Matthew Easton, the Brigham Young University valedictorian who came out during his commencement speech, appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” where he emotionally explained why he chose to come out publicly at graduation.
Easton, who is a 24-year-old political science major, was already out to his friends and family but he came out publicly in his graduation speech at BYU’s College of Family, Home and Social Science. The speech has received more than 200,000 views on YouTube.
“This is a new chapter in my life. I’m graduating and I want to live more authentically, live more honestly,” Easton told DeGeneres. “And more than that, I want to give visibility to the other students who are gay who maybe aren’t so ready to come out … I was so ready to do it.”
Easton explained BYU’s strict honor code to DeGeneres, which prevented her from asking certain details about his private life. He says physical contact between two people of the same sex, even a handshake, could be seen as an inappropriate gesture and get a student expelled.
He also says he decided to come out publicly in honor of a gay BYU student he knew who came out on Facebook. The student faced intense backlash and ended up committing suicide.
“I saw him do that, and I thought, ’Is that my future?” Easton tearfully recalls. “Is that what I’m heading toward?’ So I thought, if I came out at graduation, maybe a student like me—a freshman—gets to know that my future is something brighter. We can succeed. We can do what we want, accomplish our dreams.”
Easton has plans to move to Salt Lake City and hopes to get more involved in the LGBTQ community. He also is interested in heading to D.C. one day to put his political science degree to use. At the end of the interview, DeGeneres presents Easton with a check for $10,000.