First, a preface:
Young people are harassed, humiliated, and intimidated at school for all sorts of reasons – their looks, the way they talk, their race, and more — but students who are or are perceived to be gay are subjected to the most persistent and pernicious forms of bullying. This has led to more suicides than any other cause and has most certainly darkened the lives of a vast majority of students who acknowledge their sexual orientation or who are simply gender non-conforming, or, in the judgment of their peers, “act” or “look” gay.
One effect of the torment that gay students often suffer is the fear and shame it causes among those who are gay but hide it. Thus, another group of students emotionally brutalized by homophobic attitudes are those who are not thought to be gay by their peers but are in fact gay. These young people can be disturbed and damaged by the need to keep their sexual identity secret, out of fear of being found out and losing all their friends and, possibly, even the love of their parents. Here are videos of two young women who faced this challenge. I promise you will find the videos thought-provoking, and possibly enlightening. I also included below a short list of celebrities who recently acknowledged the same struggle before deciding to acknowledge their sexual orientation.
The first video is by Kayla Kearney, a senior at a Catholic high school. Kayla is a very talented and was a very popular girl who decided to come out in a speech to series of assemblies on Jan 13 and 14, 2011. (Kudos to the school for allowing her to do so.)
The second is actually a series of interviews by a very beautiful and very successful country singer named Chely Wright who seriously damaged her career by admitting to the world that she had been living a lie all her life. She was almost driven to suicide, and actually put the gun in her mouth before she decided that bearing the consequences of the truth was preferable to ending her life.
Cheryl was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneris, and Larry King. Video of these interviews are below. (Oprah’s comes in three short segments.)
Here is a list published on Ranker.com about other prominent people who struggled with keeping their gayness a secret, but eventually came out in 2010.
Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican Party and the manager of George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, rocked the political world when he decided to come out around the time of his 44th birthday in 2010. Mehlman told his family, friends, former colleagues and current colleagues over a period of months in 2010 and said: “The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Don Lemon, CNN news anchor came out to the New York Times in May 2011. Lemon told the paper, “It’s quite different for an African-American male… It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.”
John Smid resigned as Executive Director of Love in Action in 2008 — an ex-gay Christian ministry that purports to “restore those trapped” in homosexuality — now disavows the message he preached for years that promised gays they could change. In has publicly admitting that he is gay, Smid said being gay is an intrinsic part of a person’s being, not a “behavior” that one can repent from. “Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
Jim Swilley served 39 years as a pastor and 25 years as the head of Church of the Now, a megachurch smack in the middle of Georgia. In October 2010, Swilley came out to his congregation in tears citing the string of suicides among young gay people that took place in October as the reason. He said, “For some reason [Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s] situation was kind of the tipping point with me.”
Ricky Martin’s announced on March 29, 2010 officially came out on his web site, stating, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.” He said that “these years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within, and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”
Jennifer Knapp walked away from her Christian music career nine years ago, leaving much of her fans and critics clueless as to why. In 2010, the Grammy-nominated artist admitted that she was a lesbian and issued a new album titled “Letting Go” giving voice to her own sexuality.
Meredith Baxter,who played Elyse Keaton on ’80s sitcom “Family Ties,” went on the “Today Show” and told Matt Lauer that she was a lesbian in December 2009