Times intern writes about connection to Taylor Ellis | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Times intern writes about connection to Taylor Ellis

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 4:43 PM

SUPPORTIVE: Taylor Ellis and his mom, Lynn Tiley. - MATT AMARO
  • Matt Amaro
  • SUPPORTIVE: Taylor Ellis and his mom, Lynn Tiley.

Matt Amaro, a photo intern here at the Times, wrote a piece for Poynter about his experience as a young gay man who came out around the same time as Taylor Ellis, the Sheridan High School junior who saw a yearbook profile on him censored by school officials. Matt was similarly profiled by his yearbook, but found acceptance where Taylor hasn't. The parallels struck a chord with him while he was covering the Human Rights Campaign's rally for Taylor.

I was sent by my newspaper here in Little Rock, Ark., to photograph a press conference happening on the steps of the capitol building. Headed by Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign, the press conference struck chords with me as Ellis and his mother spoke. She got choked up at the idea that, because of who he was, he was excluded from the yearbook. Ellis stroked her hair and Griffin gave her words of encouragement and she continued without her script.

The whole time I took photographs, tears ran down my cheeks.

Matt also gives props to someone who's been overshadowed in the coverage of Taylor — Hannah Bruner, the student journalist who convinced Taylor that his story was deserving of a profile and then reached out to the Student Press Law Center when her story and other profiles were removed from the yearbook.

Elsewhere, Slate's Outward section caught up with Taylor yesterday to hear about the fallout at Sheridan High.  
[By] fifth period I was ready for the day to be over. All these people were negative, quiet—just weird. I was ready to be home, just trying to get away from everything. Then I got in the Instagram page someone made that said “Sheridan School = No Gays.” I was looking at all the people [at Sheridan] who liked it and who followed it—people I don’t need to talk to. Three of them were in that class, sitting right across from the room from me. One of them was like, “I have the same lotion you have.” My friend wanted me to flip her off. But I’m not that kind of person.

Did anyone confront you about the story?

One girl started going on this rant that I did not want to hear. I didn’t ask her to tell me what she thought about it. She’s sitting here telling me I’m giving the school a bad name and I’m blowing the school out of proportion. But I don’t even like seeing myself on the news! I don’t like being on TV. I just like posting pictures. I thought this would be fun. But it’s not…

I asked [a few other students] why they were following this hate page [on Instagram]. And my teacher said, you don’t need to be talking about that in class. You need to go sit down. You have assignments to do. This teacher has never gotten onto me, never had a problem with me. But now she just kept saying stuff and I was just sitting there, shaking and crying. That’s what I do when I get mad—I shake and cry.

I just sat there waiting for the bell to ring. Then after class I stopped in my old Spanish teacher’s room. She helped me with everything last year. She does this year, too. But I haven’t had as many problems this year. I’m out and everything’s good. She hugged me and we prayed together. When you hug people, you cry, you know?


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