (True story. I’ll save this for a future blog).
Celebrating Your Way: No Right or Wrong
Whether this year marks your first time celebrating Coming Out Day or your 35th celebration, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the day. Do you want to dress in all rainbows and glitter and make a TikTok of you bursting out of a Funfetti cake with a corgi? Perfect! Do you want to dazzle others with your ax-throwing skills as you take a hatchet to symbolic closet doors? Okey dokey! Do you want to sit home with a soothing cup of chamomile tea and a weighted blanket while you congratulate yourself quietly on acknowledging your true being and taking whatever small steps you need to align with that truth? Sounds excellent!
Make this year’s Coming Out Day your own, or celebrate those around you who had the immense courage to come out. Do what feels right within your own heart, and not what feels right because it’s trending online that day. However you choose to celebrate Coming Out Day 2023, know that you are seen, you are valid, and I am proud of you for acknowledging your own needs today. Happy Coming Out Day, friend!
@askqueerabby Replying to @NancyP My heart did a cartwheel #perfectlyqueer #comingout #wlwtiktok #pride2023🌈😍 ♬ original sound – Jillian Abby
Like this story, then you may also enjoy:
- How Do I Come Out?
- How Do You Know If You’re Gay?
- Struggling to Understand Same-Sex Attraction
- Three Things to Say to Someone Who Has Come Out
- The LGBTQ Imposter: Finding My Seat at the Table