FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Every LGBTQ person has their own, unique, coming out story and October 11th, for many, is a day to share it.
National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day is observed each year on October 11th, the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Many people choose this day to come out to family and friends as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
It’s also a day for people to share their coming out stories to help others through the process.
This year marks the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, about half of all Americans have someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10.
Conversation with Fort Wayne Pride Director Nikki Fultz
Nikki Fultz has been on the board of directors for Fort Wayne Pride for 19 years. She helps organize the yearly Fort Wayne Pride Festival held every summer in downtown Fort Wayne. WANE 15’s Ruben Solis spoke to her about the significance of National Coming Out Day.
Ruben: What is National Coming Out Day?
Nikki: I think National Coming Out Day is a reminder to everyone in our country about the importance of being able to be true to yourself. I think a lot of people, if you are not in the LGBTQ community, don’t realize the struggle that we might have where we have to come out daily, it’s not a once a year thing. But it’s more of the idea of giving people the bravery, sometimes they need that little push, so this day is there for those that need it. It’s also a reminder to all people that LGBTQ people need to be visible and need to be seen in order for us to gain equality.
Why is it necessary to come out?
Nikki: Being true to who you are. This is just a part of me, but it is a big part of me. I am married to a woman and we have children. That question especially like ‘Oh, is your husband here?’ or asking about being married and things like that, I don’t want to lie. It’s not like I’m running around like here I am, but if people ask questions I am not going to lie or go around it, it is just what it is.
Can you tell us your coming out story?
Nikki: When I was 14, I had already talked several times, even starting when I was 7 or 8 years old, about wanting to grow up and marry a girl, so my parents had an inclining. My mom just asked and I confirmed. It was a long time ago, it was a different time. My parents were just concerned about my safety and my ability to be happy someday because they had a lot of not correct stereotypes just from what they had seen here in Fort Wayne. There was some struggle at the beginning with them coming to terms with it. But as they saw who I was and saw me blossom into being happy in my personal life [and] to make differences in other people’s lives, then I was able to do that. It’s so slow coming out and afterwards you come out to friends and extended family and coworkers and stuff. You know, it’s not just that one story, it just keeps coming. So, I think, there’s a variety of stories that have happened over the years, but that was the first.
Many people are sharing their stories on social media today. How important is it to be visible?
Nikki: Social media was a huge game changer for the LGBTQ community because when you are isolated and you are in those pockets of rural areas in small towns, I think you don’t see yourself portrayed very well. It’s getting better in the media, but you don’t see those everyday people out there just living their life. So I think being able to see social media and connect to other people in that way has been a great, but then as people have become more comfortable, they are coming out more. And living their lives and being themselves. Unfortunately, youth still have the fear of being kicked out for who they are and not accepted, bullied. We still have some ways to go, but it’s a lot different than it was a couple decades ago.
Any last thoughts?
Nikki: Anytime we can bring us together, that whole idea of love and just getting to know who your neighbors are, not necessarily literally, but metaphorically, just reaching out and getting to know people that are different than you, not just LGBTQ people, but all differences. I think we’ll gain a more powerful world if we connect together instead of continuing to divide. And that’s definitely my hope for the future that we can find more love and people can just get over some of those differences and actually grow to understand who people are.
Coming Out on Social Media
The hashtags #NationalComingOutDay and #ComingOutDay are used by many on Twitter, both LGBTQ members and allies, to mark the day. Often people share personal stories and give advice for anyone struggling with coming out. CBS News Lead National Correspondent David Begnaud shared this tweet:
WANE 15’s Ruben Solis shared this post: