Ellen sat down with Brigham Young University valedictorian Matthew Easton today. Last week we reported that Easton came out as gay in a speech to his entire class at graduation.
First, Easton explained the environment at the Mormon university: “We agree before we go we can’t drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, and we can’t enter into gay relationships. So it’s pretty tough there sometimes, especially if you’re gay.”
“Yeah,” quipped Ellen. “Or want a drink.”
Easton talked about his decision to come out during his graduation speech: “Ultimately I decided there’s no better place. I want to live more authentically, live more honestly. And more than that I want to give visibility to the other students who are gay who maybe aren’t so ready to come out.”
“My hands were so sweaty, I was so nervous,” Easton added. “I was going back and forth, you know, ‘am I gonna do this?, am I not gonna do it?'”
Easton went on to explain that at BYU he can’t even hug a male friend or he would be reported and possibly expelled: “It’s really scary as a gay student.”
Easton became emotional as he talked about the white stole of honor he was wearing at the graduation ceremony, which he said was a tribute to a fellow student named Harry Fisher.
“It was his last semester and he was in sort of the same situation that I was, and he decided to come out on Facebook, and because of the rhetoric and the response that he got from our community he actually ended up committing suicide,” Easton explained, tearing up. “He sat right in front of me, and I saw him do that, and I thought, ‘is that my future? is that what I’m headed toward?’ So I thought, maybe if I came out at graduation, maybe a student like me, a freshman, could say, ‘no, my future’s something brighter, something better. We can succeed. We can do what we want and accomplish our dreams.’ So that’s why I chose to come out there.”
Ellen, clearly blinking back tears after Easton’s story, praised the grad: “It’s all about visibility. A lot of times some people want to keep us quiet … and I think that we all want to be seen. What you did was pretty amazing, and especially to be here. You are going to be seen by a lot of people.”
Easton added that when he told his dad he was going to come out in the speech, his dad said, “Matt, if people have a problem with what you’re going to say, it’s a problem with them, not with you. We love you. We’re here for you and that’s all that matters.”