Two weeks ago today, on the precipice of a three-day weekend, Maria Carillo High School in Santa Rosa, California held its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly.

As the students, faculty, staff and administrators present prepped themselves for what I’m sure they thought would be a pedestrian remembrance ceremony, High School senior Kayla Kearney was waiting in the wings. What she did, and the words she spoke, rank amongst the the bravest and most inspiring things I’ve seen.

Surely, it’s better than anything I ever did in High School in front of a room full of people.

See the complete video below.


63 Responses to High School Senior Comes Out to Classmates at Assembly

  1. ChristineV says:

    Wow, what a brave young woman.

  2. wtf!? says:

    This is news? Self indulgent bulls***.

    • Your thoughts are very well thought out and articulately stated. Clearly they’re coming from a reasonable and sound mind and should have some bearing on what people consider important.

  3. Tom says:

    Wow! What a wonderful person she is! This should be required viewing for all! Martin Luther King, Jr would be proud of her. We must end all forms of bigotry!

  4. Tina says:

    Wow! How admirable. She’s so courageous and extremely articulate. Her parents and family should be extremely proud. Thanks for posting.

  5. Michael says:

    She is very well-spoken and courageous. Reminds me of the brave young people who advocate in high school on behalf of the pre-born. Shouldn’t we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and equal protection under our laws?

  6. john says:

    Just another example of a self-absorbed “look at me” teenager. Shut up and sit down, because know ones cares that you’re gay.

  7. Tina says:

    @#7. John, yeah, well apparently people DO care that she’s gay. the LGBT community is not afforded the same life, liberty and persuit of happiness as heterosexuals all because people like you care WAY too much about their sexual orientation! Things don’t change without people ruffling feathers. I say kudos to this young woman.

  8. D2 says:

    Good for her. I just hope she has no repercussions for exposing herself. Will have to try and listen at home as the audio at my work is terrible. And John, “know ones” cares about the uninformed and bigots of the world.

  9. Libby Post says:

    Thanks so much for posting. I’m going to do the same. Thank God for LGBT allies like you.

  10. john says:

    #8 I have several gay relatives who are out in the open about their sexuality and are living extremeley wonderful/sucessful lives. There is one major difference though!!! they aren’t parading around on a national/school stage yelling out to the world “look at me I’m gay.” I’m for equal rights in every sense of the word, and love my gay relatives/friends to death, but I personally believe that there is a time and place for everything. Yes, Dr. King stressed and preached about equality in the U.S, but for this young woman to stand up and use this venue as her own personal “coming out party” was selfish and uncalled for.

    • How so? And what’s wrong with gay people telling everyone they’re gay? And what does you having gay relatives have anything to do with this point? I know and work with black people, doesn’t mean I can use it to qualify a point relating to black culture.

      • By the way, I’m not trying to browbeat or talk you into a corner here. I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from on this and why you take offense with what she did.

        Because I, and I imagine others, are going to read what you say as “I wish gay people didn’t go around telling other people they’re gay, particularly in a large group, and it’s better if they just do it and keep quiet about it. And it’s okay I think this because I have gay relatives.” Which is wrong-headed and could be us interpreting it wrong, but that’s how the message is being relayed.

  11. john says:

    D2 I’m the furthest thing from a bigot/uniformed of the world, and I do understand that many minority groups in this country face huge obstacles, but in my opinion she went about this the wrong way. I could care less about a persons sexual orientation, I see human beings for what they are! not who they love/color/whatever so how dare you call me a bigot. I’m for equality across the board, but this was the wrong place to come out. It’s like me standing up at someone’s wedding/party and yelling out loud that “me and my significant other are getting engaged” its the wrong place/time and screams look at me.

  12. john says:

    Kevin, there is nothing wrong with her telling people that she is gay, but do you go running down the hallway screaming and annoucing to everyone that you’re hetrosexual?! The answer is no!! because no one really cares! thats my point!

