12 #NationalComingOutDay Posts That Will Give You Hope, Because It Gets Better

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, in which LGBT individuals across the nation celebrate our choices to openly live as gay, bi, trans, or anything in between. This year marks the 27th anniversary since the holiday's establishment on October 11, 1988 — a day in itself that was chosen to commemorate another event, the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights — and the past three decades have seen changes no one could have imagined.

When the AIDS crisis further stigmatized an already stigmatized population in the 1980s, who would have thought that a mere 30 years down the road, same-sex couples could get married, and a Texas high school would elect a gay homecoming queen? When Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die in 1998 simply for being gay, who could have predicted that a future teacher would take the time to come out as gay to her students every year as a way to provide a safe space for LGBT students? In 2015, American attitudes toward the LGBT community seem to be more accepting than ever.

That being said, being LGBT is far from easy. LGBT individuals still deal with huge amounts of discrimination and are more likely to experience mental illness; trans individuals, in particular, face disturbingly high rates of violence and stigma in a society that enforces a rigid gender binary. As far as we've come, we still have so far to go — which is why National Coming Out Day remains so important.

"Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality," the Human Rights Campaign writes. You don't have to come out to be happy, but the freedom of owning your identity is indescribable. If you don't believe me, just take a look at these 12 people celebrating this year's National Coming Out Day.

For even more ~feelings~, be sure to check out these six coming out stories told to Bustle.

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