Robert Eichberg, Gay Advocate

TESUQUE, N.M. - Robert H. Eichberg, the psychologist who co-founded National Coming Out Day and wrote a popular book on how people reveal their homosexuality, has died of complications of AIDS. He was 50.

Eichberg died Friday at his home in Tesuque, north of Santa Fe.

Eichberg's book, "Coming Out: an Act of Love," has become required reading for friends and family of gays and lesbians, said Lynn Shepodd, president of the Santa Fe Lesbian, Gay and Bi Pride Committee.

"If you care to have any relationship with gay people, his book is essential," Shepodd said. "It accurately describes the process that gay and lesbian people go through in their coming out.

"His whole life's work was about bridging the gap between gay and non-gay communities, allowing people to discover who they are and really encouraging them to go out and do something with that knowledge," she said.

In 1993, Eichberg said, "Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes."

Eichberg was born in Brooklyn in 1945 and lived most of his life in Los Angeles. His activism began two decades ago with the founding of a political-action committee for gay, lesbian and women's rights in that city. In 1978, he founded The Experience, a community-based workshop that inspired people to reveal their homosexuality to family and friends.

He moved to Santa Fe in 1988 - the same year he co-founded National Coming Out Day with Jean O'Leary of Los Angeles. It is observed annually on Oct. 11.