  13. Eric.Jeff.Lurker says:

    I agree with John here, and disagree with a number of the other points made here (including those by Kevin Marshall). This was a person indulging in the height of a ‘look at me’ moment. There is a time and place for everything, this was neither. Let me state it a different way: If this person interrupted an assembly to state “I am heterosexual, have been all of my life” – the only news would be that someone thought that their own sexuality was important enough to proclaim during an assembly. But NO, since this person is advertizing her homosexuality, she is a hero? A brave person that we shoudl all aspire to be like? No, I think not. This outburst was inappropriate. If people want to be viewed and treated as equal, thse same people should ACT as equals. Stop thinking that basic rules do not apply because some people with similar lifestyles have been persecuted or discriminated against. Right time and right place – FOR ALL OF US.

    • But your points are moot because nobody’s ever had to come out and say “Mom, Dad…I’m a heterosexual.”

      You’re both saying that by her broadcasting her sexuality she’s doing something wrong. I disagree fundamentally with that assertion, in the same way that it’d be wrong to say someone can’t march in a Puerto Rican parade and wave a flag because we don’t have our own white parade.

      It’s also a bit of apples and oranges. It is still a very hard thing for teenagers to be open about being gay, and for one of their own to go up and do this at a time where there are so many crucial unresolved issues when it comes to equal rights and treatment of homosexuals in this country is not something we should dismiss as the whims of a selfish teenager.

      Again, not to beat a dead horse here, but neither of you (nor I) ever had to be in the closet about being a heterosexual, nor will our children have to worry about being beaten up on the playground or denied rights because they’re suspected of being attracted to the opposite sex. That point can’t be emphasized enough, because you’re both using it as the crux of your argument. Which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

      You’re painting this as “she ran up on stage and screamed ‘I’m gay!’.” But the truth is, she went up and spoke on her own person, and what it means to be that type of person in an age where her people – homosexuals – aren’t exactly treated kindly in many parts of the US.

      Kinda like another group forty plus years ago…

  14. hellomolly says:

    “could care less about a persons sexual orientation, I see human beings for what they are! not who they love/color/whatever”

    People’s love is often what, in part, defines them. Being gay is part of who they are, just like being straight is part of who you are. If you couldn’t express that you were straight through showing affection for your significant other, getting married, having children with the woman you love, wouldn’t you feel like a very essential part of you was being oppressed? To see people for who they are is to also see who they love.

    What I think Eric and John don’t understand is that our culture does not necessitate someone “coming out” as straight. It’s assumed. This girl is a hero because she got up in front of her peers and said something truthful about herself that could result in her being bullied, persecuted and taunted. Yet she did it anyway because she has nothing to be ashamed of and wanted to express that. If a straight person got up and did the same thing, no one would bully them, or taunt them. Because straight people don’t ‘come out.’ Gay people are ostracized in this society to the point that they often have to ‘come out’ to make their true self known. Straight people do not have that problem.

  15. Flurries says:

    I have to interject, If you say “I could care less about..” you’re insinuating that you DO care. At least a little. Should say “I COULD NOT care less”. Then you’re at the botton of the “caring” barrel. Sorry, pet peeve. Continue :)

    • Flurries – I’ll go further and say that saying “I could/couldn’t care less” about someone being gay does indicate on some level that you do. Not because of semantics, but because it’s always used to preface why someone shouldn’t tell you they’re gay and/or do something associated with being gay.

  16. SaraT says:

    Thank you for sharing this Kevin. I disagree with those who think this was a “look at me” moment. She could have arrived on stage and sang a song as expected, and everyone would have clapped and said she was talented along with all the other “acts” to honor MLK. Instead, she chose to eloquently put herself out there and take a chance-truly honoring the man who preceded her and literally gave his life for the liberty of millions. I felt she channeled the sentiments of Dr. King, and in doing so, will most likely empower other youth who feel like misfits and pariahs, all because they love someone society says they should not fall in love with.
    Enough with the discrimination and hatred of others. What makes me so special that I was born heterosexual? Luck and probably some genetics. Fortunately, I wasn’t born hateful and selfish, but have the feeling that all of humanity should be treated with dignity and respect. As this lovely, young, intelligent woman said-it was not her choice. We have choices and we should choose to support rather than take away the rights of others to live, love and die with whomever they choose. I wish I truly knew her, but since I do not, I will continue to support the other young gay people in my life. Peace.

