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On October 11, millions will come together to support National Coming Out Day. The day honors and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people and their “coming out of the closet” to proudly be their true selves. The day is aimed to raise awareness of both the LGBTQ community and civil rights movement and to advocate for a person’s mental health and identity.
What is National Coming Out Day?
The day’s origins can be traced back to 1988. Jean O’Leary, then the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles, and psychologist Robert Eichberg and were concerned about anti-LGBT actions and police brutality that had been ongoing in the United States for decades. Like many LGBT activists, Robert and Jean wanted to respond—without coming across as unnecessarily defensive. So the duo created National Coming Out Day as an occasion for positivity, choosing October 11 to commemorate the 1987 National March on Washington Lesbian and Gay Rights.
During its first decade, National Coming Out Day prompted celebrations that increased private and public awareness around LGBTQ rights, with media attention around the day increasing each year. These celebrations could be risky for early participants, but events have since become not only safer but also widely celebrated.
Why National Coming Out Day is important
According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 9 million US adults identify as lesbian or gay, bisexual, or transgender, and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge same-sex attraction. The numbers reveal a diverse range of identities across the general population.
The act of “coming out” is more than self-disclosure of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity for those who identify as LGBTQ. It’s often a bold and first social step in becoming whole. As Dr. Amy Green, Director of Research at The Trevor Project, tells Forbes, “Greater levels of support and acceptance is associated with dramatically lower rates of attempting suicide.” National Coming Out Day celebrates and spreads awareness for a person’s ability to stand up and be themselves without fear of judgment or scrutiny.
How to celebrate National Coming Out Day at work
There are countless ways you can celebrate on October 11. Celebrations can range from self-care to self-assessment. One way to observe National Coming Out Day is to keep your senses keen to your local community and social media feeds. Take the time to read, listen, and enjoy while amplifying those voices. Share them with your friends and other allies.
Another way to celebrate is by learning more about queer history. Bring friends together to undo the layers of invisibility and silence that have buried so many marginalized communities.
If you’re feeling charitable, donate to LGBTQ organizations doing work for the community, such as the LGBT Help Center, Human Rights Campaign, and more. Try taking part in local or online reading and instructional groups.
How to educate your workplace about LGBTQ+
Creating a more inclusive workplace culture requires active education and awareness-building around LGBTQ+ issues. Employers can take several steps to ensure their workforce is well-informed and supportive.
First, offering diversity and inclusion training programs specifically focused on LGBTQ+ topics can enhance employees' understanding of different sexual orientations, gender identities, and the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. These training sessions should address appropriate language, respectful communication, and dispel common stereotypes or misconceptions.
Additionally, organizing workshops or panel discussions with guest speakers from the LGBTQ+ community can provide valuable insights and personal experiences. Employers should also establish clear policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity and ensure that all employees are familiar with these policies. Encouraging open dialogue through employee resource groups or affinity networks can foster a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies to share experiences and provide support.
You can demonstrate visible support by participating in LGBTQ+ events, displaying pride symbols, and showcasing diverse role models within the organization. By prioritizing education and fostering an inclusive environment, employers can empower their workforce to create a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and supports the LGBTQ+ community.
How to support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace
Many companies have adopted LGBTQ-supportive policies from the personal to the organizational level. These efforts include diversity training, an open and accountable commitment to equality, and investment in LGBTQ community programs in and outside the workplace.
Consider encouraging employees to create an LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, which offers a safe space, educational opportunities, and allies among coworkers. Another option is to provide a wider range of reading material in breakrooms.
Employees also are affected by memos, announcements, and other material in the workplace. Something as simple as making sure the material reflects the diversity of your employees’ identities and sexual orientations can make a big difference.
At Spring Health, we are committed to diversity and inclusion—and our network of mental healthcare providers reflects that commitment. Spring Health provides employers with a comprehensive solution for their teams’ wellbeing. Request a demo and see more about how Spring Health can support your organization.