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USA: Lesbian Student Sent to “Fake Prom” in Mississippi

A LOL cat shared by Feministing blog

A LOL cat shared by Feministing blog

Constance McMillen is an 18-year old Mississippi girl who, like many American teenagers, was looking forward to attending her high school prom this year. McMillen, a lesbian, planned to attend the prom with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. Her school, however, decided that both were forbidden.

McMillen contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who sent her school district a demand letter. The school responded by canceling the planned April 2 prom rather than bowing to the ACLU's demands, releasing a statement on March 10 that said: “Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year.”

Lesbian blogger Navy Wife wrote about her own experiences with prom, relating them to her current experience of being the “closeted” wife of a Navy officer:

While I would typically rant about her school board, I only feel Hope.  Constance provides Hope in this crazy country that is denying us the right to marry, serve openly in our military, share benefits with our spouse, adopt children.  Constance, at such a young age, chose to be who she is, without fear of judgment.  She gives me Hope that in the near future we will live in a world where everyone can go to prom with who they like, dressed how they like.

I wish I could boldly stand up like her.  For now, I will smile on the elliptical knowing that this young woman is out there, changing the world for us all.  And I'll turn up my iPod and rock out, surrounded by all of the military personnel who assume I'm just another Navy Wife.

With the help of the ACLU, McMillen took the issue to court.  On March 23, a Mississippi judge determined that the school had violated McMillen's rights, but would not force the school to reinstate its prom.

When the school-sponsored prom was canceled, a group of parents and private citizens offered to hold an alternative early April prom. McMillen, however, was given a false address and arrived at a fake prom attended by only a few students. The rest of the school partied at the real prom.

Plenty of bloggers agreed with the exclusion of McMillen, while many others showed an outpouring of support for her rights. Joe. My. God., winner of an LGBT blog award, was among the first bloggers to share the news of the fake prom, stating:

Constance McMillen has confirmed that a large fancy secret prom took place across town while she and special needs students attended what they were told was the “official” prom.

Marriage Tales, a blogger who says that she rarely discusses politics, shares an open letter to the parents and administrators who tricked McMillen:

I hope that one day you realize that instead of being the norm and taking the evil and hateful action you did, you had the chance to stand up for someone and make a difference and be the change. Instead you will grow up and maybe one day tell your kids that yes you went to prom like everyone else does in high school and you may or may not remember what you wore or what you did or who you went with and it won't be anything special. But you could have grown up and told your kids that you stood up for someone, someone who had the courage to be herself, even though it was different, and stand up for her rights. You could have been that person, taught your future kids that lesson, instead of being the person to lie, blend in with the crowd and refuse to stand up for someone else. Congratulations.

Pam's House Blend, another award-winning blog in the LGBT blogosphere, calls McMillen a hero, but wonders if she'd be better off leaving her small town and invites readers to chime in.

In another, related post, the blogger shares photos that attendees of the straights-only prom posted on Facebook and Flickr.

On March 24, Feministing blog linked to a CNN story reporting that lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres helped arrange a scholarship for McMillen from digital media company Tonic.com. The author of Silence is Betrayal: A Feminist Blog wonders how so many people could have plotted against McMillen:

Was there no one to speak out against this? No one in the student body willing to tell McMillen and the other five students where the real prom was? And no one from the community planning the event thought to question how cruel this was?
This town seems to be exemplifying the worst stereotypes of Mississippi: backwards, bigoted, and hate-filled. I hope McMillen takes her scholarship money and goes to a school with a diverse, welcoming community. She deserves so much better.
Take Action: The Human Rights Campaign has put together a petition to condemn the school district. Sign here.

A Facebook parody group called “Constance quit yer cryin” has been created to support and share news of McMillen's plight. One member of the group shared news of a more hopeful sort: Constance McMillen has been chosen as the grand marshal of the NYC  Pride Parade on June 27, 2010.  According to the same article, she has also been invited to attend a lesbian-only prom in San Francisco later this year.

