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Outspoken / Julius Berman.

I recently graduated from Deerfield Academy, a prestigious New England prep school, where I came out in the spring of my junior year. At this point I am finding it bewildering to turn back and survey the path I took.

I came out to the 600 students in my school during an all-school meeting. My announcement was about the faith I placed in the community and how I felt safe enough to be myself and say "l am gay." I admit I was bluffing a little bit: I was taking a leap of faith. Still, I calmly expressed my trust in them so that I could make sense of the large step I was about to take into the Deerfield community.

The entire school rose to a standing ovation, and David Brewster, my art teacher and mentor, gave me a bouquet. With that bouquet I received the most loving beautiful hug of my life.

I realized I was gay about the same time I entered Deerfield. It was only later I realized that not only do I like other boys but that this would set me apart. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I thought I could live up to the "Deerfield Boy" standards--right up until I said those three words.

The Deerfield Boy is cast in bronze and stands with the Deerfield Girl at the entrance to our large auditorium. The pair stand as symbols of the ideals of the school, but it is easy to make the connection between what the statues represent and the Deerfield kids who overwhelm the quad: the boys' J. Crew pink chinos and machismo; the girls' Lilly Pulitzer dresses and hyperfemininity. These celebrated ideals leave little room for anything different. The school has a veneer of inclusiveness, hence the standing ovation, but it is hard for minorities to really feel like part of the community.

It's hard for gay male students at Deerfield, but it's better with a role model. My story was a success because I had a role model in my art teacher. When he left that year, leaving no openly gay males in the entire community except me, I didn't anticipate the burden of that position. Throughout my senior year I was hurt by the criticism I received. My grades slipped as my own success began to seem like a failure. Had a gay male in the community stepped up to help shoulder that burden, things would have been easier for me. I only hope another Deerfield comrade will carry the torch for younger students.

I can't say whether Deerfield will ever fully include LGBT students. But stepping up and questioning is the first step toward tolerance. In retrospect I realize that by coming out, I was presenting a question to the Deerfield community: "I am representing myself and all the students who are this way. Will you acknowledge us?"

--Berman is 78 and lives in Massachusetts.
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Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 26, 2006
Words:488
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