DENVER — A high school valedictorian received a standing ovation when she came out as gay during her graduation speech in the Colorado mountain town of Carbondale.
In the Boulder County city of Longmont, however, a top student was banned last week from making a similar affirmation at his graduation and instead delivered it to a gay rights group a few days later.
The different outcomes reflect the range of challenges and acceptance that some young people can face when they try to speak out about their sexuality.
Stacey Long Simmons, director of public policy and government affairs for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said many young people continue to be ostracized because of their sexual identities.
But she also says she is hearing more of them speak out and be applauded for their effort.
“There has been a sea change,” Simmons said. “We have been witnessing a lot more conversations about these issues.”
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“I’m not just gay. I’m not just smart. No one is. No label is big enough to hold an entire person,” Bruell said in her speech, which was first reported by the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.
Principal Drew Adams, who had read the speech in advance, said he had known students and teachers would be welcoming but noted that graduations also draw family and friends from outside the isolated town of 6,000 near Aspen.
“As a school community we have embraced tolerance,” Adams said.
He believes Bruell’s speech, which he called courageous, will help other students feel safe at the school and praised her “insight about how we have to lead our lives.”