Founded in 1988 by psychologist Robert Eichberg and activist Jean O'Leary, National Coming Out Day is observed annually on Oct. 11, and it's day to celebrate and promote the increased visibility of the LGBTQ community. The date was chosen to mark the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which drew an estimated 500,000 people to the nation's capital.
"Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does," Eichberg said in a 1993 interview. "It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes."
In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are some of our top coming out stories of 2019.
Grammy-Award winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith came out as nonbinary on actor Jameela Jamil's Instagram show "I Weigh Interviews in March." Smith said when they saw the words "nonbinary" and "genderqueer" and heard people speak about these identities, which are used to describe those who identify as neither exclusively male nor female, they thought, "F--ck, that's me." Last month, the artist announced they will be using gender-neutral they/them pronouns.
Defensive end Ryan Russell, an NFL free agent, came out as bisexual in an article published on ESPN.com. "My truth is that I'm a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover and a bisexual man," said Russell, who spent one season on the Cowboys roster and played two more for the Buccaneers.
Republican lawmaker Nathan Ivie said it took him more than 20 years to come to terms with his identity. Ivie said he attempted to cure himself of "gay feelings," but that interacting with gay couples through his passions for the outdoors and photography helped him accept himself.
Mr. Ratburn from the children’s show “Arthur” got married to another man in the show’s 22nd season premiere, spurring effusive reactions from those who grew up watching the program. The historic episode, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” starred lesbian actor Jane Lynch as a special guest.
Matt Easton, valedictorian of the Brigham Young University class of 2019, came out as gay in his graduation speech. Easton said he hopes the speech helps ease loneliness felt by other LGBTQ students at the institution where an honor code forbids dating between members of the same sex.
On the last day of Pride Month, rapper Lil Nas X came out as gay. The performer — who shot to stardom with the country-rap hit "Old Town Road," which held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks — asked his followers to listen to his new song, “c7osure,” in which he alludes to his sexuality.
A Kentucky mom celebrated her 20-year-old transgender son's coming out with an "It's a Boy" photoshoot.
The father of five, including kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, announced his departure from the Mormon church and his divorce from his ex-wife in August. "I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay. The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief," Smart wrote in a Facebook post.
Amy Ko, an associate professor at The Information School at the University of Washington, took to Medium to share that she identifies as a woman, prefers she/her pronouns and would like to be called Amy instead of her given name. “Sharing this in such a public way has led a lot of other people in the world coming out to me ... that’s helped them have a little bit more courage, in the same way that I got courage from all the people in the world who are out that I saw in public,” Ko told NBC News.
After a 16-year-old, who identifies as asexual and panromantic — one who feels their partner's gender has little affect on their relationship — came out publicly to her neighborhood, neighbors left her flowers and cards at her home as a sign of their support.
NBC correspondent Joe Fryer recalls coming out to his family 22 years ago and says coming out is a continuous experience. "I’m still telling people. It happens, for example, when someone sees the ring on my left hand and makes a comment about my 'wife,' Fryer wrote. "Most of the time I politely correct them and tell them I have a partner."
Everyone has a different coming out story. In celebration of Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a group of LGBTQ people shared how their experience of coming out has changed through the years.
Young people in search of support in coming out can contact The Trevor Project's TrevorLifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. Counseling is also available 24/7 via chat every day atTheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting 678-678.