  17. Leigh says:

    Obviously, in a perfect world where everyone had the benefit of truly equal rights under the law, speeches like this would not be necessary. Unfortunately, we are not at that point, yet, as a society. When you challenge the status quo, your voice has to be heard above the chatter. You have to speak and speak loudly in order to get your point across.

    We need more people like this awesome high schooler and writers like Kevin to raise the volume. Once progress is made, things settle down. For example, you don’t hear too many people demanding the freedom to be Quaker these days, right? That battle was fought and won and people moved on. The same thing will happen with marriage equality and gay rights. The battle will be fought and won and people will move on.

    So…a little suggestion to all those people who say they are OK with homosexuality as long as it isn’t, “shoved in their faces.” If you say you’re an advocate of equal rights, be an advocate of equal rights. Join the fight. It’ll end sooner.

  18. Flurries says:

    Good point. When I hear people say that out loud about anything it’s usually with a raised voice, which means you care about SOMETHING. I’ll stay out of this very interesting debate except to say if we all treated each other the way we would want to be treated, the world would be a much better place. End of stamped clichés, carry on.

  19. ChristineV says:

    #22, SaraT *clap, clap, clap*. Well done!

  20. Devon says:

    for ChristineV – I second that; was going to do the MLK connection if no one else did, but SarahT thankfully beat me to it.

    For SaraT – *clap, clap, clap” while standing. Would give flowers if we had an emoticon for that. Thanks.

  21. Ed Gilbert says:

    When anyone, because of a feeling of inferiority brought on by bullying and harassment, chooses suicide as the answer we are all diminished. When a person risks the same treatment in order to let others like her/him know that they are not alone, that there are others going through the same thing, that they are not less than human, we are all uplifted. I guess the question for those that would claim she was being selfish is, what would you rather be?

  22. Victoria Roth says:

    Well I’m going to “AMEN” Leigh’s comment (#23).
    Nicely said!

    Kevin, the more I see input about gay rights issues from certain individuals, the more I see your point in your previous blog post about “Why should I care if someone is gay?”
    Is that still in your archives?

  23. Victoria Roth says:

    Time and place, huh?

    An MLK Jr. Assembly isn’t the time and place for someone to talk about LGBT equality issues? It’s inappropriate for her to relate to everyone her own struggles in accepting herself because of the prejudice she’s seen in the world?

  24. Tony says:

    Brave Girl. I bet she will be on the Ellen show soon.

  25. jakester says:

    I think hero and brave are words that should be reserved for kids who enlisted in the military or joined the peace corps, etc etc etc.

    She didn’t even seem nervous, more like extremely well rehearsed.

    I don’t give a damn how she lives her life or sexual orientation but I don’t think, IMO, a HS assembly is the place to announce it.

    I would bet most kids in her school already knew she was gay and I’d bet it was on facebook too. Much like the TV show pretty little liars with the lesbian high school student kind of romanticizing being gay.

    This isn’t the 60’s I doubt MOST kids give a crap what she is.

  26. Sally says:

    The answer is no!! because no one really cares! thats my point!
    Your point is invalid because people do care, the wrong people. And they show it in really painful ways that force homosexuals (or other minorities) to go home and kill themselves/live secret lives and end up a statistic. Instead, this young woman took to the stage and basically said that she got the message that ‘It gets better’ and hopes that it will indeed do so.
    You don’t get it and that’s sad. I hope you never have to understand it personally.

  27. Victoria Roth says:

    Hmm, look at that. The perfect example to illustrate what I said in #28.

