Bryce Dershem is an 18-year-old graduate who was cut off within a minute into his valedictorian speech at his New Jersey high school graduation ceremony that took place on June 17. Namely, his microphone was cut off after he had just told the audience how he had felt after he came out as queer in his freshman year.
“After I came out as queer freshman year, I felt so alone. I didn’t know who to turn to” – he said, just before the principal, Robert M Tull, walked to the back of the stage and unplugged some chords. The ceremony has been filmed and you can clearly see Tull getting on the stage and removing the microphone from its stand as he turned and walked away with the paper copy of Dershem’s speech.
To Bryce Dershem – I’m so proud of you for speaking truth to power, and for your resilience and courage.
To all of our LGBTQIA+ youth – you belong, you are loved, and we will continue to fight alongside you for equality, inclusion, and respect.https://t.co/0QzGjbIJqj
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 26, 2021
Dershem told NBC10 Philadelphia that the principal came to the stage and grabbed the paper that he had brought and crumpled it in front of him in his hand.
He then pointed to the speech that he had written for Dershem, effectively telling him that he was only supposed to say that and nothing else.
Thankfully, a replacement microphone was brought to him and after his classmates cheered for him to continue he speech, he picked up where he left off and recited the speech he had worked on for a month.
This is what he said in his speech:
“We brand high school as four years of self-discovery but few of us even know where to begin. After I came out as queer freshman year, I felt so alone. I didn’t know who to turn to for support, for guidance, for a hug. Every day at school I outwardly smiled, while inwardly questioning how we were supposed to link the different facets of our identities. Brother, sister, queen, queer lover, human being. Even though my family my friends and so many amazing Eastern faculty believed in me, I needed to accept the unapologetic version of myself, for myself. We all do. But before we can even start down this road of self-discovery, we got to make sure we are doing okay and can handle the drive — especially when it comes to mental health.”
He believes that the principal was trying to pretend that his interruption was caused by technical difficulties, and he also noted that the school had asked him to remove the pride flag he had draped over his graduation gown.