The History of Coming Out

On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE.  The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

Resource Guide to Coming Out

Read A Resource Guide to Coming Out in .PDF or virtual publication format.

Below are some resources to help students either maintain or create a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at their schools.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

GLSEN has several extremely helpful resources on their site:

Jump-Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances

GLSEN has created this resource for new and already-established Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or similar clubs. The resources take you through the process of establishing or re-establishing your group, identifying your mission and goals, and assessing your school’s climate. Jump Start your school and your GSA and create safer schools for all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

2015 National School Climate Survey

The National School Climate Survey is the only national study that for over a decade has consistently examined the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in America’s schools.

Day of Silence

The Day of Silence is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT students and their allies.

Ally Week

Ally Week is a week for students to identify, support and celebrate Allies against anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) language, bullying and harassment in America’s schools.


Gay-Straight Alliance Network is a national youth leadership organization that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) to each other and community resources through peer support, leadership development, and training.

GSA Network supports young people in starting, strengthening, and sustaining GSAs and builds the capacity of GSAs to:

  • Create safe environments in schools for students to support each other and learn about homophobia, transphobia, and other oppressions
  • Educate the school community about homophobia, transphobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues
  • Fight discrimination, harassment, and violence in schools.


Campus Pride serves LGBT and ally student leaders and campus organizations in the areas of leadership development, support programs and services to create safer, more inclusive LGBT-friendly colleges and universities. It exists to develop, support and give “voice and action” in building future LGBT and ally student leaders.

[heading header_type=”h2″]Glossary[/heading]

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    A person who supports and honors sexual diversity, acts accordingly to challenge homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism within their personal and professional life, and shows a concern for the well-being of the LGBT community.
    A person who appears neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine.
    A lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex. It can also be considered a lack of sexual orientation. Many asexual people, however, will still seek to form an intimate bond with others and will identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight. For more information, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network
    Biological Sex
    A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, and hormone balances.
    The fear or hatred of and discrimination against bisexuals. Biphobia is different from homophobia or transphobia in that is seen within the LGBT community as well as in general society.
    A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to both males and females or someone who identifies as a member of this community. The frequency, intensity, or quality of attraction may not be directed toward genders equally, one may be favored over another.
    A person whose gender identity aligns with the biological sex they were assigned at birth; i.e, a female bodied person who identities as a woman
    Coming Out
    A term that refers to the process through which a person discovers and accepts their sexuality or gender identity as different than previously assumed. The process often involves the disclosure of this information with others especially friends and family. Coming out is not a single event but rather a life-long process.
    Someone who dresses in clothing that is traditionally or stereotypically worn by a different gender, but who generally has no interest in living full-time as a different gender.
    A person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone.
    Historically a derogatory term referring to a lesbian, especially a masculine one. Recently it has been reclaimed as a term of pride by many within the lesbian community. Because of the original derogatory nature it has not necessarily been accepted by all.
    Historically a derogatory term for gay men. It has been reclaimed by some as a term of pride, but not all.
    A term to indicate a female-to-male transgender individual, meaning someone who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as male. Also known as a “transgender man” or “transman.”
    A male-identified person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to other male-identified people or someone who identifies as a member of this community. Not all men who engage in homosexual behavior identify as gay. Sometimes, “gay” is used to refer to all all people, regardless of gender, whose primary sexual and or romantic attractions are to members of the same sex.
    Traditionally defined as a person’s biological sex. Gender is more appropriately defined as a the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits traditionally assigned to each gender.
    Gender Binary
    The belief that there are only two genders, men and women, and that a person’s gender identity must be one of the two rather than somewhere within the gender spectrum.
    Gender Expression
    The manner in which a person represents or expresses their gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice and/or body characteristics. Gender expression is not necessary an indication of sexual orientation.
    Gender Identity
    Refers to how one thinks of one’s own gender, whether it is masculine, feminine, or other-gendered. It is important to note gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are not necessary linked.
    Gender Non-conforming
    A term used for individuals whose gender expression does not follow society’s ideas or stereotypes based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.
    A gender variant person whose gender identity is neither entirely female or male, between or beyond genders, or some combination of genders. These people usually reject the gender binary in favor of a more fluid, nontraditional identity.
    The assumption, in individuals and/or institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexual orientations.
    The societal norms and behaviors that result from the assumption that all people are heterosexual. This system of oppression, which assumes that heterosexuality is inherently normal and superior, negates LBGT peoples’ lives and relationships
    A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to members of the other sex or someone who identifies as a member of this community.
    Thoughts, feeling, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgement, or hatred of people based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Internalized homophobia is the fear of same-sex attractions within oneself and can lead to repression, self-loathing, and depression. Institutionalized homophobia is the occurrence of homophobic laws, policies, and positions taken by social and governmental institutions. Homophobia often leads to intolerance, bigotry, and violence towards anyone not acting within heterosexual norms.
    A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to members of the same sex or someone who identifies as a member of this community.
    A person whose biological sex differs from one of the two expected patterns. This can be the result of a chromosomal combination other than XX or XY, or primary or secondary sex characteristics that defy medical definitions of male and female.
    A common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Variations include: GLBT, and the possible addition of letters and symbols including “Q” for queer or questioning, “A” for ally, “?” for questioning, and “I” for intersexed.
    A female-identified person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to other female-identified people or someone who identifies as a member of this community.
    A term to indicate a male-to-female transgender individual, meaning someone who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as female. Also known as a “transgender woman” or “transwoman.”
    The involuntary disclosure of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. There is debate within the LGBTQ community regarding the appropriateness of outing high-profile individuals.
    A person whose gender identity is comprised of all or mixed genders.
    A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to people regardless of their biological sex or gender identity.
    An umbrella term for those within the sexual minority community. Historically queer has been used as a derogatory term but has recently been reclaimed as a term of pride. Because of the original derogatory nature it has not necessarily been accepted by all as a term of pride.
    Same Gender Loving
    A term often used by members of the Black/African-American community to express same-sex attraction without relying on terms and symbols of European descent.
    Sex Realignment Surgery
    A group of surgical options that help bring a person’s biological sex in line with their gender identity. Also known as “sex reassignment surgery,” this group may include “top surgery” (the creation of a male contoured chest or breast augmentation) or “bottom surgery” (altering the genitals). “Sex change” is considered a derogatory term.
    Sexual Orientation
    A person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction with another individual.
    An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not match their sex as assigned at birth or deviate from the gender binary. This includes, but is not limited to, transsexuals, cross- dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming people. “Transgender” is a unique term in that one must identify as transgender before it can be used by others to describe them.
    The process a gender variant person undergoes when changing their bodily appearance either to be more congruent with the gender/sex they feel themselves to be and/or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.
    Often used as an umbrella term for people assigned female at birth who identify as masculine of center- – that is, they identify more closely with maleness than femaleness, and generally desire a physical appearance that reflects this identification, but do not identify as wholly male or as a man. This term often includes transmen, but the adoption of the term as an identity is a matter of personal preference.
    Thoughts, feeling, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgement, or hatred of people based on their actual or perceived gender identity. Like biphobia, transphobia can exist amongst the LBGT community.
    A person whose gender identity is not in line with their sex as assigned at birth. Often transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones or surgery in order to make it match their gender identity.
    An identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male transsexuals to signify that they are men while still affirming their history as females.
    An identity label sometimes adopted by male-to-female transsexuals to signify that they are women while still affirming their history as males.
    An umbrella term used by Indigenous North Americans who have mixed gender attributes. They usually fulfill distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved in mystical rituals. Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term ‘two-spirit’ is usually considered to specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe.
    The most common gender neutral pronouns and are preferred by some gender variant persons. Pronounced /zee/ and /here/, they replace “he”/”she” and “his”/”hers” respectively.
    LGBT Pride Flag

