CLEVELAND — Monday, Oct. 11, is the 33rd National Coming Out Day.
The Human Rights Commission said this day serves "as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out."
After the isolation of the first pandemic year, experts said it's more important than ever to create a safe space for people coming out.
"It really is about finding your own truth," said Denise Astorino.
She works at the LGBT Center of Cleveland and identifies as a lesbian.
Her coming out story, that story about her truth, makes her laugh.
Twenty years ago when she came out to her father, she wasn't sure how he would respond. His response was lighthearted and supportive. After she told him she was attracted to women, Astorino said her father joked, "so am I."
National Coming Out Day is for all coming out stories; the ones that bring laughs and the stories that don't. These coming out stories are said aloud so LGBTQ+ people can find their community.
"We can be that welcoming," Astorino said about how LGBTQ people can treat people coming out.
The community created by National Coming Out Day is crucial for people coming out during the pandemic. Gary DiBianca, the co-chair of GLSEN Northeast Ohio, said it's imperative, especially for young people.
"Students' sense of belonging was definitely at a low point," he said.
He said creating a safe space for all people, not just young people, takes one simple but crucial step.
"It's important to be visible that you can listen."
Astorino said the pandemic changed how we should approach people.
"And I think that the way we approach people is with kinder hearts, softer touch and a more open mind," she said.
National Coming Out Day is also for LGBTQ people who are already out; giving them a chance to reframe how they belong in the world.