Here's Everything You Need to Know About National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11

National Coming Out Day is celebrated on Oct. 11 each year, and marks the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987

Gay Pride Parade Winds Through New York City
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It's news worth celebrating!

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an annual celebration with a goal of shining light on individuals within the LGBTQ+ community and their decisions to share their gender identities and sexual orientation with the public.

Additionally, the purpose of National Coming Out Day, which takes place on Oct. 11, is not only to celebrate those who've already come out, but to support those who choose to keep their identity a secret, or perhaps encourage someone to come out who's been thinking about it.

The title of the day, "coming out," doesn't just signify a single event. The term stems from the longer phrase "coming out of the closet," which is a metaphor for the process of recognizing, accepting, and outwardly sharing one's identity, so that an LGBTQ+ person can live freely and openly as their true, authentic selves.

Participants of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights carry a banner as they parade in front of the White House, Washington, D.C. U.S. Park Police have estimated that some 50,000 are participating in the march Gay National March on Washington 1987, Washington, USA

Oct. 1 marks the beginning of LGBTQ+ history month, and this year will be the 33rd anniversary of National Coming Out Day, which was inspired by a single march.

On Oct. 11, 1987 in Washington D.C., the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights reportedly drew over 200,000, participants to the country's capital, and generated momentum that lasted 4 months following the act. This important piece of the past paved the way for the present.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and more (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, has chosen an annual theme surrounding the event for the past 15 years. The earliest theme was set in 1999, titled "Come Out To Congress." This year's theme is "Born to Shine."

Sir Ian McKellen walking through Piccadilly Circus during Pride in London 2019 on July 06, 2019 in London, England
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Countless notable names and famous figures, including actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, and more have shared their coming out stories, helping generate awareness and further advancing the movement for equality.

One star who recently came out in the public eye is superstar Lil Nas X, who says his success in the music industry was what finally convinced him to come out.

"I don't think I would have ever came out," before his breakout hit "Old Town Road," he told XXL, but "I honestly felt like it was kind of my duty. Especially if I wanted to move forward ... authenticity is very real, and I feel like people can see right through that. And that's a part of me."

Lil Nas X
Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Just because National Coming Out Day takes place on Oct. 11 doesn't mean there's undue pressure on people to make announcements before they're ready. For some celebrities, it's been a lifetime in the works. Recently, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark star Cassandra Peterson came out at age 70 after hiding a 19-year-long relationship with her partner Teresa "T" Wierson.

Peterson told PEOPLE, "It's so much nicer to just be who you are and I mean, if I can't be who I am by the age of 70, then, oh my God, I'm in big trouble, right? People keep saying, 'Why now?' And I say, 'Because if not now, when? When I'm 100?' "

For more inspiring coming out stories, check out the collection of interviews and personal essays gathered by PEOPLE's Deputy West Coast Editor, Jason Sheeler. The powerful collection tells the stories of extraordinary individuals within the LGBTQ+ community, ranging from everyday Americans to celebrities with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

The Trevor Project and the CDC are just a few of the many resources that provide more information and services to help members of the LGBTQ community come out; and here are resources to help you be a supportive ally to LGBTQ teens.

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