Gay Rights: Of High School Proms and Courage

If you grew up in the USA, chances are you went to your high school prom, either in the 11th or 12th grades or both. Prom is a rite of passage of American students, with all of the teen angst and drama percolating through and around the experience that one expects from the teen experience in social learning settings. Although some schools and students splurge extravagantly for prom, most of us concerned ourselves with what to wear, what time to arrive, and if we were going solo or otherwise. Sometimes, though, such events can mark a significance that is witnessed far and wide.

Constance McMillen

A few days ago, an 18 year old high school lesbian senior in Itawamba County, Mississippi, Constance McMillen, approached school authorities to let them know in advance that she would be coming with her girlfriend. Their response was typical of this excessively conservative region of the Deep South Bible Belt when it comes to gay matters. Rather than permit Ms. McMillen to come as she had requested, they told her that she and her GF could come if they were accompanied by boys, citing their official heterosexist policy. Then, rather than deal with the entire situation in a mature and just way, they chose to cancel the entire prom for all students. This ignorant, uneducated school board manipulated the situation so that the ire of students was turned on this high school senior who behaved admirably and with considerable fortitude. They apparently figured they would just sweep the entire thing under the rug and that would be that.

Not so fast, said Ms. McMillen and her father, who told her that she needed to return to school and face her peers, which tells us where she learned integrity and bravery. They contacted the ACLU, who has intervened and is aiding Constance McMillen in her request to be included in this important event in her life, identifying it as a failure of authorities to respect McMillen’s 1st Amendment right to expression. It is of note that in neighboring Alabama (my home state), Franklin County authorities chose to proceed with the Tharptown prom and another lesbian may now participate with her female prom date, after ACLU action.

It is said that children can be leaders and teachers, which is requisite on our being open to following, learning, and growing. I am certain that the entire Itawamba County school board members are churchgoing, God-fearing Christians, as that is an unspoken and assumed consideration for the post. Their actions loudly boom a worldview that chooses to elevate practices and beliefs from a  past that wasn’t that good for many dispossessed or disenfranchised people and groups, notably African-Americans. Now, using the same thinking and tactics, they are trying to oppress the Constitutional rights and freedoms of lesbians and gays.

I chose to leave the Deep South in the early 1970s, rather than face a permanent tsunami of homophobia firmly located in an impossibly moralist culture. My hat is off to Constance McMillen, her GF, and her father for facing down bigotry and for advancing the cause of human rights for us all.

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7 Responses to Gay Rights: Of High School Proms and Courage

  1. Jack Robertson March 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    My hat is off to the school who had the courage to stand up to forcible acceptance of homosexual in-your-face-ism. Contrary to the liberal’s wet-dream wishful thinking, the vast majority of people in this country don’t find homosexuality to be acceptable, in fact they find it repulsive. The school did the right thing.

    • Ole Ole Olson March 18, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      Denying Prom for all those kids because of their homophobia? How can someone possibly be twisted enough to frame this the way you do? Are you really that hateful of a person?

      • Jack Robertson March 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm

        Phobia = Fear.

        That’s where you get it wrong. They’re not afraid of flagrant, open homosexuality … just repulsed, like most of the rest of us. Yeah, I’m SO twisted I’d actually speak out in support of a school for not allowing open displays of homosexuality for all the kids to vew at a school dance. I guess I’m just sick and twisted that way.

        Oh, “this impossibly moralist culture”!
        Whatever …

  2. James March 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Your response speaks from the same or similar worldview that you share with the Itawamba County school authorities. Even if you disagree with this lesbian’s request, the disagreement being irrational and unnecessary, punishing the entire school and then redirecting the social ire from Constance McMillen’s peers tho this courageous young woman is appalling and fully lacking in charity of empathy for all of the children. How DO you folks sleep at night, knowing that your words and actions hurt and wound a significant portion of the human tribe? Go back and relearn what it means to “love one another”, would you, please?!?

    • Jack Robertson March 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm

      The line drawn in the sand by the school board reflects the values of that community; more specifically and importantly, the views of the parents whose children would be attending that dance. Fully knowing what “ire” would be directed at them by so-called “human rights” champions, I’d say the members of the school board in that community are the ones who have rightly earned the title of “courageous.”

      • James March 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

        When the actions of supposedly responsible adults toward a student result in harm of the student, those adults and their behaviors are neither humane nor are they rational.

        • Jack Robertson March 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

          Exactly, and that is why they acted responsibly by protecting all those kids from the harm of having an openly homosexual couple expose their sickness to everyone else.

          … And the dad needs some wall-to-wall counseling.

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