When I saw this video, I couldn’t help but have hope for the future. It’s so moving and powerful and inspiring that I felt I had to share it. It was taken at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, California, at a student assembly in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A senior named Kayla Kearny decided to take the opportunity to (in her words) “break the silence” and come out as a lesbian to the entire school. It’s not just the act of coming out that’s unbelievable (just imagine coming out at a high school assembly) – it’s the speech. Articulate, poignant, and so incredibly powerful. Watch below (it’s 8 minutes long, but worth every second):
Kayla’s speech gives me confidence that there really is a better tomorrow for LGBT Americans. I remember being gay in high school. It wasn’t easy. I lived in a world of denial. Having gone through relentless bullying in middle school, I’d decided in high school to make every effort to change my outward appearance and to be perceived as “straight.” I had a girlfriend. Not only did I deny I was gay – I went out of my way not to even be associated with anything gay. The thought of coming out didn’t even occur to me, because I genuinely believed that, with God’s help and enough effort, I could change my orientation. It wasn’t just an act – it was a real attempt to turn myself straight.
So needless to say, I wasn’t giving any speeches about my sexuality to my school. But after I watched this video, I wondered what the effect would have been had I been in the audience hearing Kayla speak. And while I can’t know for sure, I really think it might have gotten through to me. I, like many gay teens, didn’t really know anybody I could relate to. Hearing Kayla’s speech would have told me I wasn’t alone and that there are others going through what I was going through. It would have told me I didn’t do anything wrong and that what I was experiencing was as natural as what heterosexual boys feel toward girls, and vice-versa. And while I probably wouldn’t have accepted myself and come out for a while, it would have stuck with me.
In my book, Kayla is a hero. It’s impossible to know how many people she touched with her speech, but I think it’s safe to say her words touched more than one. And what a great way to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – by standing up and refusing to let bigotry and ignorance determine her life. I think it’s wonderful that there are LGBT youth like Kayla willing not only to accept themselves, but to look fear in the face and break the silence.
When it comes to LGBT issues, there is a lot to be discouraged about. But it's nice every once in a while to see something like this and to hear someone like Kayla. It's enough to give me hope.
(If you want to know more about the Kayla, her speech, or the MLK Day assembly, here is a good article. Thanks to jpmassar for bringing it to my attention.)