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A coming out party is any event which celebrates an individual’s transition from one phase of life to the next. A coming out party marks the transition from childhood to adolescence in some cultures and from adolescence to adulthood in others. The homosexual community has also adopted the term to recognize the point in time that one begins living their life as openly gay.
Traditionally speaking, a coming out party describes any celebration which marks a transition a young person makes to the next phase of their life. The Jewish Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, a Hispanic Quincenera, and debutante balls are all examples of coming out parties.
However, the term is also commonly used to describe a party that a homosexual person might throw to celebrate their decision to be open about their sexuality and live freely as a gay individual. Some homosexuals may use their coming out party as an opportunity to tell people who were not previously aware about their sexuality. While the use of the term coming out party in this way is widespread, some people see this as an incorrect use of the phrase. The homosexual community have even been accused of "hijacking" the term coming out party.
No matter how the term is used, a coming out party is usually a gathering of family members and friends of the person who is "coming out." Music, dancing, food, and beverages are all features of a coming out party. Traditional coming out parties usually see the person honored being formally presented to the party’s attendees. Other rituals, such as the giving of flowers to the guest of honor and formal speeches, may also be part of a coming out party, depending on the person’s culture and preferences.