11 comments

  • gie

    If the place is composed of conservative citizens, it could have been better if McMillen sacrificed herself rather than crying her rights. In my place, the gays organized themselves, prepare activities only for gays and they are accepted by the society as they are…

  • Gordy

    You have to remember this happened in rural Missisissippi, where all the calendars are dated 1860.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    How dispicable! So you’re saying that because Mississippi is conservative, and apparently ignorant, then anyone who’s not conservative has to give up their civil liberties? That’s like saying Black people shouldn’t have fought for their rights in the 60’s because ignorant White trash thought they shouldn’t be “crying their rights.” I don’t know what country YOU live in but in MY country, that is criminal! The school board, the kids who organized this “fake prom,” and the people who support them should be ashamed of themselves. I realize they probably won’t feel ashamed but you know what, the rest of the world is ashamed of you.

  • gie

    Civil liberty is about governance and though we have rights in a democratic country, culture has to be respected,too. If you live elsewhere in the Middle East or Asia, you cannot easily assert your personal desire.
    I live in the East and the whole world is not ashamed of me.You are just emotionally disgusted, Madam. Please try to travel to other countries and observe…

  • gie

    JS Prom participants in my place do not bring along with them their partners. It’s exclusive for the Juniors and Seniors only…therefore, we have no problem like what happened in Mississippi…JS Prom should be a big event for Juniors and Seniors, excluding outsiders. And time is limited to 3-4 hours only. Others go home by group or parents fetch them with cars. See, I live in a conservative place.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    Your argument is a circular one. Gay culture also deserves the same respect straight culture receives. Comparing our country to the Middle East and Asia is a moot point. The Middle Eastern law is mandated through the Koran and the majority of Asia (i.e. China) is communist. As a conservative, I’m sure you’re fully aware of the complete differences between our country and the countries you mentioned. We have FREEDOM in our country and if you think that we should be similar to the Middle East or Asia then I than I think you’re confused. Yes, people in those countries don’t have the freedom to speak their mind but that’s what makes America so great: WE HAVE THAT RIGHT! Further, we have troops that defend our country for that right.
    I don’t think it matters what side of the country you live on, close-minded people are everywhere aparently. And as such, your views are equally as emotional. I’m utterly confused about your second comment and unsure how it’s relevant to the topic at hand. Ultimately, this argument is about people being treated equally, no matter what their sex, race, or sexual orientation. What you do at your prom is irrelivant. I suggest you read our constitution and our bill of rights, you’re poorly misinfomed and your arguments are sophmoric.

  • gie

    Sometimes too much freedom becomes a hindrance on how to discipline children. In my culture, we are free but we are bound to respect the culture of our parents and grandparents. Anybody can be a gay or lesbian, no problem. As long as they behave…By the way, please make a research on ‘equality’.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    My argument stands. What you do in your culture is irrelvant. Our culture is different and our forms of dealing with social problems is different. Raising children is a family issue and not a governmental one. Our freedom has no effect on how parents raise their children. If you alluding to American’s children being undisciplined, then you are being offensive. Your definition of what is acceptable is different than what we see as acceptable. If “behaving” means having to hide who you are from your family, friends, and ALL OF SOCIETY, then that’s not behaving, that’s denying your very existance. These types of exclusionary practices lead to depression and suicide (see Durkheim).
    Bottom line, what they did to this girl was unacceptable in our country; what you do in your country is again, irrelivant. We have freedom in this country and we WILL exercise it. Just as I won’t tell you how things should be done on your side of the world, you too should not tell us what we do in ours. It’s called mutual respect.

  • gie

    If there is really freedom in your country, then, fight for that right and let’s see where it goes.I don’t argue, and I won’t assert, whatever. We live in a different world. Please just don’t forget, a family problem also belongs to the government. Look at the streets where children do not belong to any home..look at the rehabilitation centers..I have never mentioned any nationality, not even yours. I think there’s no point making comments anymore. Fight for all your rights, that’s what you believe, Madam. I still believe in my own perception. Global Voice is our platform of expression. You may never like what I have said, I still respect your own opinion.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    Although I don’t agree with you, I too respect your opinion. Thanks for the lively debate!

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