After learning of and reading about the gay valedictorian whose graduation speech was silenced by school administrators, I felt compelled to reach out to Mr. BJ Buchmann with my own story – not only to tell him of the struggles I experienced throughout high school, but to also remind him that stripping someone of their narrative and ability to come out is damaging beyond compare. You can read the letter I sent to the school (and the principal) below:
It is no surprise that your name – along with your actions against Twin Peaks Charter Academy high school student Evan Young – has been greatly publicized over the past few days. While I could easily join the flock of those internet commentators who have condemned your actions as outrageous and, some may say, homophobic, I wanted to reach out to you and tell you a story instead.
Growing up in Southeastern Idaho in the early 2000s, I was subjected to near-constant discrimination due to my sexual orientation through the media, by society, and by my peers and those adults around me. Though it would take me years to become fully comfortable with myself as a person, I suffered constant harassment and bullying through my one and only year of high school – a time which should have allowed me to comfortably transition into young adulthood without fear of violence. None of my family knew I was gay, nor did any of my friends. The idea of anyone finding out was, at the time, the most horrifying thing I could possibly imagine (and it was not unwarranted.) Stories such as Matthew Shepard’s – the young man who, in October 1998, was bound and left for dead in a Wyoming snowstorm – were haunting artifacts of a past that could easily become my future.
I don’t need to mention the countless individuals who have died for their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year, or even in the past few months. Childhood (especially young adulthood) is a time when we should nurture our children and encourage positive reinforcement in their development. For you to have declared Evan Young’s experience as an ‘agenda’ that he was attempting to ‘push upon others’ speaks of an inherent ignorance that you as an educator should not have. Your actions not only dissembled a young man’s confidence at a time in which he could close one chapter of his life, but also stripped him of his God-given right of choice (and, in an alternate circumstance with a potentially less-fortunate outcome, could very well have endangered his life.)
As a young gay man who suffered through the education system believing that I had few, if any allies, I would encourage you to reach out to Mr. Young and attempt to make right the wrongs you have committed against him. Not only would this serve to reinforce your character, but would also reflect highly on the values of your school – which, I am sure, you do not wish to endanger in any sense.
– Kody Boye