School bans coming out speech, outs student

Evan Young

Evan Young (Source: Democracy Now!)

A gay Colorado high school student was barred from delivering his graduation speech, in which he intended to come out, and was then outed by the principal.

Evan Young, 18, was invited by Twin Peaks Charter Academy high school in Longmont to deliver the prestigious valedictorian address at his class graduation on 16 May.

However, when school Principal BJ Buchmann was given an advance draft of the speech and realised that Young was planning to come out as gay, he demanded that this be deleted from the address.

There were other requested edits to the speech, which Young agreed to, but he refused to remove the reference to his sexuality.

“My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that,” Young told Daily Camera.

In response, Buchmann called Young’s parents, who didn’t know their son was gay, to discuss the matter and effectively outed the young man.

“My parents are very liberal. I think they were totally OK with it,” said the straight-A student. “But I was not OK with it.”

Then, just minutes before Young was to give his speech, Buchmann informed him that the valedictorian address had been cancelled.

In a statement, the school stood by its actions. The school’s attorney, Barry Arrington, said that a graduation ceremony “is not a time for a student to use his commencement speech to push his personal agenda on a captive audience, and school officials are well within their rights to prevent that from happening.”

Out Boulder, a local LGBT rights group, has backed the young man. “It’s wrong, and it’s not fair,” commented Executive Director Mardi Moore. “He has told me that since a toddler he has worked for that honour, and they denied it.”

Moore also called the principal’s outing of the student “a total violation of his educational privacy rights.”

In a message to the school, Young said: “I’m bringing my story forward so that it may serve as an inspiration, not only to other LGBT students, but to any student who is in some way different. I want them to know they should not be ashamed of who they are.”

In the end he eventually got to deliver his coming out speech at a ceremony arranged by Out Boulder as part of its annual fundraiser.

“I’m gay. I understand this might be offensive to some people, but it’s who I am. And whether you’ve always suspected this, or this is a total shock to you, now you know,” Young said in the address.

“I thought that… I should repeatedly apologise and beg you guys not to think any differently of me. But then I realised: I don’t have to. I shouldn’t have to. If there’s one thing I learned at this school, it’s that we can still be friends even if we profoundly disagree with each other…

“So before you leave, I have one final request for you: Hug someone. That’s right, hug someone. Students, hug a teacher. Democrats, hug a Republican. People who own a gun, hug one of those darn liberals who wants to snatch it out of your cold, dead fingers. Trekkies, hug someone who likes Star Wars more. Mel Gibson, hug a Jewish person. Conservative Christians, hug an agnostic. Hug a gay person while you’re at it, too,” said Young.

Watch the speech below (it start 2.19 minutes into the video).

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