Which, of course, leads me to the plight of Mississippi teenager Constance McMillen. By now you’ve hopefully heard her story. The 18-year-old Itawamba County Agricultural High School student made national headlines last week because she asked her school if she could wear a tuxedo and bring her girlfriend to the prom. I know! What year does she think this is? 2010? The school said no (they have a policy against same-sex dates at prom – since they rightfully know it’s actually 1910). Then Constance asked the ACLU to politely show them the correct date on the calendar. But instead of just letting her wear what she wanted and slow dance to Taylor Swift songs with whom she wanted, school administrators canceled the whole damn prom. That’ll show the gays! No one can dance now! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! [Insert hand-wringing and/or stroking of a white cat.]
Now that this sort of close-minded, intolerance still exists should not come as a surprise to anyone. But that more young people like Constance are standing up to it and not accepting inequality as a status quo anymore is inspiring. Constance didn’t just ask one person for permission and leave with her tail between her legs when she was told no. She went to the vice principal, to the principal, to the district attorney, to the superintendent and ultimately to the school board. Then she contacted the ACLU. And now the ACLU has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get prom back for everyone.
So what gave this 18-year-old the strength to take on an entire school district? She told Michelangelo Signorile on his radio show:
“I am proud of who I am, regardless if I’m different... I decided maybe I could make a change, not just for me but for future generations of kids.”
Of course, the school’s cowardly decision has made things even more difficult for Constance. This is a small town in Mississippi, after all. And, well, it’s high school. She said since prom was canceled she thinks about 70 percent of the school had turned against her, making her the villain.
Luckily, there have also been supporters, too. Constance has a Facebook fan page with more than 360,000 supporters. And the celesbians are fans, too. Wanda Sykes invited Constance and her girlfriend to attend the GLAAD awards. Cat Cora (herself a Mississippi native) issued a statement and offered to make an appearance at prom. And Ellen DeGeneres is having Constance on her show today.
But this isn’t really about star power of media appearances. This is about the power of one person with the courage, determination and eloquence to know her cause is just and not let anyone tell her any different. As Constance told Signorile:
“Just because you are different for some reason, you don’t have to put up with that. I want people to understand that they don’t have to put up with it, and you should stand up for yourself.”
Life is so complicated, yet so simple. We all want to be happy, to feel loved. We all want to be accepted, to be equal. Those who fight against our most basic humanity, our simplest needs, complicate things endlessly. But, thanks to people like Constance, perhaps more people will realize how needlessly it is complicated, too. What she wants isn’t radical. In fact, it’s downright traditional. As she told the AP:
“I want my prom experience to be the same as all of the other students, a night to remember with the person I'm dating.”
See, simple. Thanks for the reminder, Constance. Happy weekend, all.
p.s. If you want to warm the cockles of your heart even more, check out Autostraddle’s outrageously adorable Lesbian Prom Gallery. It’s so fucking cute it almost makes me wish I’d gone to my prom. Almost.