Greg Casale still remembers visiting a Lambda Rising bookstore as a teen. It was the early 1990s, and he was living on the East Coast, where the bookstore specializing in gay and lesbian literature got its start. “I walked over and got a book about important gay people in history,” Casale recalls. “It let me know I wasn’t alone in my sexual identity.”
Casale, now 41 and living with his husband Jordan in Phoenix, was 15 when he told his parents he was gay. “It was a very different landscape back then,” he says. “At the time it felt like a revolutionary act, and I don’t think it’s different now.” Despite progress made in LBGT rights, there’s still plenty of discrimination.
“There’s a conception that being part of the LGBT group is fine and okay now, but anybody who is part of an out group knows that there’s an entire underbelly of nastiness,” Casale says. So he’s working to raise awareness about coming out, hoping to help others feel less isolated about their sexuality.
Recently, he’s been helping to plan an event called ARTsplat, which is designed to celebrate National Coming Out Day on Thursday, October 11. National Coming Out Day began on October 11, 1988, a year after a national march for gay and lesbian rights in Washington, D.C.
The event includes a mix of visual and performance art, focused on sharing the diversity of gay experience and culture. “Queer people often feel vilified for expressing their identity, and historically we’ve been cast into the shadows,” Casale says. “For a person wrestling with issues of identity, art can be a point of inspiration.”
It’s one of several National Coming Out Day events happening here in the Valley on October 11. National Coming Out Day started 30 years ago, and advocates like Marshall Shore still see its value. Shore is program manager for the Arizona LGBT History Project, which launched in 2017. “It’s a chance for people to tell their stories, and for people who aren’t at that point yet,” Shore says.
That’s especially important here in Arizona, he says. “There are so many communities in Arizona known for not accepting LGBTQ people, so it’s more important than ever to hear people share their stories.”
Shore came out when he was 20, before leaving his Indiana home for library school. “My dad is more on the conservative side, so I didn’t know what his reaction would be,” Shore says. “But it was important for me to share with him who I was.” Turns out, it went better than expected. “I had so much angst, and I was so relieved.”
Of course, everyone’s experience is different.
“There’s such a range of folks out there, and society has gone through so many seismic shifts lately,” Shore says. Coming out today isn’t necessarily easier than it was in the past, he says. That’s because individual circumstances vary. Just yesterday he heard from someone whose parents kicked him out of the house after learning he was gay.
“Growing up in a small town in Indiana, I thought I was all alone,” Shore says. That’s one reason National Coming Out Day events are so important. “They help people know that others have gone through it, and there’s strength in that.”
Ahead of National Coming Out Day on Thursday, we’ve put together a short list of events in Phoenix marking the occasion.
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7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Stacy's @ Melrose, 4343 North Seventh Avenue; 602-264-1700; stacysatmelrose.com.
ARTsplat celebrates “how queer experiences inform the creation of art in all its forms.” The lineup includes visual art, photography, poetry, dance, and other performance. Free and open to the community. Must be 21 to attend, due to alcohol at venue. Benefits Trans Queer Pueblo, an organization focused on the migrant community and people of color. Visit the Facebook event page.
6:30 p.m. at BoyCott Bar, 4301 North Seventh Avenue; 602-515-3667; boycottbar.com.
ChurchOut celebrates National Coming Out Day in the context of coming out in a religious community. Organized with the Human Rights Campaign. LGBTQ artists and allies can arrive early to sign-up to present music, dance, poetry, stories, comedy, or other performance. Free admission. Visit the Facebook event page.
7 to 10 p.m. at the Clarendon Hotel, 401 West Clarendon Avenue; 602-252-7363; goclarendon.com.
SpeakOut celebrates National Coming Out Day by “sharing stories and experiences of coming out.” Presented by Fierce Friends of Phoenix. The free event is open to all LGBTQ community members and supportive allies. Visit the Facebook event page.
Come Out for ASU! BBQ and Drag Show
3 to 7 p.m. at Downtown Civic Space Park, 424 North Central Avenue; phoenix.gov/parks/index.html.
Celebrates National Coming Out Day with “food, fun, and entertainment.” All are welcome at this free event.
Visit the Pride Week Events page on the ASU website.