PHARR, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Valley AIDS Council is celebrating National Coming Out Day and the LGBTQ+ community with an event Tuesday at the Main Event Center in Pharr.

The event is free and open to the public and will take place from 6 to 9 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 11. Attendees can expect food, games and prizes at the event.

“This is an important day for everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community, because we are celebrating families and promoting safe, inclusive and loving spaces for our LGBTQ+ individuals so that we can live our authentic lives without fear,” Wally Cantu, CEO for Valley AIDS Council, said.

According to a news release for the event, many associate coming out with being overwhelming and scary. It can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ people are able to be truly open with those closest to them.

Although coming out is not a one-time event and no longer “a big deal” for many, Cantu said, it is a unique experience that continues to be a challenge for people due to the repercussions of bullying, physical attacks, hate, abuse and harassment, all of which have led to anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

In 1988, National Coming Out Day was founded by psychologist Richard Eichberg and gay rights activist Jean O’Leary, who aimed to raise awareness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its civil rights movement, the release stated.

Eichberg and O’Leary chose Oct. 11 because it marks the anniversary of the second major National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987.

“Whether it’s Oct. 11 (National Coming Out Day), Oct. 15 (National Latinx HIV Awareness Day), or any other day, it is important to remind Latinos of the importance of knowing their HIV status,” Cantu stated in the release.

VAC is the primary provider of status-neutral HIV services including prevention, education, testing, medical care and supportive services in the region, with clinics in Harlingen, Brownsville and McAllen.

Clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Tuesdays when the clinic runs until 8 p.m.