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You can socialize over wine and cheese. Listen to a panel discussion. Watch an LGBTQ+ film classic. Do karaoke, or make crafts or earrings. You can study history, listen to others’ “coming out” stories, or tell your own.

Ways to celebrate National Coming Out Day Oct. 11 and LGBTQ+ History Month throughout October are plentiful in Illinois and Iowa this year. You’ll find events hosted by nonprofits, libraries, museums and coffee shops. Among the communities where events are happening in the next three weeks: Davenport, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Omaha near Council Bluffs in Iowa; and Rock Island, Evanston, DeKalb, Peoria, Normal, and Fox Valley in Illinois. You can even join an online event that also celebrates “two-spirited” people – an indigenous term for people who embody both genders.

Origins of National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ History Month

National Coming Out Day first became a special day in 1988, when a gay man and a lesbian joined forces to honor the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987.  Since then, National Coming Out Day is almost as big of a tradition for LGBTQ+ people as Pride celebrations, which were originally intended to mark the pivotal Stonewall Uprising of June 1969.

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Pesky Librarians offers some recommended reading for LGBTQ+ History Month. (photo courtesy Flicker-Pesky Librarians)

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LGBTQ+ History Month, which spans all of October, began in 1994, when a high school teacher in St. Louis, Mo., started it to build around National Coming Out Day and share what he’d learned coming to grips with his own sexuality, writes LGBTHistoryMonth.com. That teacher, Rodney Wilson, went on to write the first-ever article about gay history published by the Missouri Historical Society, and to organize a gay film festival at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“Gay History Month continued into the late ’90s, but lost momentum when no organization would take responsibility for its observance and financial resources grew scarce,” writes LGBTHistoryMonth.com. The celebration received new life in 2006 when the nonprofit Equality Forum was formed.

The American Psychological Association has stepped forward with its own support of National Coming Out Day, with resources for coming out and privacy and inclusivity guidelines on those gathering data about gender and sexual identity. The APA says the day is not about “coming out” publicly, but about honoring the many different ways (including private ones) that LGBTQ+ people arrive at the point of accepting their own sexuality and/or gender identity.

For another perspective on “coming out,” see the Cass Model for Homosexual Identity Development, developed by researcher Vivienne Cass in 1979 as the first-ever non-stigmatizing approach to homosexual development. Cass described “coming out” as a six-stage process:

  1. Confusion: first manifestations of homosexual awareness of, thoughts, feelings, and attractions
  2. Comparison: when an individual considers the possibility that they might identify as LGBTQ+  and “confront society’s response to that identification”
  3. Tolerance: feelings of isolation that lead one to search for other LGBTQ+ people
  4. Acceptance: positive feelings toward one’s identity and the LGBTQ+ community 
  5. Pride: LGBTQ+ issues and activities dominate one’s life, along with “occasional feelings of anger toward the heterosexual community,” and
  6. Synthesis: the LGBTQ+ identity is accepted publicly and privately

National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ History Month in the Quad Cities

Speakers, karaoke, open mic and food at Augustana College, 6 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: Come hear speakers, music and community leaders at this student-organized event. You can also enjoy karaoke and food at this free event, happening at the Gerber Center for Student Life.

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Quad Cities Pride in Memory will host a National Coming Out Day event Oct. 11.

Quad Cities Pride in Memory Wine & Cheese at the Putnam Museum, 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: Come help celebrate the release of six giant panels showcasing local LGBTQ+ history from the 1960s to now, at this 7 p.m. free reception at the Putnam Museum. The unveiling is a key step in the growth of Quad Cities Pride in Memory, a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting the relatively unknown, “word of mouth only” history of the Quad Cities area. Artist Sarah Robb guided the panels’ creation after listening to 20 interviews with LGBTQ+ people from the Quad Cities. The evening will also include a guest representing Fourth Wall Films which is working with Pride in Memory to create a documentary. Some Augustana College students will also participate.

Clock Inc. library in Rock Island, Ill.

Clock Inc., whose Rock Island headquarters include a resource library, will host an open mic event Tues., Oct. 11.

Panel and Open Mic by Clock Inc., 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: Gather at Clock Inc.’s Rock Island headquarters to hear “LGBT+ community members on their coming out stories,” the group says. A panel, members of which have not yet been announced, will share at 7 p.m., and an “open mic” section open to anyone starts at 7:45 p.m. Clock Inc. is in the mall at 4102 46th Ave. Clock Inc.; for more information, see Clock Inc.’s website, or its Facebook page.

National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ History Month Events in Iowa City

“Our Story” story-telling event, 5-7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: The Pride Alliance Center at the University of Iowa presents a chance to share your story about coming out. Gather at the University Capitol Centre.

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Queering the Teacher, Thurs., Oct. 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Join the Pride Alliance Center and the LGBTQ+ Iowa Archives and Library for a roundtable discussion about LGBTQ+ history and education.

