Evan Young, the 18-year-old valedictorian at Twin Peaks Charter Academy high school in Colorado, was not allowed to deliver his speech at graduation this month after refusing to edit out the section where he planned to come out as gay.
According to Young, he received several edits to his planned speech from the school's principal, BJ Buchmann, all of which he was fine with making — except for the edit asking him to remove the section in which he discloses his sexuality.
"One of my themes is that I was going to tell everyone my secrets," Young told Daily Camera. "Most of the things were stupid stuff — books I never read that I was supposed to, or homework I didn't like. But then I gradually worked up to serious secrets."
After the high school student refused to make the requested edits to his speech, Buchmann called his parents to inform them of its contents. "Mr. Buchmann called me and said, 'I've got Evan's speech here. There are two things in it that I don't think are appropriate.' One was he had mentioned another student's name. And then there was his coming out that he was gay," Young's father recalled. The principal had inadvertently outed Young, as his parents were not aware of their son's sexuality prior to the phone call.
According to Young's parents, just minutes before the May 16 ceremony was scheduled to begin, they were informed their son's speech would not be happening.
"When we got to the part of the ceremony where in the program it said it was time for his speech there was just silence, there was no acknowledgement of his accomplishments," Young's mother stated during a press conference.
The school released an official statement, stating Young "failed to follow the guidelines established by the school."
"The initial draft of the student's speech submitted for review was condescending toward the school and the student's peers and included, among other things, ridiculing comments about faculty and students. The draft speech also included references to personal matters of a sexual nature. None of these topics are ever appropriate for a speech at a graduation ceremony," read the statement.
"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," Young wrote in his own personal statement to the school.
This Sunday, Young was able to give his speech — as planned — at a fundraiser for gay rights group Out Boulder.
Toward the end of his speech, Young finally reached the controversial topic. "And that’s my biggest secret of all: I’m gay." He was swiftly drowned out by the crowd's applause.
"When he came in the place erupted," Out Boulder’s Executive Director Mardi Moore told BuzzFeed News about the atmosphere during his speech. "It was a feeling of complete celebration."
When asked how it felt to read his speech as intended Young replied, "Oh, it was amazing. I had a—I was very nervous, actually."
BuzzFeed News reached out to Young, who declined to comment. Read the full transcript of his speech here.