    The LGBT pride flag was created in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker. Originally the flag included eight stripes but colors have been removed due to fabric availability creating the current and most recognized form. Each of the six colors has a meaning; red means life, orange means healing, yellow means sunshine, green means nature, blue means harmony, and purple means spirit.

    Bisexual Pride Flag

    Designed in 1998 by Michael Page with the aim of increasing bisexual visibility within society as a whole and the LGBT community. The pink stripe represents the possibility of same gender attraction; the royal blue stripe represents the possibility of opposite gender attraction and the stripes overlap to form a deep shade of lavender or purple, which represents the possibility of attraction anywhere along the gender spectrum.

    Transgender Pride Flag

    Designed by transgender woman Monica Helms and first flown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000. Helms described the meaning “The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersex. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”

    Asexual Pride Flag

    The Asexual pride flag was created in August of 2010 to help raise awareness of asexuality. Like the other pride flags each colored stripe has a different meaning; black means asexuality, grey means grey-asexuality (a grey area between asexuality and sexuality) and demisexuality, white means sexuality, and purple means community.

    Intersex Pride Flag

    Created in 2009 by Natalie Phox to symbolize the spirit of those who are born intersexed. The two outer lavender stripes symbolize spirit, while the middle stripe blends pink and blue to symbolize the mix between female and male.

    Pansexual Pride Flag

    No single creator is known for the pansexual pride flag but it began surfacing on the internet in 2010. The pink and blue stripes on either side symbolizes female gendered persons (regardless of biological sex) and male gendered persons (again regardless of biological sex) respectively, while the gold stripe in the middle represents those who identity as a mixed gender, genderless, or as a third gender.


    The greek letter lambda was originally used as the symbol of the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in 1970 and in 1974 was officially adopted as the symbol of gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. The lambda signifies unity under oppression.

    Gay Male Symbol

    Popularized in the 1990’s. Comprised of two interlocking male gender symbols

    Double Female Symbol

    Popularized in the 1990’s. Comprised of two interlocking female gender symbols

    Transgender Symbol

    This is the most popular transgender symbol it originates from a drawing by Holly Boswell. A modification of the traditional vendor symbols, it depicts a circle with an arrow projecting from the top-right, as found in the male symbol, and a cross projecting from the bottom, as found in the female symbol, with an additional striked arrow (combining the female cross and male arrow) projecting from the top-left.