Alexander Duarte knows how to make a statement — and his homecoming proposal was no exception.
During lunch hour on #NationalComingOutDay the self-described “noobie” makeup artist and senior at Valley High School in Santa Ana, Calif., staged a homecoming proposal for the books. With his classmates lining up in support, and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” playing in the background, Duarte stepped through a door that read “Out of the Closet” and asked the straight captain of the football team, Erick Pineda, to homecoming.
The moment, which Duarte captured on his Instagram, shows the two hugging as students erupt in applause, some appearing to wipe away tears. Behind the two seniors, two classmates hold Duarte’s homemade rainbow sign, which reads: “I know I’m GAY, but can I take you STRAIGHT 2 HOMECOMING?”
Duarte’s proposal to Pineda, who is a friend of his, was inspired by Pineda jokingly saying he should bring him to homecoming. In an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Duarte says that he decided to actually do it, and use it as an opportunity to spread a lesson in self-esteem.
“There are various students who are part of the LGBT community at my school and the students and staff are very supportive,” Duarte tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “However, I really wanted to show other students that it’s OK to be themselves because one of the main things that hold people back aren’t others but ourselves.”
Although Duarte timed the proposal with #NationalComingOutDay, it wasn’t until this weekend that it earned him accolades across the web, with write-ups on the Advocate and LGBTQNation.com, and tweets from celebrities like Queer Eye‘s Bobby Berk.
In an interview with Instinct, Duarte said adults have been accepting and encouraged by his bravery. “My Spanish teacher was the most accepting as she was in the video saying, ‘You’re my hero’ to Erick,” Duarte told Instinct. “Parents, for the most part, will be accepting. Of course, they know I’m gay and we have to remind people we are going as friends and that he is straight.”
Although the date may not be a love connection, it’s certainly one that is breaking down barriers for other students. Duarte has gotten an overwhelming amount of responses from people — both in his community and outside it. On top of being thankful, it’s made him appreciate others who broke down walls before him. “I am really grateful and appreciative over the positive support my proposal has gathered — especially from older folks who have cried over this proposal and said it brought hope for themselves and their children,” Duarte tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I have become more appreciative of the road others paved before me.”
Duarte told Instinct that he has yet to pick out an outfit for the big night. But if this proposal is any indication, it will be one worth remembering.