’s Hero of the Year

Last Friday‘s Best Gay Year Ever column included a poll which asked readers to identify their "Hero of the Year." 10-year-old Will Phillips won by a wide margin, as you can see from the results below:

We contacted Will and his mother Laura Phillips via email to congratulate him and they let us know what the family was up to after Will made headlines last month for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to make a statement for gay rights. Check out the interview after the break!

Please note, we almost never do email interviews, but given Will’s age we decided that was the best approach in this instance. The questions below are either Laura typing out Will’s answers or Laura answering questions herself. Congrats on Hero of the Year, Will! Anything you’d like to say?
Will Phillips: Thank you very much for this honor. I am delighted to see that there are this many other people who
understood how progress is made and why I did what I did.

AE: Are you surprised to win?
Will: Yes, very!

AE: What was the best part of this whole experience?
Will: The Daily Show clip.

Laura Phillips: Seeing Will learn how much one voice can make a difference was
huge and will really impact him long term. One little voice can speak up
and make so many people listen.

AE: What have the other kids said at school?
Will: The teasing has died down alot.

AE: Laura, how worried were you about any teasing happening at school after Will spoke up? Did you have to do anything?
Laura: We were worried about the teasing. I knew that calling the
school would make it worse in the long run, but after the CNN interview
ran, he ended up having to leave school after two hours because it was so
bad. Then I called the principal, who had no idea that this "pledge
thing" was still being discussed. She said she would look into it and
then the counselor called me.

I told her that I was concerned not only
for Will as a straight ally, but also for the GLBT kids in the middle
school. The counselor told me that she was pretty sure that these kids
"didn’t know they were gay yet". I told her that Will, at 10 years old, knew that a
girl in drama made him all warm and fuzzy, and if he was sure that he
liked girls, someone out there was sure they liked members of the same

was also contacted by a rep from the GLBT section of the ACLU who was
from Arkansas and wanted to offer any help we needed. Also, GLSEN sent
us a huge box of info on the anti-bullying and name calling
campaign they do.

As I’ve said before, the principal has always been very
supportive and helpful. We were [also] concerned about Will on the bus, on
the street, etc., but school was really the safest place for him.
Whether they like it or not, they are responsible for his safety from

Will has friends whose parents have told them not to talk to him or
play with him because of his "pro gay" stance and "Anti-American"
sitting down, but they ignore their parents for the most part.

quick to make good friends this year. He skipped a grade this year, so
it was actually his first year with these kids. It was gratifying to
see those friends stick
with him.

AE: Do you think you taught them anything about tolerance?
Will: The ones that needed to learn about tolerance probably haven’t learned a lot, unfortunately.

AE: Christmas is this week. Are you excited and what are you hoping to get?
Laura: Will is very excited. He’s getting a Wii and a flash drive for school. He is so easy to please!

AE: What do you have planned
for next year?

We will being going to the National Council for Lesbian Rights
anniversary gala in San Francisco in May, and Will is going to be the
Grand Marshall for the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade! Other than
that, he is just gonna finish 5th grade and still sit down!

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