National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day, celebrated each year on October 11, began in 1988, one year following the second national march for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in Washington, DC. Over half a million people gathered for that march in 1987.
Many congregations acknowledge National Coming Out Day in one way or another. Some congregations center an entire service around it. Others provide a reading or take a moment to light a candle in honor of the day. Other congregations join community celebrations or take the opportunity to do social justice work.
10 Ways to Come Out as a Welcoming Congregation
- Hold a service that address LGBTQ issues and advertise it widely. Be sure to take leadership from people of all ages within your congregation who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.
- Fly a rainbow flag and/or add language and/or symbolism to your congregation’s road sign.
- Advertise in local and regional publications, newsletters, bulletin boards, and more—online and physical, LGBTQ-focused and generally focused.
- Place a note in your Orders of Service that states your welcome, and/or include an affirmation statement as a regular part of your call to worship.
- If your congregation has a website, proclaim your welcome of LGBTQ people there, and consider how else you can make your website welcoming to LGBTQ visitors.
- Build and strengthen relationships with local LGBTQ organizations and groups. Check out Equality Federation and CenterLink to find LGBTQ advocacy groups or centers near you.
- Host a community forum, panel discussion, film screening, or other event on an LGBTQ-related topic, and promote it widely in your community.
- Host an LGBTQ-related interfaith event or service to bring people together in a safe space. You could offer to bless same-gender unions in your congregation or honor transgender individuals through gender-affirming ceremonies.
- Develop a ministry initiative for an LGBTQ population in particular need in your area, in partnership with a local LGBTQ group or organization—for example, queer and trans youth, LGBTQ elders, or undocumented LGBTQ individuals. You could start with a community needs assessment.
- Take action for the rights and needs of LGBTQ people! Explore options in terms of the different ways to do social action: for example, direct service, legislative advocacy, and education, in addition to witness. Utilize Standing on the Side of Love. Visit our take action pages for more ideas.
Resources on Coming Out and National Coming Out Day
- 10 Ways You Can Make a Difference on National Coming Out Day
- The Coming Out Project from the Human Rights Campaign
- Coming Out Guides from the Human Rights Campaign
- National Coming Out Day on Facebook
Sermons and Worship Resources
- “When a Church Comes Out of the Closet” by Thomas Mikelson, First Parish in Cambridge, MA, Unitarian Universalist, October 14, 2001
- “Straight Talk About Coming Out” by Rev. Alison Cornish, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, Bridgehampton, NY, October 8, 2006
- “Going to the Chapel” by Rev. John P. Manwell, Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, MD, April 10, 2005
- Worship resources from the Religious Institute in honor of National Coming Out Day
- Coming Out Prayers from MyOutSpirit.org
- “Holding Sacred Space: Coming Out as Welcoming Congregations” by Alex Kapitan, Standing on the Side of Love, October 4, 2012
- “An Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Gay Youth Suicides: It’s Time to Act Out Loud” by Debra Haffner, The Washington Post, October 4, 2010
- “Taking Care of Out Teens” by Kai Wright, Beacon Broadside, October 11, 2007
- “14 Reasons Why It’s Not Okay to Out Someone as Trans,” American Trans Man, April 18, 2012
- “Paradoxes of National Coming Out Day” by Emily Douglas, The Nation, October 11, 2011
- Stories from Unitarian Universalists Honoring National Coming Out Day 2010
- “Coming Out Stories: HuffPost Readers Share Their Experiences,” October 16, 2010
- “Inspiring Others Through Our Own Stories,” by Dan Furmansky, Standing on the Side of Love, January 20, 2012
- Share your own story of how your congregation is honoring National Coming Out Day by emailing love [at] uua [dot] org!
Lighting a Candle
October 11th is National Coming Out Day. This day celebrates those lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people who have braved fears of discrimination, rejection, hatred, and violence to lead open lives of authenticity.
We take a moment to celebrate our friends, family members, and others whose courage has paved the way for others by coming out.
This candle is one of gratitude and one of hope. Gratitude for those who have gone before. Hope that those who come out in the future will find the road easier to navigate and a life of wholeness more possible.
We come out as Unitarian Universalists to celebrate the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people and to be a faith that works for justice, equity, and compassion among all people.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
Dorothy’s famous phrase in The Wizard of Oz seem particularly appropriate as we celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11th.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people have been coming out for decades and we’ve gone from a place of fear and unknowing to a celebration of humanity and a quest for justice and equality.
Our journey is worth celebrating.
In 1969, transgender, queer, bisexual, gay, and lesbian people (most of whom were people of color) came out by refusing to go quietly when the police of New York City raided the Stonewall Bar.
Holly Near repeatedly has given Unitarian Universalist congregations credit for being places where bisexual, queer, lesbian, gay, and transgender people could meet socially, spiritually, and politically when no other place besides bars would open their doors.
In 1970, Unitarian Universalism became the first religious faith to speak out against discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
We provided inclusive sexuality education for our children, welcomed people of all sexual orientations into our ministry, worked to end our own homophobia, and spoke against injustice in the wider world. Our congregations became places where same-sex couples could hold ceremonies of union, where youth could come out, where people could be whole human beings.
Our first Welcoming Congregation was recognized in 1991. Today over half of all Unitarian Universalist congregations are recognized as Welcoming Congregations.
We have worked for equal marriage and Unitarian Universalists were among the first to license, marry, and be married in same-sex weddings in progressive places.
At one time, even we, Unitarian Universalists who knew the right thing, were afraid to express our support. Today, our congregations fly rainbow flags, march in pride parades, and speak out locally and nationally for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.
Unitarian Universalists stood by the fence where Matthew Shepard was left to die, rallied for fired city manager and trans woman Susan Stanton, testified to state and congressional legislators for equal rights, and celebrated the progress that we have witnessed and helped create over the years.
Dorothy, we have come out. We have clicked our heels together and are continuing to make our congregations a welcoming home for people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
And Dorothy, you said it best: There’s no place like home.