    Well, I for one give a crap “what she is”. :-)

    And comments directed at her like that (from people who supposedly don’t give a crap) are why she is rightly called brave and is probably seen as a hero to many.

  28. jakester says:

    Well, we’re all entitled to our opinion… I know kids that went home and killed themselves too. Guess what they weren’t gay.

    I’m sure she a hero to many, gay people, etc. I’m also sure she’s NOT a hero to many others. Sorry the world isn’t perfect for you but the gays I know are doing fine and I don’t see them persecuted.

    You have your opinion, I have mine.

    Victoria, now she’s a hero because some people don’t give a crap what she is.

    I’ll stand by my opinion of what a hero is to me and you to yours.

  29. Jen says:

    I’m not even reading the comments here before posting for once.

    All I have to say is that this speech took an incredible amount of strength and courage. I’m not sure I could muster the same amount for my own cause. Give her what she wants.

  30. Jen says:

    Thank you for posting this, Kevin.

  31. Jacque Mayoff says:

    Wow this is truly amazing,…….So truly wonderful……… brave……….so strong…………oh wait……i mean so Ridiculous. I thought it said at the beginning this was going to be one the most brave and inspiring things ive seen. It looked like a girl talking about being gay. In 2011, really? a gay person in 2011? That is inspiring. I think maybe Martin Luther King is a tad more inspiring than this girl escpecially on Martin Luther King Day. I think that the black people at the Assembly are probably wondering what the hell this girl is doing up there. I am pretty sure they are not thinking…”wow this girl really gets it”, “she’s has gone through the same struggles as us” (like slavery and all the other stuff that black people have in common with gays.) Every time an article regarding gays arises, a black person always gets on the comments and says “stop comparing us and our struggles to that of gay people”, “They are not even remotely the same”. (When researched most scientists appear to think that being gay is a lifestyle choice). Apparently she didn’t get the memo. This therefore has nothing to do with MLK day. Who is this girl appealing to anyway in this speech? Was it for the school to change their policies so their is no longer seperate classrooms and lunchrooms for gays? I’ve never been there but I’m guessing that gays are treated equally. Was it for the government so gay marriage could be passed or gays in the military? One is done and the other is on the way. This speech benefits no one but her, how is that not selfish? The people in her high school? They either already knew and didn’t care, or just found out and don’t care. Whatever people were going to make fun of her, are still going to make fun of her. Whoever wasn’t (the vast majority because no one cares) are still not going to. It is 2011 it is not unique to be gay, and is overwhelmingly accepted. So lets please not use words like “bravey” and “heroic” to describe self indulgence, when we have soldiers overseas and law enforcement dying every day to protect this countries citizens…gay, straight, of all colors, shapes and sizes, religions and otherwise……………

    • Because nobody can be brave but soldiers, apparently.

      Enough already with mentioning soldiers in order to boost your standing! It’s cheap, insincere pandering, and incredibly dumb.

      But since you started it, those men and women don’t voluntarily enlist and risk their lives so that you could look cool online. So freaking stop already.

  32. Craig B. says:


    “When researched most scientists appear to think that being gay is a lifestyle choice”

    I would love to read the research in this area could you please provide any links to articles that have said conclusions.


  33. Victoria Roth says:

    “You have your opinion, I have mine.”
    Well, duh.

    “I’ll stand by my opinion of what a hero is to me and you to yours.”
    Fine with me. I wasn’t the one trying to tell everyone else to reserve the words “brave” and “hero” only for people who I think are brave and heroic.

    Have a nice day, and try not to let things you don’t care about bother you so much.

  34. Victoria Roth says:

    Those who can’t see how this speech benefited others might never do so, and some don’t seem to even want to. I know there are a lot more people out there who understood the point of her message.
    Good for her, and good for the school for letting her stand up there and do that.

  35. jakester says:

    Kev, wow, not very open minded, you apparently don’t have much respect for a differing opinion. Oh the irony.

