A Texas high school senior used his graduation speech last week to announce to his family, friends and fellow students that he's gay.
Mitch Anderson, a member of Belton High School’s 2013 graduating class, told a local radio station that he had never come out to anyone before his salutatorian speech on Thursday at the Bell County Expo.
“Once I got up there and started talking, I felt completely fine,” Anderson, who lives in Temple, Texas, told KTEM News Radio.
“I myself am guilty of self-doubt, relying on others to give my life definition,” Anderson said in his speech. “But that time has passed, and I feel the moment has arrived for me to be publicly true to my personal identity. So now, I can say, I’m gay.
"It is both a significant portion of who I am and an inconsequential aspect," he continued. "It’s as natural and effortless to me as breathing. I couldn’t change myself even if I wanted and, believe me, I have."
Anderson, who will be studying biology at the University of Texas in the fall, said he once contemplated suicide:
I have been bullied a lot. I’ve been called unspeakable things and relegated to a place of lower class. I have been made to feel worthless, unneeded, a blight on the world. People have mocked me, said that I was virtually subhuman.
So, for a while, I was in a very dark place. I had no concept of self-worth, and frequently pondered suicide. I became so dejected, that many times I thought of killing myself not just because I saw no point to life, but because I had been convinced that doing so would actually make the world better. And so, for many years, I continued the cyclical, destructive thought patterns. This happened both before and after I thought about my sexuality. And after I had realized I was gay, I hated myself. I wished and prayed endlessly that I could just go on with life normally, that I could be like everyone else. Being different felt like a curse, an unfair sentence to the life of an outcast.
There were moments when I believed I was next to nothing. But I learned that what others think of you is not nearly as meaningful as what you think of yourself. You cannot owe the quality of your existence to other people. You must evaluate your life and give it purpose. You must recognize that you are an expression of the divine, a being made perfect through celebration of your perceived imperfections. Once you love yourself, you can be the best version of yourself.
Anderson said he was inspired by Madonna, Lady Gaga and "Star Trek" star Zachary Quinto to come out. He even quoted Quinto in his speech, which preceded the valedictorian's:
When you feel like you will be abandoned, alienated, and cast out, ignore the sources of such toxicity. I believe Zachary Quinto put it best by saying, “If people don’t want to work with me because of my sexual orientation, then I have no interest in working with them to begin with.” This statement can be applied to any situation you encounter where someone is put off by your expressing yourself.
The reaction to his speech, he said, has been mostly positive.
“I’ve received so much support and kindness,” he said. “Knowing that [people] found the speech inspirational has been really amazing.”
"I'm a BHS alumni proud of Mitch Anderson!" Tiffanie Lanmon wrote on Belton High's Facebook page.
Anderson "delivered what can only be described as the best graduation speech of our time," Jezebel.com's Laura Beck wrote.
Not everyone has been supportive, but Anderson said he's unfazed.
“It’s a little bit hurtful,” he told KTEM. “But it’s really no big deal. I’d rather they direct their hate and anger at me, rather than someone else, because I know I can take it and blow it off.”