Holy Cross High School valedictorian Christian Bales wanted to deliver a speech about youth advocacy at his graduation tonight, but the diocese said it was inappropriate.— Sarah Walsh (@sarahbellewalsh) May 26, 2018
So he accepted his diploma, grabbed a megaphone and gave the speech outside. https://t.co/25VRma0PDF pic.twitter.com/k80O4Ns66X
A gender-nonconforming student in Kentucky says he was denied the opportunity to speak at his graduation ceremony, even though he was slated to do so as school valedictorian.
Christian Bales told BuzzFeed News that he and his best friend, student body president Katherine Frantz, were denied the chance to speak at their graduation from Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, earlier this month.
The school, which is overseen by the local Catholic Church diocese, determined Bales’ speech would be “too personal, angry, confrontational, and political,” Bales said his mother was told.
Bales frequently goes to school in feminine clothing and wears makeup at many school functions. He said he believes its his gender nonconformity that led to the decision, not the context of his speech.
“Just myself being visible and existing has threatened them, in their minds,” Bales said.
A text document of his speech was made public online, and indeed there doesn’t seem to be anything outright political, angry, or deeply personal within it.
Bales does bring up a group of teenage activists from Parkland, Florida, who are advocating for stricter gun control, by discussing their “mantra,” “The young people will win,” but his observation is more of a passing reference to their power as young people and doesn’t include any commentary either agreeing or disagreeing with their movement.
“The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us,” Bales wrote in his speech.
Facing his own institution that tried to silence him, Bales instead delivered his speech — outside of his high school ceremony, and he used a bullhorn to deliver it loudly to all who wanted to hear it. The video of him doing so has since captivated the internet.
As a private institution, Bales’ high school likely had the right to prevent him from speaking. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still wrong — his words were not the “angry” or “political” screed the school made them seem to be.
Rather, they were inspirational pieces of wisdom from a young gender-nonconforming individual who professed a deeper understanding about the future of this world. It does indeed seem as though the young people will win in the years ahead — especially if they have voices like Bales’ to push them forward.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: U.S. Department of Education/Flickr