WASHINGTON — A District of Columbia high school principal came out as gay on Wednesday, breaking five decades of silence in an emotional address to his student body at a Pride Day assembly.
Standing next to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and openly gay council member David A. Catania, Wilson High School Principal Pete Cahall — shaking as he said that he had “hid in the shadows for the last 50 years” — said he has been inspired by his students to declare his sexual orientation openly, reports the Washington Post.
In a speech prepared in part to introduce Gray at the school’s second annual pride day event, Cahall praised the Mayor’s leadership and support of LGBT issues and inclusion, which he said had helped give him the courage to come out:
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“A few weeks ago, I turned 50 years old. This was a watershed time for me and you have influenced what I would like to announce today. I have hid in the shadows for the last 50 years. Your leadership has given me the courage and inspiration to say what I need and must say today.
I have hid in the shadows, but I am liberated today to be me and let myself be me without fear, retaliation or consequence. I feel safe and want all of my students and staff to be and feel safe.
Mayor Gray, I want to say publicly for the first time, because of your leadership, care and support, that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School.”
Students greeted Cahall’s announcement with cheers, while Gray congratulated Cahall for “going public with who he is” and encouraged students to feel comfortable doing the same.
“There is nothing worse than walking around having to hide who you are,” said Gray.
Catania, who came out as gay when he was 20, said he knew the “silent, quiet, isolating sense of desperation” of living in the closet, and said Cahall’s announcement sent a message not just about acceptance and courage, but also about honesty and integrity.
“I think this is the most important lesson that these students will learn this year,” said Catania.
The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based group best known for it’s “God Hates Fags” protest, has previously announced plans to picket at Wilson High School next month out of protest of the Pride Day event.