People of all ages gathered at the Pasadena City Hall Courtyard on Oct. 11 for the city’s seventh annual National Coming Out Day Celebration.
The event, hosted by the Pasadena Public Health Department, the Pasadena Public Library, and the Pasadena Parks and Recreation and Community Services Department is part of the city of Pasadena’s initiative to foster a more inclusive community.
“This event is for all ages and supports those who have come out as (LGBTQ). The city of Pasadena is proud to be an inclusive city, accepting of everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, marital status, socioeconomic status, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or disability,” said the city in a statement.
There were performances by LA Drag Queen Borgia Bloom, Mariachi Arcoiris, world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band, and speakers from the LGBTQ community. Rochelle Diamond, the keynote speaker, is an award-winning research biologist from Caltech who has dedicated much of her career to advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in the sciences.
Diamond shared her coming out story with the audience, explaining she was outed in her workplace by a homophobic coworker.
“I have been out since 1982, but let me rephrase that, I was outed in 1982 at my job,” she said.
“It was the worst day of my life, and it was the best day of my life. That experience led me to a group of like-minded people I heard about on KPFK public radio; the group was the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Scientists. (That group) completely turned my life and my head around.”
Diamond later established the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists, now known as Out to Innovate, and establish several awards for outstanding scientists and engineers who honor the legacy of LGBTQ innovators.
“We must have hope and be optimistic that our commitment to being out can make a difference,” said Diamond in the conclusion of her keynote speech. “By standing up for who we are, we make a difference, we change minds. We bring hope to our young people as they bring hope and courage to us. We cannot be intimidated.”
The significance of National Coming Out Day
Pasadena’s annual National Coming Out Day celebration on Oct. 11 falls on the anniversary of 1987’s National March on Washington, D.C., for Lesbian and Gay Rights, considered one of the most pivotal moments in the LGBTQ human rights moment.
As a holiday, National Coming Out Day was orchestrated by Richard Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, the head of the NGRA at the time, in 1988, by the West Hollywood offices of the National Gay Rights Advocates (NGRA) in honor of the first anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
In Pasadena, the history of National Coming Out day goes back to 1987, when the city organized a local rally on the stops of city hall to support those marching at the capitol. Diamond was also a speaker at the 1987 rally.
“We have come a long way as a community and Pasadena has made strides over the years…The beginnings of the fight for inclusion publicly started at that rally and continue to this day.” Diamond told the crowd during this year’s address.
One in two Americans know someone who is gay or lesbian and one in 10 know someone who is transgender. In 1993, Eichberg said, “Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”
Ahead of the event, Diamond shared her thoughts on the importance of events like this one.
“It means everything because this is how we empower ourselves, is to be out. We need to be able to be out so we can find each other, mentor each other, talk to our families … (and) overcome the barriers to achievement that many of us have,” she explained.
Coming out resources
Diamond’s No. 1 piece of advice for someone interested in coming out is to reach out to their community. There are multiple local and national organizations with resources for someone that may be struggling with their identity, wants to reach out to the LGBTQ community, or is looking for information on how to become a better ally.
The Trevor Project: The Coming Out Handbook
This handbook serves as a resource for those questioning their sexual and gender identity. It goes through the basics of sexual orientation, sex versus gender, and romantic expressions. Then, it provides strategies for planning a coming out conversation, from timing, location, and safety. The Trevor Project, whose mission is to end suicide among queer youth, has 24/7 support lines, counselors, and an active online community with over 400,000 members worldwide.
Local Support: San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center
Formerly the Pasadena Pride Center, SGVLGBTQC serves Pasadena and the greater San Gabriel Valley area. They were founded in 2011 and focus on developing programs and resources specific to the San Gabriel Valley community. They have programming, peer support groups, and a radio station. They also have a list of other local resources, including legal centers.
For Culture- and Faith-Based Resources: Family Acceptance Project
The Family Acceptance Project is a research, education, and intervention initiative that has worked for the last 20 years to create “evidence-based family support model to help ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families to support their LGBTQ children.” Their website has culture based, fact based, and faith based resources and can connect people with local organizations.
For Families of LGBTQ Youth: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
There are many resources available for the parents and loved ones of someone who has recently come out. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have a chapter in Pasadena where you can learn how to be a better ally and best support your LGBTQ loved one through their coming out process.