HRC’s Changing Issues
National Coming Out Day
The second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was on October 11, 1987. A pamphlet for that event’s rally is shown here.
The first National Coming Out Day, organized by Jean O’Leary and Dr. Robert Eichberg, was held one year later, on October 11, 1988. Eighteen states participated the first year, 21 the next, and all 50 by 1990. Lynn Shepodd became Executive Director of NCOD in 1990 and the operations moved to Santa Fe.
Files from the early years of the NCOD organization are part of the HRC records.
On August 6th 1988, Artist Keith Haring finished drawing this now famous image of a person stepping out of the closet, which he contributed to the National Coming Out Day project.
The National Coming Out Day organization merged with the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1993. In 1996 HRCF created the National Coming Out Project, which went beyond the activities on October 11 to provide resource guides and information to people who are coming out or those interested in understanding the process. The document at the left elaborates on the project’s scope in 2000.
The “Guía de Recursos Para Salir del Clóset” resource guide was made available in Spanish for the first time in 2001.
Both the Spanish and English editions provide new information on coming out as transgender, coming out online, coming out in the workplace, and coming out as a parent or to a health care provider. Issues related to immigration, the military and religion are also discussed.
An important part of National Coming Out Day is advocacy. Over the years, several prominent people have been NCOD spokespersons: actor Amanda Bearse (1994), actor Dan Butler (1995), activist Candace Gingrich (1995), Ellen DeGeneres’s mother, Betty DeGeneres (1997), and baseball player Billy Bean (2000).
In important election years, the National Coming Out Day theme has been voting. In 2000, HRC emphasized that the person elected president would probably nominate two to four U.S. Supreme Court justices. National Coming Out Day posters featured a cartoon of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia holding microphones and singing “Think it o-o-ver,” from the Supremes’ hit song “Stop in the Name of Love.” The buttons shown here asked the fundamental question of the election: “Who Will Pick the New Supremes?”
“Being Out Rocks” was the theme for National Coming Out Project 2002, celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender musicians who have achieved their dreams while living open, honest lives.
On National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2002, a benefit CD featuring the songs of openly LGBT musicians and straight allies was released. The poster for Being Out Rocks states, “You may feel like just a face in the crowd, but coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender makes you a star!”