A principal at a private school allegedly told a teen vlogger to go “back in the closet,” and if he didn’t, he was no longer welcome as a student.
Austin Wallis tells the sad tale, with his boyfriend there for moral support, on his YouTube channel. The principal said the teen’s sexual orientation and his social media activity were having a negative impact on the school, and he proposed an ultimatum: Delete your videos, don’t talk about being gay online, and you can stay in school.
Wallis breaks down in tears explaining how much his YouTube channel means to him. “I love seeing the great response y’all have,” he says. “And I love feeling like this helps people. It meant a lot to me that I can help a few people who might be feeling like you’re not worth it, like being gay is too hard. I don’t want people to feel like that.”
To have his online presence threatened was devastating for Wallis, and he ultimately chose to leave the school rather than compromise what he is and what he feels is right.
To have a school official demand that a student erase his identity is painful for me to hear about — I can’t imagine having to live through it. To hear that if you deny who you really are, if you stop living true to yourself, if you discontinue reaching out and helping other people who may be having personal struggles, you can stay in school. That’s despicable. This man, this person who should be protecting and guiding the students in his school, has told this teen that what he is isn’t good enough.
Discrimination that hides behind a privately funded business or institution is still discrimination — it’s no different from the garden-variety bigot you find on the internet. When I hear someone defend a situation like this, saying that people and places like this school have a right to discriminate against gay people, it fills me with rage. You can’t choose to not serve, protect and cater to someone because of their sexual orientation. You just can’t. It’s ethically wrong, no matter what religious text you quote and no matter what your personal feelings are.
Wallis wanted to go to this school, and I doubt students sign a contract when they enroll stating that they can’t be gay on the internet. I can’t believe that in 2015 this is even a problem. I applaud this young man on his bravery, and hope he is at peace in his new school.