Every high school senior is on a quest for the most memorable yearbook quote, and Maxwell Barrett is no exception.
The 18-year-old from New Jersey shared his yearbook portrait with the quip, "Of course I dress well, I didn't spend all that time in the closet for nothing," attributing the quote to the mysterious "unknown." Barrett, an illustrator who is heading to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in the fall, poked fun at the isolation and fear that some may experience before coming out, resonating with people around the world as the tweet hit 6,440 retweets as of Thursday morning.
Barrett's quote is reminiscent of California student Caitlyn Cannon, whose equally hilarious blurb touched upon both feminism and LGBTQ equality:
Cannon later said she was sick of seeing the same boring quotes from books and movies, and wanted to use the platform to highlight inequalities women face. "I've never really been ashamed to say that I am gay, so the LGBT aspect was simply who I am," she told the Huffington Post last month.
My, my, how far we've come: High schools across the U.S. are readjusting to having more LGBTQ students come out. Shows like The Fosters, Pretty Little Liars, Faking It, Awkward and others depict high school life chock-full of openly LGBT students. That's probably because people are simply coming out earlier than they once did.
One Israeli study says the age of coming out has changed from 25 in 1991 to age 16 in 2010, according to Science Daily. Another poll by the U.K. organization Stonewall says the average age of coming out has fallen by more than 20 years in Britain — 37 was the average coming out age for all people surveyed older than 60, but 18-year-olds in the poll said they were out by age 15.
Not so fast: But because LGBT people are coming out at younger ages, 51% say they have been verbally harassed in high school, compared to 25% of non-LGBT students, according to a nationwide survey of 13- to 17-year-olds by the Human Rights Campaign. Nearly half of LGBT students surveyed also said they are excluded by their peers for being different (also compared to 26% for non-LGBT students), while 17% say they have been physically attacked at school, versus 10% of their non-LGBT peers. Many of those students also deal with family rejection at higher rates, which contributes to the problem of homelessness among this group. In fact, an estimated 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, while queer people make up an estimated 5% of the American population.
So while Barrett and Cannon give a lighthearted nod to their own identities, their words also serve as a reminder for peers who might catch these yearbook quotes through social media and need to be assured they can live freely and openly, even if they feel they can't yet do so in their high school hallways.