LGBTQ and allies reflect on National Coming Out Day in NYC

Powerful symbols of coming out can be found strung along the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, where pride flags decorated the building Thursday on the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.

Corey Jackson, 24, of Manhattan, who was nearby the landmark bar, said he personally knows how coming out to family and friends can be a struggle.

“I came from a judgmental family, and I was afraid to come out,” said Jackson, who knew he was gay since he was 15. “I was terrified to tell my friends because what would they think? And even more so, what about my family? I waited until I was 22 to finally show them my ‘true colors.’” 

Jackson said his parents and friends all assured him he didn’t have to hide who he was. 

"They told me to always be myself, and they were right," said Jackson. “Now today I embrace who I am. That’s what National Coming Out Day is all about — a day to celebrate who you are and [to] never be ashamed of it. If you’re gay, say it and be proud.”

National Coming Out Day’s roots date to 1987, when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. A variety of gay rights organizations were born in the aftermath of the demonstration, and Oct. 11 — the day the march occurred — was chosen as a national day to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

The initiative promotes a “safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly,” the Human Rights Campaign wrote on its website. 

Diana Pearlman, 34, of Valhalla, N.Y., describes herself as an active member in the LGBTQ rights movement.

"I have many friends who have come out, and all I welcomed with arms wide open. My best friend is gay; it doesn’t change who she is as a person," Pearlman said. "The LGBTQ rights movement is something I believe everyone should be involved in. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not; everyone is equal."

The Village’s Stonewall Inn were the site of a series of riots in 1969 after police raided the club, during a time when same-sex relations were illegal in New York City. The rebellion at the bar, which is designated a National Historic Landmark, is often celebrated as the flashpoint of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Masai Ji, a foreign exchange student from Japan, stood outside of the Stonewall Inn with two of her friends, admiring the flags.

“I think it’s very effective,” Ji said. “This society is very judgmental and it can be difficult if you come from a background or culture that doesn’t allow or frowns upon it.”