EDINA, Minn. (AP) — In November, Sean Simonson, a student at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in St. Louis Park wrote an editorial, “Life as a Gay Teenager,” for his Catholic school’s student newspaper that touched off a controversy and ignited Twin Cities media and the blogosphere.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio News at year’s end, Sean and his mother Ann Simonson talked about all that’s happened since Sean penned his op-ed for the school paper that began “I have considered suicide.”

His piece was a personal response from a gay teen to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ DVD mailed to parishioners before the election urging a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Sean had told his parents a year ago he was gay and Ann Simonson said she was supportive of her son, but the exposure in the school newspaper worried her.

“For people of my generation, coming out and being public, especially so young, not only meant possible isolation, or being bullied, but I mean you could be beat up and be killed,” she said. “And so for Sean, I’m clearly supportive of him, but I wasn’t initially as supportive of his story only because I wanted to protect him, and once a story’s out there, hands off. I can’t protect him.”

Sean’s story and the flap caused by the administration’s attempt to clamp down on online comments took off in a big way. It was a natural for journalists — we any love story with even a whiff of censorship — and blogs and social media spread it far and wide. Sean felt the strangeness of the student journalist becoming the news.

“I remember just Googling my name and going to the news and I had 208 articles like that just featured my name,” he said.

And in the true measure of impact these days … friend requests poured in on Facebook. Sean estimates 80 to 100 complete strangers tried to add him as a friend.

“I think there was like a person from Korea, and someone from like Norway,” he said.

What was more stunning to Sean though, was the reaction closer to home.

“I got one handwritten letter left for me in the main office from a teacher. And then I got like three or four emails from teachers basically saying they support me,” he said. “It was teachers I wasn’t close to and so that kind of surprised me.”

Sean said a school administrator told him it was worth what the school had gone through if just one kid benefited from what he had written.

If the point of Sean’s piece was to get a dialogue going about supporting gay teens, he succeeded not only among his peers, but also among adults. Ann Simonson said she was caught off guard by the reaction in her social circles.

“I even had to take a couple days off just to respond to the all the emails and phone calls I’d received from friends,” she said. “It was just ringing off the hook. It was quite amazing. You find out who your friends are, that’s for sure.”

In the days that followed, Sean found his anonymous detractors, the online commenters, melted away. The Knight-Errant student newspaper instituted a new comment policy: no anonymous comments and writers must use valid emails.

And he found he had even more friends than he thought he did. In early December, he was elected Grand Knight, the equivalent of the prom king, for Benilde-St. Margaret’s winter formal.

“It was almost surprising to hear my name called, that I was a candidate even,” he said.

And the student suddenly famous for coming out as gay invited a girl to the dance.

“I don’t really have a guy to ask,” he said. “And I love going to these dances. They’re a lot of fun. I picked someone that I knew I’d have fun with.”

Over winter break, Simonson’s celebrating his early admission to Georgetown University. He’s in the early stages of planning a Gay-Straight Alliance for Catholic students in the metro area. And he’s been attending meetings of another Gay-Straight Alliance at a Lutheran Church in Minnetonka.

Minnesota Public Radio

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (24)
  1. Kathy says:

    Lord have mersey

  2. LJGibbs says:

    Lord have Mercy on who? The people who hate him just because he’s gay? I have many gay friends, and frankly it is the least important part of our relationships. There are more important things in life to worry about than someone else’s lifestyle that is none of your business. God Bless Sean!

  3. Michele says:

    The Lord has plenty of mercy; it’s people who seem to need more of it. My best wishes to Sean and his mom.

  4. Jen says:

    I don’t think Sean is the one with the problem Barb (and Kathy), I think it’s you. Maybe we should all pray for you. Pray that you’ll read your Bible and learn how to be the good person you pretend to be each Sunday.

  5. sara says:

    I’m going to pray for you Barb. There was once a time when you were not allowed to open your mouth because you are a woman. I bet your happy times changed.

  6. skunk69 says:

    What a brave American Sean is.. Kudos.
    Barb and Kathy, go to hell!!!

  7. Alex says:

    Thank you, Jen. I’ll pray for Barb and Kathy as well. They are the one who need it the most right now. They are blind and judgmental; people with that unintelligent mindset don’t even deserve a say in this.

  8. Alex says:

    Kieth, how, might I ask, would you walk the earth with no legs?

    Also, Kieth? Judging other is also a sin. It’s in the Bible too.

    Matthew 7:1-5
    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

  9. Sumnight says:

    Sorry Keith, Jesus never condemned homosexuality. He only condemned divorce and hypocrisy.

  10. Shelley says:

    Thx Alex…well said.

  11. Mplscitizen says:

    Gay haters are sinful and don’t deserve the civil rights they’ve been granted.

  12. OJohnny says:

    Kieth , if you were gay, you would not have anything to say about it you would have to accept it. Just as you are hetero it’s the cards you were dealt, you learn to live with them. Oh by the way if you had no arms or legs you would have a hell of a time walking around the block much less the earth.

    Open your mind my friend and your hart will open it’s self..

  13. Mplscitizen says:

    ……And I also love kids I may add, I am a gay parent who loves kids.

  14. OJohnny says:

    Sean, it’s more than obvious you are as beautiful on the out side as you are on the inside. What a hottie.

  15. Joey The Elf says:

    Gay in….gay out….gay in….gay out…..gay in….gay out…..

  16. Fascism says:

    The 1st Amendment guarentees religious freedom, people have the right to woship in peace.

    Nothing is stopping gays from starting their own religious institutions, private schools and community centers.

    This is the media promoting false victimhood. You know “Mien Kampf” Translates to “My Struggles” No one is forcing this kid to attend a Private religious school.

    It’s just Gay activism harassing a private school.

  17. Jj says:

    My son was bullied at a MPLs private school as was another boy who killed himself two years ago. And not gay. You cant imagine how elitist kids treat gays let alone someone who they find less than themselves. Leaving that hs was the best thing that ever happened for my son. MPLs South treats gay students with respect. Christian schools are dens of destruction.

  18. Allah Is Coming To Town says:

    The Fathers must have loved him……

  19. Who Cares? says:

    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics
    are always so certain of themselves,
    but wiser people so full of doubts.”

    – Bertrand Russell

  20. Victim Du Jour says:

    Ann Coulter wrote a new book about how the news reports stories while promoting a political agenda.

  21. frank says:

    wonderful Sean and may your life unfold in a delightful way!

  22. Manny Espinola says:

    To Fascism: Correction, “Mien Kampf” doesn’t mean “My Struggle.” It means “White Trash with Poison Gas”

  23. Joey says:

    To Fascism and Glenn Beck wrote a book called Common Sense so what is your point?

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