BY ANNIE ROSENTHAL, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Photo: Helen Malhotra
Principal Pete Cahall came out as gay to the student body today at lunch during the celebration of Wilson’s second annual LGBTQ Pride Day. With Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and openly gay city councilmember and mayoral candidate David Catania (I) at his sides, Cahall told the packed atrium, “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.”
The announcement was met with resounding cheers from the crowd, which included representatives of more than 20 organizations that offer services for LGBTQ youth in the district.
“I’m 50 years old and I’m just tired of hiding…I would be a hypocrite if I was the leader of a school with a gay pride day telling kids to be proud and open about themselves if I wasn’t doing it myself. How can I look in the mirror and look at you if I’m not being honest?” Cahall told The Beacon.
He says he feels as though a ton of bricks have been lifted from his shoulders.
Openly gay Wilson biology teacher Chris Obermeyer, who headed the committee organizing Pride Day, says he’s incredibly proud of Cahall: “Coming out is such a difficult thing and it’s not something you can do on other people’s time. You have to do it when you’re ready…That takes a lot of courage.”
Dozens of staff members, students, and visitors flocked to Cahall after his announcement to express their praise and thanks. He was shaking as he accepted hugs from students.
For LGBTQ students, the announcement was a sign of progress. “I’ve seen a lot of ignorance at this school and I’ve felt a lot of hurt and I’m sure Mr. Cahall’s felt it too,” says openly gay senior Abbey Pechman. “It was really brave of him to come out and I hope it makes a difference.”
The event was particularly symbolic as Wilson prepares to face an anti-gay demonstration by the Westboro Baptist Church on the morning of Monday, June 9. Cahall announced last night on the school Listserv that students who decide to attend a counter-protest in front of the school at 8:15 a.m. on the 9th will not be penalized for missing class, and that teachers will allow students to leave class to protest if members of WBC arrive after the beginning of first period. Nearly 1000 members of the Wilson community and wider DC area are expected to attend the counter-protest.