Pete CahallIn a demonstration of strength and pride, a Washington, D.C. principal used his school’s second annual Pride Day event to come out to his students as gay on Wednesday. The special announcement was made during the school’s lunch hour at an event that drew protest threats from Westboro Baptist Church.

It was a day that 50-year-old Wilson High School Principal Pete Cahall will never forget. With a nervous tone and shaking hands, he delivered a speech he wrote the night before. In a moment of bravery and liberation, he said, “I am a proud gay man that just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School.”

He said the students and staff showed their support by applauding his announcement. It was the first time Cahall came out publicly in his six years as principal of the school and he did it with the support of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray who he informed of his decision just moments before he decided to something he has only told a small circle of friends.

Cahall said he was inspired by openly gay athletes Jason Collins and Michael Sam because of their bravery to come out to a greater public. He hopes his coming out can inspire students who may be struggling with their sexuality or feel they have no one to turn to. Cahall wants to be that person which is a reason he came out during such a symbolic event. He told WJLA, “What I kept thinking was, how can I be the principal of Wilson and oversee a pride day and kids to be themselves and be who you are and then not do that? It’s hypocritical.”

Most importantly, Pete Cahall was just “tired of hiding” and the support he received led to a sigh of relief, not just because he came out, but because of the progress it represented. The students demonstrated their support before their principal’s coming out moment. About 1,000 students volunteered to participate in a counter-protest against Westboro Baptist Church when the anti-gay organization made their intentions to protest the event known.

Cahall also received support from local politicians including openly gay D.C. Council member and education committee chair David Catania who gave silent support during the principal’s coming out process. Catania followed Cahall’s announcement by telling the crowd, “What we have just seen from Principal Cahall is an incredible lesson in integrity and courage.”