    In watching her “speech” over an few times it looks totally rehearsed, and she looks so at ease and relaxed it’s just to ohard to believe she’s all that persecuted for being gay.

    Nice rant though…

    some kind important issues:
    -nationla security
    -homelessness ( homeless people)
    -securing our borders

    making out with your gay friend just doesn’t fit the list, and sorry if it offends you or anyone else, but like the billboards, I’m growing increasingly weary of being lectured about gay rights, activism or whatever. Tere are far more real issues to deal with.

    That’s MY opinion and my last word on it…

    • Jake – that was in reply to “Jacques,” not you. His point was the one that was far more shoe-horned and pedantic.

      Although I do still stand by my statement that trying to qualify an opinion or knock down the actions of someone by saying they’re not US military is a bit ridiculous and cheap. It’s like an inverted “Hitler” label.

  36. Also, wait, gay rights isn’t a real issue? If it’s not a real issue, why are even having this discussion?

  37. jakester says:

    Kev, to answer your last question, of course it’s an issue…just so happens not the most important issue of our times.

  38. john says:

    Watch out kevin! the grammar police might come down on u pretty hard! “for that improper sentence structure, right D2?”

  39. Eric.Jeff.Lurker says:

    This is NEWS because WE MAKE IT NEWS. I have never had to come out and claim that I am heterosexual, nor have I been persecuted for being heterosexual. However, If people want equality – then shouldnt we give equality? Me proclaiming my heterosexuality AT AN INAPPROPRIATE PLACE AND TIME woudl also receive your praise?

    Your points, Kevin, seem to be simply supporting sensitivity toward homosexuality as a means to garner support. If people want to be treated equally, they should act as equals. Would you not agree that me going up to tell the audience that I am hetero would be inappropriate? If so, then you are fighting to keep people from being equal – not fighting to make all people seem equal. The time and place for this was WRONG – plain and simple. This event was to honor Dr M L K Jr.

    I, too, could simply sit up here saying that “this is great – she came out, and did so proudly – doing a justice for homosexuality”. And while this is not untrue, my points are that the time and place were IN NO WAY proper for this, and also that homosexuals will never be treated as equals if they continue to treat themselves differently. A heterosexual would have been chastised for these actions? Why are all of the people here that support this girl saying that it is OKAY to act differently than everyone else, but then claim that they want equality?

  40. Kari says:

    #17 “This outburst was inappropriate.”

    Did you listen to the part where she requested to speak when they were planning the assembly? So, if being approved & allowed to speak at an assembly where the organizers knew exactly what she was going to talk about is an outburst, I’d hate to think what is not.

    #32 “She didn’t even seem nervous, more like extremely well rehearsed.”

    See above. And those people who have experience on stage, she participated in a production of “Rent” so she’s probably used to being on stage & speaking. Hell, I’m not an actress, but I excel at extemporaneous speech, thus don’t usually appear nervous, but I’m dying on the inside. It’s not always about exterior appearances. Hmmm, point maybe?

    To those who think it’s self-indulgent and that it didn’t help anyone but her, I offer this. Are you married? Did you spend money on a ceremony and a party that was ALL ABOUT YOU? Why did you do that? What’s the point? You could have easily gone to the JP with a friend and not make a HUGE production out of it.

    As far as a gay person in 2011? That is inspiring. You’re missing the point. Was being black in the 1960s inspiring? Then what’s the big deal with MLK Jr? I mean he was just talking about being black in the 60s.

    Oh, and the last time I checked, gays were still ostracized, and aren’t allowed to marry, much like blacks and whites during half of the 20th Century. Blacks are still discriminated against in some places, oh wait, not in New York, right? So obviously gays aren’t discriminated against either.

    I can make broad generalizations too.

  41. Roger Green says:

    I think, ultimately, that she wasn’t coming out as much as she was trying to address the common issues involved with coming out. No, it was not a choice for her; whether being gay comes from nature or nuture, or both, is still hotly debated, especially in some religious circles:

    No, she wasn’t saying she was persecuted for being gay; she had been in the closet, and was expressing fear that she could be targeted, which does happen in 2011. She was well rehearsed; this, ipso facto, means that she wasn’t scared?

