ACTION ITEM, YOU GUYS:
Your task, if you choose to accept it (and you will if you know what’s good for you *hrmph*):
I wrote (and everybody else wrote too) about the school board in Itawamba County, Mississippi, which chose to punish an entire school by canceling the prom, rather than treating everyone equally and letting a lesbian student bring a girl as her date. Everyone should be able to attend the prom with the person they want to go with, and if you happen to be in a high school romance, you definitely want to go with your significant other. We all remember those times.
So here’s what you need to do:
1. If you haven’t joined the Facebook group, do so. That’s the easy part.
2. Write a nice, heartfelt, firm e-mail (or make a phone call) to the members of that school board. There’s no need to yell at them. This is a time for them to hear our voices clearly, with a tough sort of love. We’re defending this kid here. Let’s act like it. (Righteous indignation is FINE.)
Here, via John Aravosis and Dan Savage, are the appropriate names and e-mail addresses:
Superintendent Teresa McNeece
phone (662) 862-2159 Ext. 14
Principal Trae Wiygul
School Board Member Eddie Hood
School Board Member Jackie Nichols
School Board Member Harold Martin
School Board Member Clara Brown
School Board Member Tony Wallace
All right, you have your assignments. Get to it, my babies!
Two things. First, here’s a petition you can sign asking the school board to reverse their decision. Second, I’ve decided to post the letter I sent here as well. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, feel free to use it as a guide:
Dear Sirs and Madams:
You’ve all received hundreds of e-mails at this point about your decision to cancel the Itawamba Agricultural High School prom. I’m glad. Those e-mails have been from straight, gay and lesbian people from all over the country (and possibly the world). I’m also a writer and spokesperson for a national gay rights organization called Truth Wins Out, and we see firsthand the trauma that gay and lesbian kids deal with just trying to fit in in a world that often sees them as different. Look, we all have our beliefs. I respect that, and this is the United States, where we are given the freedom of those beliefs. But we are not given the freedom to impose our personal beliefs on others. I’d like you to consider something for me: Of all the “moral issues” facing this country, why does this one divide so many? And why is it that those most likely to be supportive are those who actually know gay people the best? There is a reason the younger generations are, in large majorities, supportive of LGBT people. They’ve grown up with gay and lesbian aunts, uncles, moms, dads, teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, classmates, etc., and they know something many in the older generations do not. They know that we are no different, qualitatively, than they are. In fact, they know that we’re part of the exact same fabric they are. Because of their firsthand experience, they also know that much of what they may have been taught about who gay people are, what gay people are like, etc., simply isn’t true. All over the country, and yes, even in the South, gay kids are striving and thriving just like their straight peers. Just down the road from you in Memphis, gay kids have been taking their same gender dates to proms (in the suburbs!) for years now. And you know what? It’s turned out okay. Give your kids a chance to have the same opportunities to experience their prom in a way they’ll remember fondly.
Frankly, I expected better from the adults in the situation. Children rely on us to set a good example, and the example you’ve set says that it’s okay to punish a whole group for the (perceived) sins of one, and you’ve also shown them how to scapegoat an innocent person for the crimes of others. And let me let you in on a little secret, folks: Constance isn’t the only LGBT person at that school. You may not realize it, and the students may not realize it, but numbers don’t lie. There are gay boys and lesbian girls in that class, but they’re scared to come out. You’ve shown them this week that they have a reason to fear. You’ve shown them that the adults in their lives don’t have their backs, and for some, you’ve confirmed their fears that they’re alone in this world. You’ve now actively encouraged a climate of cruelty, of fear, of bullying, and of violence with your ill-conceived decision.
As I said before, we hear the stories on the other side. Some of them have happy endings. Others do not.
It’s in your hands. Be the adults.
Truth Wins Out