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This coming Friday, October 11th the LGBT+ Community will be again celebrating “National Coming Day” (NCOD), which originated in the USA but is now celebrated globally.
NCOD was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O'Leary. Robert Eichberg, who died in 1995 of complications from AIDS, was a psychologist from New Mexico and founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience. O'Leary was an openly lesbian political leader and long-time activist from New York, and was at the time the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles. LGBT activists, did not want to respond defensively to anti-LGBT action because they believed it would be predictable. This caused them to found NCOD in order to maintain positivity and celebrate coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
However, having a National Coming Out Day is a great thing and reminds everyone on October 11th each year the journey people to go to come out to friends, family, work colleagues over the course of their life.
'I always remember my first “Coming Out” to friends at University who I was sharing a house with, one of whom I’m still in contact today back in 1998, over 20 years ago. Then in 1999, I had my year abroad and realised that I was starting a fresh – at two different universities, in foreign countries where I knew nobody, therefore I decided I would be open and honest and tell anyone I met, who I was – this was frankly a scary experience. Thankfully, I received love and support in both France and Italy, and that’s why both countries and its’ people mean so much to me, and I am still in touch with those first friends still today.
However, it wasn’t until Boxing Day 2004, three years after I had left home for the bright lights of London, that I eventually came out to my family. This was particularly difficult as I had just started my first serious long term relationship, which lasted until March 2014 and I wanted my family to meet my partner. So, with trepidation I approached the subject at 11.00am on Boxing day fearing the worst – thankfully my parent’s reaction wasn’t too bad, the words “saying, well I’ve never seen you bring a girl home, had given them a clue”, however, I had another “Coming Out” to do and when I announced I was HIV+, having been diagnosed in June earlier that year – the tears burst and the shock engulfed my parents. It cannot ever be said more bluntly, it was the most heart-rendering moment in my life and one I will never forget.
I had been very fortunate that in my first job in London, I had two gay bosses, something I knew in my first week which was a major relief back in 2001. However, my experience of “Coming Out” in subsequent work environments was not pleasant – “batty boy” calling at the photocopier, “poof” and other derogatory work meant that changing and starting new jobs between 2005 and 2014 was really difficult. The more negative reactions received, the more nervous and worried I became, the less comfortable at work I became, all of which had a negative effect on my mental health and confidence in who I was.
And what does the above succession of snippets of my life tell you about, “Coming Out” day because, it’s not just once a year or a month or a week, it can be in some cases 365 days a year. If you want to live your authentic self, have integrity and be honest about who you are, then saying I am gay, I am HIV+ is a daily occurrence, to new friends, to new work colleagues, to companies you’re working with, to a new guy that’s joined your gym, or the football team – whatever the circumstance, whoever the person. It is mentally exhausting exercise and perhaps when thinking of “National Coming Out Day”, everyone will just a give a small second’s thought to those who do it every day to live their authentic self, be ambassadors for their community and continued activism to remind them just what “Coming Out” actually entails.'
Blog by Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett