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VIDEO: National Coming Out Day celebrated today online and in the streets

SAN DIEGO -- Status updates about "coming out" seem to be the buzz on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter today, as the United States celebrates the 24th annual National Coming Out Day (NCOD).

First celebrated in 1988 to mark the one-year anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights held in 1987, the annual event was established on Oct 11. to raise awareness of the LGBT community and to help those who may be struggling with coming to terms with their sexuality.

For many years, the day has been observed by individuals, student groups, and LGBT community organizations in a number of ways, including rallies, presentations, and information tables with the advent of social media giving people the opportunity to share their own coming out stories worldwide.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) maintains a web page year-round which discusses the history and purpose of NCOD.

This year, the organization took its online presence to the next level by creating an NCOD Facebook Application, which allows users to "donate" their status to the cause.

After filling out a brief form, the application will automatically post on the user's Facebook status, to read:

Today is National Coming Out Day! I am gay and I am coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Join me in donating your status and come out for LGBT equality.

A Twitter status update option is also provided:

Today is Nat'l Coming Out Day and I am #comingout for #LGBT equality. Join Me: http://goo.gl/KyCfm @hrc

San Diego resident Christine Kulick, who participated in organizing NCOD awareness activities when she was a student at San Diego State University, used the HRC NCOD app and posted a message of her own:

Happy National Coming Out Day! Every year on this day I think of Ellen's "Here and Now Stand Up" when she said, "With all of our differences, we all have one thing in common, we’re all gay. Now there are people out there going 'Do they think we’re gay because we’re here? Do we look gay? I told you this would happen. We’re not going to understand a word of this.'" -- So funny, Ellen ... Well whether you understand something or not or think you will ... just go with it, open your mind and live on. lol. Cause we're all just here to laugh and have a good time! We all are who we are. :) Happy NCO Day!

Many other community members posted similar status updates:

Vincent Davíd Cervantes: Five years ago today I publicly came out at Azusa Pacific University, after nearly two years of hiding in the closet and trying to pray away the gay. Happy National Coming Out Day!

Joey Krzebetkowski: It's National Coming Out Day & the eve of the 13th anniv of Matthew Shepard's death. Be true to you & celebrate diversity! #ComingOutDay

Vicky Kerley posted to President of Log Cabin Republicans San Diego: LCR San Diego celebrates National Coming Out Day. We are gay and proud!!!

Adam Bouska, Founder of the NO H8 Project: Happy National Coming Out Day! #NOH8Worldwide

Joalby Phoenix: I'M REALLY F*****' GAY & YOU ALL LOVE ME THAT WAY!!! Today is National Coming Out Day & I'm a proud homosexual among other things."

HRC also announced a collaboration with pop artist Ke$ha, where they will sell “We R Who We R” t-shirts.

The t-shirts are part of HRC's Musicians for Equality series, and feature a purple zebra print, and the words "We R Who We R" along with HRC's equality logo and Ke$ha's signature on the front. The shirts retail for $35 and can be purchased at HRC Stores in Provincetown, MA; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and online at shop.hrc.org.

Other organizations have created their own NCOD programs, including GetEQUAL, who sent a message to its followers saying the day is about more than just changing one's Facebook profile picture.

"National Coming Out Day is an opportunity each year to assess what you're doing for LGBT equality," wrote Robin McGeHee, director of GetEQUAL. "It's a chance to challenge yourself -- and your friends -- to keep being visible and to keep showing courage in the fight for the equality we deserve."

McGeHee asked readers to help her organization with three efforts in honor of NCOD, including a photo and video project; a pledge to support "intersectional issues"; and to support the national "Occupy" movement.

GetEQUAL is creating on a "video statement" to send out this week. Those who wish to participate are encouraged to take a photo or video of themselves holding up a hand-written sign that proclaims one's occupation, state of residence, a hobby, and identity.

The videos and photos will be stitched together to create a message from the GetEQUAL community. McGeHee asks that people send submissions as soon as possible to info@getequal.org.

McGeHee also asked that people sign two pledges, one supporting people coming out for other issues and identities, and the other to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and other local organizers of the movement, including Occupy San Diego.

NCOD observed locally

Locally, a number of events will be held across the county in honor of NCOD today.

At University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the LGBTQI Association will host their annual National Coming Out Day Rally at the school's Price Center Plaza from 11 am to 2 pm.

Student organizers have put together a program that will include speakers sharing their coming out stories and an open mic session.

The group encourages the entire community to participate in the event, reminding non-gay supporters to come, too.

"We don't want to forget our allies ... You're awesomesauce!" said LGBTQIA in a post.

San Diego State University's Office of Intercultural Relations has partnered with Safe Zones @ SDSU to host a panel discussion called "Coming Out: Telling Our Stories, Understanding our Lives." The discussion, which will be held in the Scripp's Cottage from 4-6 pm today, will include LGBT resources and refreshments.

Later in the month, SDSU's LGBT Student Union will host the next twice yearly Big Gay BBQ, which was first held on Oct. 11, 2000, in honor of National Coming Out Day. Campus organizers say that the BBQ has since become somewhat of a tradition at the school, and continues to provide a place for the LGBT community on campus to celebrate their diversity.

The Big Gay BBQ will be held Thursday, Oct. 27 from 5-10 pm at Scripps Cottage.

San Diego Pride has partnered with the Mission Hills/Hillcrest Albertson's for a luncheon celebrating NCOD and LGBT History Month today from 12 noon to 1:30 pm. The Pride community will enjoy lunch, discussion, and an NCOD skit performed by Pride staff members.

Finally, San Diego Remembers will host the fourth annual San Diego Remembers Matthew Shepard candlelit march and rally tonight, beginning at 7 pm.

The event, which is held annually on the second Tuesday in October in remembrance of the Oct. 12 death of Shepard, falls on NCOD this year. Organizers say that although the event focuses on standing up and speaking out against anti-LGBT hate, it is absolutely in line with the meaning of NCOD.

"At this year's Matthew Shepard remembrance, we are focusing on empowering community members and allies to stand up against hate, be proud and open, and learn how they can get involved in the community," said Ricky Cervantes, one of the event organizers.

The event will begin with a march starting at 5th & University Ave. in Hillcrest at 7 pm, and be followed by a celebration at The Center at 8 pm.

For more information about NCOD, click HERE.

Popular blogger Davey Wavey shares a National Coming Out Day message: