News (USA)

The Pulse effect: Orlando tragedy inspires teens to come out

Sam Johnson kept his secret “for a very long time,” he told his family in his coming out letter.

The 18-year-old graduated near the top of his class at a Catholic all-boys high school in Seattle, reports Outsports. Johnson is a young role model, too: involved in his church as an altar server, a youth group and performing acts of community service such as raising money and awareness for breast cancer causes.

And he was an outstanding athlete to boot, specifically as an all-star soccer player. The Seattle Times even named him one of the best in the state. He’s spending his summer as a lifeguard and is enrolled to study as well as play at California’s Whittier College.

But after the massacre in Orlando, Fla., Johnson decided he could stay silent no longer. He wrote his extended family a letter explaining his decision to come out:

“I have listened, I have observed and I have reflected on a proper time and place to do this; but I decided that the time was now. You all are aware of what has happened in Orlando, and regardless of your opinions of the topic, a man walked into a bar and targeted people of the LGBT community and killed them, and that is the simple fact. You grow up being afraid of who are you, and then eventually you come to terms with it. And then something like this happens and you go right back to where you were. Put yourself in the shoes of the mothers, fathers and siblings of those people who won’t come home after their Saturday night out, put yourself in the shoes of people who have to watch their backs and live in fear for simply expressing who they love.”

Johnson’s friend and mentor, out college football player Conner Mertens, wrote about Johnson’s decision for Outsports. “He is joining the many voices speaking out against prejudice and bigotry. This is not about attention, and this is not about politics. This is about wanting to make a positive contribution to an otherwise negative and hostile world.”

And Johnson is not alone.

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