The act of “coming out” is unique to the queer community. Most queer people have memories of coming out to their families and friends and when they became publicly “out” at work or in the community.
Before the 1970s, it was illegal to be gay or lesbian. The gay and lesbian movement in the US started in the early 1950s with some publications, but it was very secretive. In the early 1970s, LGBTQ+ communities around the United States began to form out of the anti-war, civil rights, feminist, and other social justice movements.
I was out when I moved to Santa Cruz in 1974. I was taking a few courses at Cabrillo College and met Judith Iverson who was lesbian. We thought there should be an organization so we filed the papers to start LAGMU - the Lesbian and Gay Men’s Union.
Shawn Laughingtree, 1974
What was amazing in 1974 when we founded LAGMU (Lesbians and Gay Men’s Union at Cabrillo College) was that we were wandering into new territory every single day. Imagine how scary it was to be the first ones to go out and talk to the local Roller Rink to “allow” us to have a gay roller skating night or to ask the Board of Supervisors to proclaim Gay Pride Day. Or to pick up the phone at home and get a bomb threat. We lived in a world that had no support for gayness, but in one year we pulled off an organization and the first Santa Cruz Pride event.