National Coming Out Day: 24th Annual Celebration of LGBT Community

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Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, Oct. 11 marks the 24th annual National Coming Out Day (NCOD) in celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride within the community.

First celebrated in 1988, National Coming Out Day was a concept created by The Experience founder Rob Eichberg and former head of the National Gay Rights Advocates Jean O'Leary following a March on Washington demonstration on Oct. 11, 1987. With a new theme each year, this year's theme is Coming Out for Equality.

National Coming Out Day strives to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly, according to the HRC, which encourages people to open up about their sexual orientation.

With each passing year National Coming Out Day takes on increased importance, HRC President Joe Solmonese said.  As we celebrate major victories like marriage equality in New York and the repeal of the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, it is important to remember that the more we as LGBT people tell our stories and engage others, the more victories we will achieve

Celebrated nationwide, the goal is to promote an acceptance for the LGBT community in an effort to eliminate physical and emotional violence, especially self-inflicted highly prevalent in the youth.

According a 2009 survey from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), four in five gay students were verbally harassed at school because of their sexuality. In addition, LGBT youths in grades 7 through 12 are twice as likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.

For NCOD, Whirpool Corporation has teamed up with It Gets Better, posting a video campaign which focuses on inspiring LGBT youth to overcome bullying and harassment, and hopes to prevent teen suicide as a result.

Just last month, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer made headlines after he committed suicide, following years of bullying in Buffalo, NY. His suicide followed after he submitted his own video for the It Gets Better project to inspire other gay youths like himself.

According to Rodemeyer's mother, Tracy, Jamey seemed strong, after speaking to his family and counselors openly about his sexual orientation.

It was a constant taunting. The same people over and over, Tracy told NBC affiliate WGRZ. Lately, he's been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was.

Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better project posted on his personal blog about the sad news of participant Jamey Rodemeyer taking his life.

The point of the 'It Gets Better' project is to give kids like Jamey Rodemeyer hope for their futures. But sometimes hope isn't enough, he wrote. Sometimes the damage done by hate and by haters is simply too great. Sometimes the future seems too remote. And those are the times our hearts break.

Since this incident, many celebrities have taken a stance to end violence brought on by gay bullying, including the likes of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha.

Following Rodemeyer's suicide, Lady Gaga increased her activism. Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime, she tweeted. I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it.

Gaga reportedly took her cause straight to the President, where she attended a Democratic Campaign dinner on Sept. 25 to press Obama to help in efforts to stop bullying in the youth.

Ke$ha took to the occasion of National Coming Out Day by creating a special t-shirt featuring a zebra and the message We R Who We R. The proceeds from the t-shirt will go directly to HRC for efforts to achieve equality in the LGBT community.

The Human Rights Campaign also launched a Facebook app in honor of National Coming Out Day, which allows social media users to dedicate their status on Oct. 11 for the cause. The app automatically posts a status which reads, Today is National Coming Out Day! I am gay and I am coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Join me in donating your status and come out for LGBT equality and a shortened version to 140 characters compatible for Twitter.

In addition, others are taking it upon themselves to celebrate National Coming Out Day on social media. Among the countless posts, one user, @MChangWMHS, included an inspirational quote from someone who needs no introduction.

Happy National Coming Out Day - 'Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.' - Dr. Seuss , Chang tweeted.

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