Bay Area celebrates National Coming Out Day

Oct. 11th marks National Coming Out Day.

The Bay Area is known around the world for its vibrant LGBTQIA+ community and is considered an important player in the gay rights movement.

Gay bars are a safe space for members of the community to turn to for acceptance.

National Coming Out Day is a time when some people decide to come out to their friends and family.

After about three hours' worth of hair and makeup, a star is born.

Summer Lynn Spears is a drag queen.

"Some people like to throw some money at us which definitely helps to boost the ego," Spears told KTVU. "And you know I’ll do another split for you!"

Spears hit the stage at ‘Wednesday Are a Drag: Halloqueen Edition,’ at Port Bar in Oakland.

"We don’t just come here to party," Bar manager Brendon Birch said. "We come here to create friendships."

It’s a gathering place for those who may not feel comfortable being themselves anywhere else.

"Growing up, I definitely had a journey coming out," Spears said. "I came from a very religious background. So, it wasn’t always easy but as I grew up and came out to my family, it was actually a lot easier than I was, you know, expecting."

From nightlife to activism, National Coming Out Day started in 1988 with demonstrators calling for an end to sexual orientation discrimination during the March on Washington.

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But many believe the heart and soul of the gay rights movement is in the Bay Area. 

"The original rainbow flag was created here," historian Andrew Shaffer told KTVU.

Shaffer works for the GLBT Museum in the Castro.

No, that’s not a typo but a previously common acronym. 

Shaffer teaches that gay icons like San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk are critical to making progress.

Milk would earn his spot in history as one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. before his assassination in 1978.

"Even still in 2023, a lot of places still aren’t welcoming," Shaffer said. "A lot of families aren’t welcoming. Communities don’t really have a place for queer people to belong. So, to know that there is a city, a neighborhood, a group of people where we can belong to, I think it is incredibly powerful." 

Drag shows are just one of those special places where everyone is welcome and free to be themselves.

"It’s scary to come out," Spears said. "But once you do, your life is going to be so much better."

Resources are available to anyone who is struggling with sexuality on KTVU's web links.