  42. Brian R. says:

    Bravery/ Heroic least describes the following:

    A) A soldier overseas in Iraq-

    B) A fireman in Albany-

    C) A U.S. Border Control Agent in Texas-

    D) A teenage girl giving a speech about being a lesbian-

    If you choose D. according to Kevy Kev— you are a Nazi- lol

  43. hellomolly says:

    To Jakester and #38, I am glad that as gay people you were never persecuted, made fun of, or bullied, and that as gay people you are accepted for who you are. It must be really wonderful.

    Wait, what…? You’re not gay? But you claim to know everything about what it’s like to be gay, that they’re all fine and don’t “seem” to be persecuted… particularly that since it’s 2011, persecution of gays totally isn’t a big deal anymore, and gays get along fine in society, they’re not ostracized, made fun of, and denied basic human rights like the right to marriage solely because of their sexual orientation…? Right?

    So since you seem to know everything there is to know about what it’s like to be gay in this day and age, I’m going to have to go ahead and assume that you are gay. Otherwise, how would you know?

    Oh wait. You’re not. So you don’t know a damn thing about what it’s like to be gay.

    And one more to #38 – most scientists do NOT think being gay is a choice. That is a fact. Sorry, you’re wrong.

  44. Tina says:

    If this is such a non-issue and no one really cares, why are things like this still happening?
    This poor bastard was in a bar and got beat up because of his sexual orientation…

  45. jakester says:

    HM, what the hell are you taking about… who ever said anyone knew exactly what it was like to be gay? Why can ONLY someone GAY have an opinion? So if you ARE gay you have no right to any opinion regarding non-gay issues? You have a large credibility gap and I’m afraid it’s between your ears.

    kari, did YOU read the part where Kev said students, staff, faculty and administrators prepped themselves for what they hought would be a pedestrian rememberance ceremony? That doesn’t lead me to believe she had her coming out talk preapproved by anyone.

  46. Tim says:

    #2, “WTF,” The Times Union reports news in the areas designated as news. This is the Kevin Marshall blog, it’s where Kevin Marshall writes things he wants to write about, or what he thinks people might be interested in. As I write this there’s 54 comments, obviously people are interested. I hope this clears up some confusion.

  47. Brian R. says:

    Tina obviously the subhumans involved in that are extremists and not regular citizens, that is why I agree with Jacque being overwhelmingly accepted.

  48. hellomolly says:

    #55, i never said anyone who isn’t gay can’t have an opinion, you’re clearly missing the point. I was referring to your statement that the gays you know are “doing fine” and “don’t seem persecuted.” yes, because your perception of the world is fact. oh wait, it isn’t. just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  49. crystal says:

    I just saw the video and for the people who say “this wasnt the place”. Your wrong. This assembly in honor of MLK is about “breaking the silence: on things that matter”. As far as people saying it appears fake or rehearsed, well she is a theatrical student, so maybe that was her way of getting over the nervousness. Dont forget, one sign of a truly nervous person???? Red face which she clearly had. Oh and she didnt just blindside them, she went to them and stated that she wanted to make a speech but just didnt say what it was about, because the girl in office thought she was signing up to sing. So people who think this was wrong or just a show. Get a life. This girl may not be a hero or brave to some. But she is that to another student who may be afraid of coming out.

  50. jakester says:

    crystal, good post. can’t say I totally agree but see your point.

  51. crystal says:

    Thanks Jakester :). I too see and to most degree’s agree with the points you made. While she may not be a hero in our eyes, or that there is more important issues going on in world. We have to admit this young lady is making a difference to someone. And I for one have to give her some “credit” for trying.

  52. jakester says:

    Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of area between being a “hero” and getting a lot of credit… definitely showed a lot of guts.

  53. Eric says:

    Privilege blindness, anyone?

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