The Body Electric: Freak Out! On Tuxedos in Mississippi
In yet another fantastic display of what happens when ignorance meets a media blitz, the potential yearbook photo of Ceara Sturgis--an openly gay high school student from Mississippi whose school won't allow this photo of her in a tux into the yearbook due to gender rigidity--is now published, many times over, in a wide range of media outlets.
You know when even Fox news adopts a relatively sympathetic stance, you're way right of popular opinon. Officials at Wesson Attendance Center are now up against the ACLU, whose legal director, Kristy Bennett, asserted that, "You can't discriminate against someone because they're not masculine enough or not feminine enough." I mean, in many places you still can, but it's nice to know that so many people think it's bullshit that it happens.
All this has me thinking back on my high school proms. In 1998, when I was junior at a small school in western Pennsylvania, I chose to attend the prom at my girlfriend's more liberal private school than go to my own-even though I was openly gay. I had a great time at my girlfriend's prom, and I was able to attend in exactly the clothes I wanted and we were welcomed as a couple--but I'll never forget my feeling of not wanting to pick a battle at my own high school. At seventeen, I--like most misfits who grow up far from a coast--was ready to go to college, to get out, to live in a big city teeming with artists and people who I knew would understand me. Of course, there are open and closed minds everywhere and my high school (not to mention New York City) is no exception. But I remember the relief I felt knowing that attending prom didn't have to be a political act, because just walking down the street felt like one.
Ten years later, Ceara Sturgis is impressive to me--not just for her courage to stand up to a school that clearly is ruled by fear and righteousness--but also because of the obvious support she receives from her family and the apparent cavalier attitude of most of her schoolmates regarding the whole thing. "To hide how you express yourself is not being true to yourself," her mother, Veronica Rodriguez, told reporters.
Well said. I hope the district lets Ceara have her yearbook moment but--in the meantime--I love that Ceara's picture has gone international, forever preserved by all of us. And I hope that, ten years from now, she has a similar moment of admiration for a young person who's challenging the world to stretch past prejudice and into a new day.
On second thought, I hope that day will have already come.
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