How (NOT) to Come Out of the Closet

10 min read


It is a day celebrated world-wide, though its roots harken back to the United States. While you can come out any day of the year, many choose to tie their coming out with National Coming Out Day as an act of solidarity. There are also many who are privately out to their family and friends, but not out to the rest of the world. Every year there are more and more well known persons, celebrities, athletes, and more who join the ranks of the rest of us Queers.

For those of you who don’t already know, “coming out” (also referred to as “coming out of the closet”) is when a queer person takes a stance and lets their family, friends, and often the entire world know that they are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, or just simply Queer. In a world that has strong roots of homophobia and where heteronormativity is still viewed as “normal”, coming out is a very personal and individual

Check out the resources below for more info about this special day.

(And if you just want to skip to MY coming out story… click HERE)

On October 11, 1987, over 500,000 people gathered to march and demand better rights for the LGBTQ community in the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. That march lead to a huge momentum in Washington that lasted for over four months!

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) was the brainchild of Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. The intent of this annual day was to respond to the anti-LGBTQ actions in Washington at the time in a positive way. To celebrate coming out positively, rather than react defensively. They chose October 11, 1988 for the first NCOD in order to commemorate the incredible march the year before while also serving as an annual reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. To stand up and proudly state: “I am Queer!”

With their initial headquarters with the National Gay Rights Advocates, that first NCOD reached 17 states. By 1990, after a major media push and combining with the Human Rights Campaign, NCOD was celebrated in all 50 states. For many years, the HRC created a yearly theme to help advocate and push the expansion of NCOD.

October 11th is officially National Coming Out Day for the United States.

While it is unofficially celebrated world-wide by every Queer person, this day is also officially recognised in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to make this decision for themselves – they are often outed by others. It’s usually as an attack that is meant to belittle, demean, or even ruin that person’s life. Being outed is one of the worst things that anyone can experience, and when it happens to someone younger who does not have a strong support network, tragedy can strike. The more we can do to make the world more accepting, then we can literally save lives!

Additionally there’s the harsh truth that we’re always having to “come out” simply be being LGBTQ. Even in liberal societies and countries, heteronormativity remains. Every new job usually results in a coming out of sorts, even if it’s just casual talk about your partner during breaks. If you travel abroad, there are literally some countries where you have to go back in the closet just to stay safe (I personally had to be quite reserved while travelling across Russia in 2017 – and even skipped going a gay bar in Yekaterinburg because it had been RAIDED only a few months prior!)

So while National Coming Out Day is a first and foremost a celebration of everyone who has come out, it is also a day where we share the amazing resources out there to help and support those struggling with their identities. And while the focus is still on coming out, the day is just as important as another way to advocate and raise awareness to the LGBTQ community and the civil rights movement.

There are many incredible resources and guides for anyone who needs support coming out, help understanding family and friends who have come out, or to simply learn more about other LGBTQ identities.

How to Participate

On holidays and special days, it’s human nature to want to partake in the festivities. So how can you help participate in National Coming Out Day? Check out the various options for you below to find out!

If you are not already out, the obvious way to participate is to come out yourself! But make sure that it is YOUR choice, and that you have a support system in place if it doesn’t work out how you expect. (Check out the resources above for more info.)

It also does not have to be something huge or celebratory; the community might have a true stereotype of having a flair towards the dramatic… but there’s no need to blast it on social media. Even if you only tell one person, congrats!

Perhaps you’re only partially out to friends and family but you still haven’t told your coworkers or your extended family? Even if you are fully out, you can still be a strong ally. Fly that rainbow flag proudly. Let the world know that not only are you LGBTQ, but that you are someone to come to for support or to help provide strenght.

And also remember, being an ally is not merely supporting others like you – but ALL of our LGBTQ community. Are you truly an ally to our trans brothers and sisters? Call out transphobia the same as you call out homophobia. Do you continue to dispel and dismiss our Bisexual community, thinking that they’re really just gay and afraid to fully admit it? As much as we like to show our pride, our community itself are some of the worst towards each other. It’s our duty to change that!

If you are queer but not yet ready to come out yourself, there are still ways to participate! Be an ally to others who come out or who have come out. Call out homophobic or transphobic remarks and views, if you are able and it is safe for you to do so. Simply donating to a worthy cause to help support the LGBTQ community can be a quiet but good means of showing your support.

However, remember that while many will be coming out today – you do NOT have to. It’s a personal choice that should not be made under pressure, even if it feels like everyone else around you is coming out.

If you are not LGBTQ yourself, you can still support National Coming Out Day! Be a straight ally. Call out any homophobic or transphobic remarks you witness. Educate those around you to the struggles of the LGBTQ community. Simply by making it clear that you are an ally helps us all out – especially those who have yet to come out. You may not know who is struggling with their own acceptance, but knowing that you are an ally can be a massive support. So the world that YOU are an LGBTQ ally.

