Wilson HS Principal Pete Cahall alongside Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large).
As hundreds of students gathered in the atrium of Wilson's High School today for LGBTQ Pride Day earlier today, they were treated to an unexpected announcement: popular principal Pete Cahall told them he was gay.
“I want to say publicly for the first time because of your leadership, care and support that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School,” he said while visibly shaking. (A draft of his speech is below.)
Asked afterward why he chose to come out, Cahall said he felt that he could not continue supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students at the school if he wasn't honest about himself.
Cahall joined Mayor Vincent Gray after the event to speak about his decision to come out.
"I just turned 50 a couple of weeks ago, and something kept saying, ‘I’m tired of hiding.’ As a principal, if I was going to stand in front of these kids today, saying we’re celebrating our pride and you can be who you are, I would be a hypocrite if I continued to hide," he said.
Cahall’s announcement drew cheers from Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member David Catania (I-At Large), as well as from the students, who were gathered for the annual event that occurs before the city’s Capital Pride Parade.
One of those students was senior Aidan Parisi, who wore a "Legalize Gay" t-shirt and had "NO H8" painted on his cheek. Parisi said that students at first thought it was a joke, but soon realized Cahall was coming out to them.
"It’s just really nice to know that we have someone supporting us who understands our struggle, who wants to be there… he’s always been there for us, but it puts a personal touch on him being there for us," he said.
Cahall's announcement comes less than a week before a planned protest by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which says that it wants to express its opposition to the resources the school offers to LGTBQ students. Parisi is among the students organizing a counter-demonstration, which he says may attract thousands of students and residents.
"We’re going to support love and we’re going to encourage love and acceptance and tolerance and everything," he said. "The only reason I'm nervous is that there's going to be so many people there."
Speaking after the event, Gray said he was proud of Cahall and called it a "disgrace" that the Kansas-based group would be protesting at the school. He also directed a message at them.
"I’ve read some of their material, and I don’t mind repeating what I said out at the student rally, in my best Biblical reference, they can go straight to hell," he said.
The protest is set for Monday morning at 8:15 a.m.
Intro of Mayor Gray at Pride Day