11 simple and powerful photos that capture the freedom of coming out.

National Coming Out Day is a special kind of happy.

It's a celebration of walking in your own personal truth and deciding to be who you are without shame or fear. Don't get me wrong, the uncertainty is daunting, scary even. But coming out means jumping in and doing it anyway. And it feels good. Really good. Like your first deep breath after being underwater. It's a sweet relief.

Did I mention that it's a special kind of happy? Kevin Lloyd kissing his boyfriend in the 2015 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images.


To celebrate, many folks from the LGBTQ community are sharing their coming out stories and offering advice and encouragement to others waiting to take the leap.

Here are 11 stories that remind us all why coming out is an important act of bravery.

1. Coming out isn't easy, so María Isabel got some ink to remember what's important.

2. Braxton hasn't come out to his family as a trans man yet, so he leans on his friends for support.

Even though I may not have supportive family at all I'm so thankful for the supportive friends I have. The ones who learned my new name and never messed up once, the ones who always try to remember, and the ones who ask what I would like to be called. I've been out to my friends for 2 years and have received so much love. It's a living nightmare to be closeted to my family. To them I'm a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a girl. It's hard hearing those words when you know you can't speak up and correct them. Its hard being told every time you buy clothes "Those are for boys, your not a boy" from someone who's supposed to love you unconditionally. It's hard living in a body that feels so foreign. It's hard having to constantly explain myself to people that aren't even willing to understand. But this is a fight that I know I'm not fighting alone. I have transgender friends and I have transgender idols that show that this fight is worth it. One day I will look more like the man I know I am and that day I will look back and congratulate myself for making it that far. I am Braxton and I am transgender. #NationalComingOutDay #ProudToBeTransgender #HeHim #FTM

A photo posted by B⚧ (@simply.bs) on

3. Lorena is a bisexual woman engaged to the love of her life. "I've never been happier," she says.

4. Thedarkerbrother quoted the late, great Nina Simone in his message. "I'll tell you what freedom to me is: no fear."

5. Visibility and coming out can be especially important for the people in the LGBTQ community who we don't hear as much about, like bisexuals, asexuals, or pansexuals.

Happy national coming out day. For those who don't know I'm pansexual. 🏳️‍🌈 #selfie #nationalcomingoutday

A photo posted by Angelica (@hells_lost_angel) on

6. Loving yourself as you are is a major key. Just ask Carly.

Thank you for helping me learn to love myself for exactly who I am ❤💛💚💙💜#nationalcomingoutday #proud

A photo posted by carlygersten (@carlygersten) on

7. This is Cody. Cody is gay. And when people feel invisible or unloved for who they are, a message as simple as that may change a life.

I'm Cody. And I'm gay. #NationalComingOutDay

A photo posted by @thebeardedfruit on

8. Cassidy's coming out was pretty smooth, but she knows that's not always the case. That's why she's standing with her community today.

9. "Dream big," said Jerrod. Adding, "Each of us has a story, an insight, and a gift to share with the world. Let yours be known."

BE YOU. Exceed expectations. Dream big. Overcome the limitations that you and others place on your life. You are too complex and multifaceted to let any one quality define your life or who you are. Reach back to others who are not as far along as you and push the boundaries of the ones ahead. Have compassion for the differences of others and encourage their expression for the betterment of us all. Use your voice and speak justice and truth into the consciousness of the world. Expand past the walls of your small worldview and embrace the great diversity of life. Each of us has a story, an insight, and a gift to share with the world. Let yours be known. And lastly love and love and love and love. You matter. You matter. You. Matter. #NationalComingOutDay

A photo posted by jerrodbarks (@jerrodbarks) on

10. Coming out has opened a world of new perspectives and adventure for Jesse, who's happy to live openly.

11. If you're not ready or able to come out, that's OK. Just take it from fitness phenom Shaun T.

CONGRATS TO THOSE WHO ARE CELEBRATING National Coming Out Day! Today is about more than coming out though! For some people it's not so easy so let's remember that for those who aren't ready just yet...ITS OK TO BE SCARED! Most of us were and you know what? When you're ready, you have a big family of people waiting to embrace you. STAY THE COURSE and Accept who you are first. The rest will follow suit. . Every story is different, I know, but I also know the freedom to be you is like no other freedom. LOVE YOURSELF! YOU MATTER and remember that YOU ARE AMAZING even if people tell you otherwise. So whether you're celebrating internally or externally today, CONGRATS for knowing who you are! Much love! ❤️️💜💙💚💛#nationalcomingoutday

A photo posted by Shaun T (@shauntfitness) on

Everyone has their own journey. And for your own well-being, personal safety, or economic welfare, it may not be the best time for you to come out right now. But know that we see you and we recognize your struggle. You are not alone. That's what National Coming Out Day is all about.

And if you are ready: Come out, come out, wherever you are. Whenever you're ready. Whenever you're able.

Celebrate with pride, courage, and enthusiasm. Because love is love is love. And it's pretty, freakin' awesome.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Justine Tuckett's Instagram highlighting moments with dad.

Birthdays. Sports games. Holidays. Sharing a bowl of cereal on a Sunday afternoon … these are just some of the moments, big and small, that are missed when a parent is incarcerated. And sadly, they can't be replaced.

But sometimes, second chances do come around. For father and daughter Bill Lorance and Justine Tuckett, that second chance came in the form of a TikTok dance. They didn't take it for granted, and now they're making up for lost time. It's not only a win for the father-daughter duo, it shows how rehabilitation is possible and that people don't have to be defined by their mistakes.

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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