But you came here for something else, didn’t you? You want to hear MY Coming Out story!

My Coming Out Story

While we should treasure everyone’s coming out story, nowadays I tend to think of mine as a “how NOT to come out” story! It was messy, overdramatic, and it might have caused a slight breakdown during the dragged out delay while I was waiting for an answer.

Wait… delay? Huh? Isn’t coming out a rather quick moment of making a statement? Well… that’s how MOST treat it. Mine wasn’t!

To tell it properly, I have to go back in time a bit further. By that time, I was already out to a few good friends. And while I hadn’t make any official announcement, it was sort of known that I was one of the few gay kids at school. (Back when there were only a couple of us brave souls in the early 2000’s…) But my folks had no clue!

Well… my folks later confessed that they had suspicion… (there were a few cases of not clearing the browser history fully on the shared family computer – oops!) But there was enough back then to deflect. After all, I was a youth leader in my Catholic Church’s youth group, quite active in my Boy Scout Troop and was even working at Scout Camp for the summer, busy with marching band, and … not only had I not dated anyone, I was still a complete virgin! (That didn’t happen for another year or two…)

And to be honest, I probably delayed telling them for other reasons. If you haven’t picked it up from my review of “The Laramie Project”, Matthew Shepard’s attack and murder had a HUGE impact on everything. Not only was I a questioning gay kid at the time, but my hometown IS Laramie, Wyoming. In fact, my uncle was one of the jurors for the Aaron McKinney trial. So while the case shook the world, it hit very close to home – and I honestly had no clue how the family would take to me coming out after all of that.

So during my Sophomore year in English class, there was a poetry project connected to a poetry competition at the school. So, coming from a religious background and imagining the worst case scenario – I wrote a poem about how I was treated after coming out. (Remember… I hadn’t actually come out yet!)

But Michael, that’s a bit of a stretch… but it’s not TOO dramatic. There clearly must be more to this story!

Of course there is! You see, before the marching band left for our weeklong trip to LA, I printed out my poem, put it in an envelope addressed to my folks, and had a non-band friend put it in the mail – while I was on the trip!


Yup. I sent my folks a poem where I official came out as gay – while I was across the country.
[My poem is at the end HERE ]

With no idea when they’d get it, IF they’d get it before we got back – and with absolutely no clue what their reaction would be! So naturally, even though I was on a school trip having fun with friends… I might’ve had a slight breakdown in the hotel room one night where I broke down worried about what I’d go home to, locking myself into the bathroom. (Hey – I AM a theatre major folks!)

The breakdown eventually was sorted, but I truly had no clue the situation when I finally got home after the trip. They thankfully waited until we got home and separated me from my siblings downstairs in the basement. And of what I can recall, it wasn’t pretty. VERY emotional, crying, a TON of questions… a lot of what most of us expect. However it wasn’t that bad; I was not disowned or kicked out. I think they took the stance that it was just “a phase” that I hopefully would grow out of. But despite how rocky it went, it also felt good to know that they finally knew.

Over time, it became clear that it was not just a phase. Something that I had long ago already determined… but as the eldest child and being it was the early 2000’s, I can’t fault my folks for hoping for a different outcome. It certainly opened up discussions and over time, they became more and more accepting.

Today, it’s all a non-issue. They are quite accepting and while I haven’t had many boyfriends over the years, they have met one or two.

However I must confess that it took YEARS before we officially told the extended family and relatives. This was partly because of the time, but also because half of the family live in Laramie, WY. I never brought it up directly but over the years, it simply became known and generally wasn’t even an issue. (I think my folks may have said something on trips home over time…)

It wasn’t until three years ago when I actually talked to any of my relatives about being gay. I had made a surprise trip back home for a few months while awaiting my new work visa, only a few months after my surprise engagement to the ex-fiancé had fallen apart. I recall talking about some harsh truths over wine with my younger cousins, and had a very in-depth talk with my one uncle who still had some questions to help make sense of things. But frankly, they’re all accepting today.

As you can now see, my coming out story is definitely NOT one that you should repeat! Looking back, I’d probably change a few things… but I am also quite thankful that in the end, everything went well.

While there are many positive coming out stories from around the world, the unfortunate truth is that it doesn’t always go well. That is why National Coming Out Day is such an important day – even after you come out! We need to continue to work hard to advocate for ourselves and those who come out after, creating a safe space along with resources for those who need them.

I Am Still Your Son

by Michael Deibert

You said you really love me,
And that would never end
Yet when you found the truth out,
My world came tumbling down.

You treated me like garbage,
As I confided in you
And when I needed your help,
You turned your back on me.

Your words were harsh and painful,
They stabbed me in the heart
For you said I’m not family, 
And all because I’m gay.

I wish I could forgive you,
For all the things you said
But it is not that easy,
For you say I am dead.

I’m really not that different,
I’ve hardly changed at all
For you are still my parents,
And I am still your son.