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Student comes out as gay at Venice high school graduation ceremony

VENICE, Fla. (WWSB) — This isn’t your usual place where someone comes out as gay.

William Harless made a bold statement during his graduation from Venice High School on Friday. He is officially out of the world, including his family. He carried the multicolored pride flag on stage when his name was announced.

“The reason I chose graduation is because I really wanted to stay true to myself, because graduation depends on your accomplishments,” Harless said. “And you can’t really recognize your accomplishments if you don’t recognize your true self.”

Harless says it’s something he’s been looking to do since his seventh-grade days in West Virginia. Five years later, he says it felt like the right time.

“It’s unbelievable, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Harless said. “I’ve been able to really stay true to myself because I don’t feel like I don’t need to hide any part of myself anymore. I feel really free.

Christine Grossman with ALSO Youth in Sarasota says what Harless did and what Zander Moricz did with his graduation speech at Pine View School is inspiring. She says coming out as gay or whatever can be an emotional challenge for so many kids.

“Everyone’s experience is different,” Grossman said. “It’s been humbling to watch Will and Zander and other young people step up and raise their voices, and let the kids know it’s okay to be who you are.”

Harless says Zander Moricz who advocates for gay issues has helped him and so many others. He shares these words of encouragement for anyone struggling with their identity and coming out.

“With all the issues and topics of coming out, I don’t want members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel censored,” Harless said.

“I want them to feel like they can walk through this stage expressing their true identity, and Zander’s speech and his movement are very important because they affect people like me, as well as my community.”

Harless says his family and friends have been very supportive of him.

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