Views & Voices

A gay dad’s letter to Austin Wallis, and the high school that rejected him

Austin Wallis (right) is comforted by his boyfriend, Nicolay.

Austin Wallis (right) is comforted by his boyfriend, Nicolay. YouTube

Austin Wallis (right) is comforted by his boyfriend, Nicolay.YouTube

Austin Wallis (right) is comforted by his boyfriend, Nicolay.

The world of teens and tweens can be a treacherous one.

As the dad to two 12 year olds, I see it as a world where childhood cushions and play have fallen away and new, somewhat complex challenges have emerged. It is a world where peer relationships and socializations are paramount. 

Independence is practically a life force and hormones seem to be pumping through veins previously filled with sugar and spice. It is a world where kids discover themselves and those discoveries can range from the thrilling to crisis, and sometimes both at the same time.

Adults standing on the sidelines to this whirlwind try our best to lead, nurture and inspire. We try to guide our young charges to being their best, and set themselves up to capture a destiny worthy of the love we cloak them in.

Some adults do this — except in the cases where the child in question is gay, as Austin Willis, a high school student in Texas, discovered recently.

Austin has been on an affirming journey over the past year. He not only has discovered who he is, he has introduced the real him to his personal social circles and the public at large through a YouTube channel.

His videos are fun, silly, charming, and his relationships with teachers and friends are warm and mutually supportive. Life has been good, even granting him a handsome boyfriend.

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From my perspective as a parent, seeing my child find himself so progressively would be life affirming. The principal at Lutheran North high school in Houston, however, did not seem to share that view of young Austin’s development.  He categorized it instead as the promotion of sexually immoral behavior. His answer was not to guide Austin Wallis’s development, but to shut it down all together.

We tell our kids to be true to themselves, to nurture self-respect and live with respect to others. Lutheran North did not encourage Austin in any of those initiatives. Instead, they asked Austin to hide who he is, pretend to be otherwise — or leave. He chose to leave.

I am choosing to write them, and him, a letter.
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