Valedictorian Speeches, Homophobia, and Pride


Many students can be spotted in the hallway with Pride themed apparel. Pictured here are freshmen Lindsey Pudwill (left) and Ryan Barbian (right).

Camila Trimberger, Editor

“…valedictorian says speech was nixed because he wrote about being gay”

Normally when you read a headline like this, you might assume that the story takes place in a small farm town, not in Wisconsin, let alone here in Sheboygan. Two weeks ago, Lutheran High valedictorian, Nathanael Werth was stopped from delivering his graduation speech due to the contents delving into issues the Bible holds against homosexuality. Due to Werth’s now busy schedule with interviews from larger news outlets such as The Sheboygan Press and Newsweek, Lake Breeze Publications was unable to get in contact with Werth. However with the start of Pride Month only being a few days ago, many students at South have been discussing Werth’s story and how it may speak for the Sheboygan area as a whole being less accepting than previously thought.

While his planned remarks may have been controversial to some of his listeners, the speech would have been a good opportunity for LHS and the Sheboygan community to expand the circle of dialogue on these issues,” comments GSA advisor, Mr. Haulotte. “Unfortunately, what could have been an enlightening lesson in citizenship was instead turned into a regrettable demonstration of censorship.

The GSA, or Gender and Sexulaity Alliance at South works hard each year to maintain a safe environment for LGBT+ students- which according to a survey of 87 students, make up around a third of the school. Due to the club’s efforts, many students feel safe in school. In fact, in an anonymous survey of LGBT+, the majority reported facing virtually no hardships due to their sexuality.

“I’ve never been in a conflict having to do with my sexuality [but] my hopes are to possibly come out to my parents some day” one student writes. However, a small number of students have not faced such acceptance with their peers.

Junior, Sean Kream can be seen donning a rainbow-themed tote bag in honor of Pride.

“I was kicked off the swim team because the other girls said they were uncomfortable being around me and my last girlfriend together” one student submitted anonymously “I hope Pride Month opens more conversations and makes members of the LGBT+ community feel safer and more heard.”

Another writes, “I came out to my friends after months of keeping it hidden from them. [The first friend] went so far as to say he was going to kill himself and never speak to me after I told him. The next day, I finally decided to come out to all my friends. They all disregarded it and some wouldn’t speak to me for a month after. I’m hoping that this Pride Month, people will stop hating on people because of something they don’t believe is right.”

In situations like these, it’s vital that students get the support they need. The GSA is continuously working on bringing awareness and enlightening Redwings on LBGT+ issues, while student allies join in. “When it comes to someone saying hateful things, it’s our job to not give positive reinforcement a student ally states, “People that say those types of hateful things are looking for a response, so we cannot and should not give it to them.”

As for continuing efforts for acceptance, Mr. Haulotte adds, “South’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance grew tremendously this year, and we’ve become a strong, cohesive organization. Many members have already begun brainstorming ideas for community outreach in the 2019-20 school year. While it is still too early to say what those initiatives will look like, I have no doubt that our GSA students will be excellent leaders in expanding LGBT awareness in Sheboygan.”

Werth’s story has opened up the eyes of many community members to the homophobia that still lingers in the Sheboygan area. In order for the GSA to implement more change in the community, students need to be aware and willing to make South- and all of Sheboygan a safer environment.

Freshman, Oliver Grimes holds out his demisexual flag to celebrate.