The day was founded by Dr. Robert Eichberg and Jean O'Leary in 1988, in celebration of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights one year earlier, in which 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC, USA, for gay and lesbian equality. National Coming Out Day events are aimed at raising awareness of the LGBT community among the general populace in an effort to give a familiar face to the LGBT rights movement.
In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign manages the event under the National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives. Candace Gingrich became the spokesperson for the day in April 1995.
National Coming Out Day was not observed in 2001 in the United States as it occurred on the one month anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite its name, National Coming Out Day, so call because it originated as a national event in the United States, is observed in many countries, including Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain.