National Coming Out Day UK 11th October 2021
💇♀️ Emma Barber
Wild x Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline is a national helpline which provides confidential advice and support for LGBT+ community members (although everyone is welcome to call!). This is an important partnership for us because we are seeking to build a diverse and inclusive culture that promotes and embraces people from all backgrounds and we feel showcasing the work of Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline is a great way to act on this commitment. Whilst this is an exclusive charity launch, Wild is committed to being an inclusive brand 365 days a year, where all armpits are welcome and celebrated.
What is Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline?
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline is one of the UK’s longest running, volunteer-led charities serving the LGBT+ communities. As a national helpline, they serve on average 18,000 callers a year across phone, instant messaging and email. However you need to reach out, you can, from 10am-10pm every day. Whilst they were established to provide vital signposting and information to LGBT+ communities, they are a service open to all. They are a confidential, non-directive service and they’re here to listen and support people to make informed decisions for themselves, and they’ll do this until the phone stops ringing. Wild has been talking with the team at Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline about how else we can help over here on the Wild side, and we’re going to take the opportunity to talk about National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day: what is it?
National Coming Out Day is an annual LGBT+ awareness day which celebrates members of the LGBT+ community who are living their life openly, letting friends, family, and more know who they really are, and being their authentic selves. The process of coming out can be extremely daunting for many, however it helps fight against the toxic silence that homophobia and LGBT+ based discrimination thrives on.
How did it start?
The first National Coming Out Day was in 1988, thanks to Robert Eichberg (Gay Rights activist, leader, and psychologist) and Jean O'Leary (political leader and activist, leader of the National Gay Rights Advocates in LA). This day of positivity and celebration of those in the LGBT+ community was established because many LGBT+ activists did not want to react defensively to the anti-LGBT+ action at the time, as this would have been predictable. It’s also too easy for the media to spin defensive reactions as aggressive action, and build up a negative image for the community in the press - so they marched the other way! The 11th October was chosen as the day because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This event was actually 5 days long from the 8th-13th October - here is a leaflet from this march with their demands. Some mark the time, such as those relating to the AIDS crisis and the lack of support around this, but some are (sadly) more timeless, and we still see some of these basic rights being fought for today. This is why this celebration, this marked day in history, remains important for us all.
Coming Out is more than a day
As with many celebrations/commemorations, coming out is not a 24 hour thing. Coming out doesn’t happen just once on one day, in one week, in one month. Due to heteronormativity and culturally ingrained social expectations around gender and sexuality, coming out can be a bit of a full-time thing! Let’s start dismantling those assumptions and get asking the right questions - a good place to start is reading about LGBT+ politics, history, and news from those within the LGBT+ community.
Remember that coming out is a very personal choice, and should never be forced on someone. If anyone ever comes out to you, take a moment to realise how much bravery, energy, and trust this has taken. Never diminish it. Whether this be a teenager coming out to their parents and friends, whether this be someone in their mid-40s coming out to their work colleagues and life-long friends, or whether it be a grandparent coming out to their grandchildren. It is an honour for someone to feel comfortable enough to truly introduce themselves to you, whenever they feel able. Whilst it may seem kind to say things like “it doesn’t matter to me”, or “well, duh, we all know”, these are not the best things to say, as it does not respect the importance of what has just been shared. It’s a big deal! Let them know you are grateful they have told you, show them that you are an ally through your words and actions, and assure them you will keep informed about LGBT+ history and politics so you can deepen your understanding, and be there to support them however they need.
Not only have they come out to you, but they’ve also invited you in.
If you have any questions about coming out, sexuality, gender identity, mental and sexual health, or simply need someone to listen, know that Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline are open 10am-10pm everyday on the phone via 0300 330 0630, on instant messaging service here, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.