Pride Alliance Center logo

Pride Alliance Center at the University of Iowa will host several events through the month of October in recognition of National Coming Out Day and LGBTQ+ History Month.

Queer Latinidad, Thurs., Oct. 13, 6-8 p.m.: Partake of queer “Latin/x-a-o” artists, and discussions about their work and their impact.

Queering Spirituality, Tues., Oct. 18, 7-9 p.m.: students will lead this discussion “about the intersection of queer identities and spiritual and religious identities, the history of queerness in spirituality, and religious queer experience.”

Open Archives Night, Wed., Oct. 19, 5:30 p.m.:  Check out the archives of the LGBTQ Iowa Archives & Library (LIAL), and “learn more about the materials we collect, the stories archives tell, and what our artifacts say about us!” A donation of $5 is requested.

LIAL Movie Night, Fri., Oct. 28, 7-9 p.m.: The LGBTQ+ Archives and Library (LIAL) invites community members to gather at Close House, 538 S. Gilbert St., to view a classic LGBTQ+ film yet to be announced. LIAL is a nonprofit based in Iowa City that dedicated to documenting the history of LGBTQ+ people in Iowa. A donation of $5 is requested; for more information go to the LIAL Movie Night Facebook page.

Make Your Own Pronoun Earrings, Sat., Oct. 29, 4-5:40 p.m.: Beadology Iowa hosts this fun all-ages class where students will learn to “stamp and dap” copper discs with the pronouns of their choice, oxidize the discs if they choose, then convert them into stylish earrings that also include a bead of choice. Pre-registration required here! 

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Beadology Iowa in Iowa City hosts a class to make your own pronoun earrings Oct. 29.

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National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ History in Des Moines

Proclamations, music and socializing, in Des Moines. Thurs., Oct. 13, 5:30 p.m.: Gather at the George Pappajohn Sculpture Park, near the Three Dancing Figures sculpture for a proclamation reading, music and socializing. In case of rain, head to Polk County River Place, Room 1A. This event is offered by the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission.

LGBTQ Legacy Leader Awards in Des Moines, 4:30-7 p.m. Oct. 19: Five LGBTQ+ leaders and allies from Des Moines, one from Iowa City, and one from Davenport will be honored at this annual ceremony, a collaboration between One Iowa and dsm Magazine. Tickets are $25-$55 and benefit One Iowa; order here.

National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ History Month in Illinois

Story-telling in Evanston, Mon., Oct. 10, 7 p.m.: Gather at the Peckish Pig to hear local LGBTQ+ members share about their coming out stories, in this event coordinated by Evanston Pride. This gathering starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to all.

National Coming Out Day with Belong Fox Valley

Belong: Fox Valley and the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church team up for this family-friendly event Oct. 11.

Food, crafts and more with Belong: Fox Valley, 6-8 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: The newly renamed “Belong: Fox Valley” joins with Fox Valley Presbyterian Church for this evening of family-friendly, free fun including tacos, cookies, crafting and a panel discussion. 

National Coming Out Day: Supporting Your LGBTQ+ Kid, DeKalb, 6 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: A panel of teens, parents and experts will talk about how to support children and youth when they come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  This event is appropriate for adults and teens and takes place at the DeKalb Public Library and is presented in partnership with Youth Outlook. You can pre-submit questions to Britta at brittak@dkpl.org, but pre-registration is not required.

Music Recital Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, Normal, 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 11: Come her compositions by Midori Samson, Dennis Tobenski, Eris DeJarnett, Billy Strayhorn, Eve Beglarian, Aaron Copland, Reynaldo Hahn, and Samuel Barber, performed by the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts and the School of Music at Illinois State University. Admission is $6 to $10.

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LGBTQ+-themed films, Carbondale, 3-6 p.m. Oct. 13, 20 and 27: Southern Illinois University hosts LGBTQ+-themed films every Thursday through October. Scheduled: “A Fantastic Woman,” “Brother to Brother,” and “Two Spirits.” These film events are free.

LGBTQ+ History Month Films, Peoria, 3-5 p.m. Oct. 15, 22 and 29: Mature films take place every Saturday through October at the Peoria Public Library. Still to come: “Rafiki,” “Tom of Finland,” and at least one other film. Adults only!

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, Edwardsville, 3 p.m. Oct. 15: Hear from LGBTQ+ History Month founder Rodney Wilson, and see a documentary about him titled “Taboo Teaching.” This event takes place in the Fuller Dome. Capacity is limited to 50; you can pre-register here!

Online

Join transgender, nonbinary social media influencer Cal Capos for “Come As You Are,” an online opportunity to share coming-out stories. This event is also presented by Rainbow Space and The Red Dot Project. Pre-registration is required here.