To be out in high school...that to me at least, seems tantamount to smothering yourself in BBQ sauce and jumping into a tank full of starving Pihranna. The thought of dancing with a boyfriend at the prom is both wonderfull and terrifying at the same time. Having to fight to attend that prom against your school and resentfull classmates is a heroic act, unthinkable when many of us where in highschool. And coming out to my parents at that age....don't even get me started. However...lately the news has been filled with examples of courage and sacrifice on the part of LGBT teens. Some stories you may know...others you may not. but they paint a picture of extraordinary courage and the price we sometimes pay to be who we really are.
Jay and I are often astounded by the couragious actions of young gay men and women. Jay was so moved that he vlogged about the subject;
However, the sentiments expressed in that video don't go far enough, in my opinion. They don't tell the full story. Perhaps thats an impossible task. But I have come across some extraordinary individuals who, even though we see their actions as being somewhat heroic for their courage to be out ...they also show a very real price that many of us pay when we endeavor to begin to pursue a life of honesty and happiness...sometimes to ask anyone to pay.
Pams House Blend brought to light this song by the "Court Yard Hounds", who are the Dixie Chicks minus one. the lyrics perfectly fit todays topic and I will let them sing us into it...
Constance McMillen and her lesbian prom date hopeful are both Itawamba students, and McMillen planned on showing up in a tux. But administrators have banned same-sex dates in the past, and in early February circulated a memo (PDF) reminding students about "acceptable" dates — only after McMillen met with the assistant principal and the superintendent about her proposed evening. She was told she would not be allowed to arrive with her girlfriend, that she could not wear a tux to the prom, and her girlfriend could be thrown out of the April 2 event if any students reported they felt "uncomfortable" around them.
I'm so sorry they would feel uncomfortable around two lesbians...it must be tough to maintain that kind of focus while your heterosexual prom date is trying to get you drunk enough to shed the dress and express his undying love for you....horizontally... or whatever shape you can make in the backseat of the "love machine". Those pesky lesbians must be terribly distracting to such a rite of passage.
So Constance contacted the ACLU, who threatened to sue the school if they did not allow all students to attend...including Constance and her date. The schools response? ...an equality of a sort, they canceled prom for everyone sighting that they are not legally bound to hold one at all. True enough...though terrible grinchy of them. I wonder, did the cancellation of prom make Constances schoolmates "uncomfortable"? You bet it did...and true to form they did not blame the school for being unreasonable...they blamed Constance.......fan-frigging-tastic. "The girl who ruined prom"...thats got to make going to school such an uplifting experience. If anything bad happened to Constance, as a result of the schools stance, I wonder if they would take responsibility for it.
But Constance pressed on in spite of the pressure...which already makes her as tough as nails in my book. The school, rather than be forced to include gays in their afterschool functions, encouraged parents to organize their own prom. which they did....a "no lesbians" one. So Constance is still out in the cold.
Meanwhile, the ACLU's suit progressed. The final rulling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson. It in he determined that the school had indeed violated Constance McMillen's constitutional rights....but....the school is also, not legally bound to hold a prom. Net effect?.... "we can't do anything to help you".
The upside of this whole event is the coverage that Constance recieved for sticking to her guns. she recieved an offer of internship, support from the online community in the form of a "Let Constance take her girlfriend to prom" facebook page with over 400k in fans, t.v. appearances, blog coverage galore,....ah...and lets not forget...a $30,000 scholarship check from Ellen DeGeneres. I do find myself wondering however, if her girlfriend recieved the same treatment? At any rate...Constance is not through and vows to continue the fight with the Iwatamba School District.
lobby'd his school to allow him to bring another boy to prom as his date. Unlike Constance's story however, school officials in Cochran, Georgia...while at first against the idea..eventually came around on the topic and said yes to Martin bringing a boy to prom. In giving her reasons for the turn around of oppinion, Martin's School Principle had this to say:
You don’t have the right to say no,” principal Michelle Masters said. “As a principal, I don’t judge him. I’m taught not to judge. I have to push my own beliefs to the background.”
Derrick has been out since his sophomore year, but that does not mean that he does not expect some form of resistance on prom night. For being so courageous Martin has recieved lots of attention from gay activists who have offered to pay for the expenses of the night and have even sent flowers to the school.
Wahoo! Victory! Time to celebrate right?....not quite. As a consequence for bring so much media attention upon them, Derricks parents have kicked him out of the house.....wait what?...thats right, for being courageous and for asking to be treated the same as any other student you get kicked out?...apparently so. The parents give "too much media attention" as the excuse for kicking their child to the curb.
This is incredibly lame. We never know what we are going to get when we come out to our parents. sometimes we expect the worst and it never materializes...instead flumoxing us when the people we prepared to be rejected by, accept us tearfully. And then sometimes the worst does happen. We work up our courage to tell our family or friends the truth about ourselves...which is inherently and act of love...and we discover that those we love have limits on how they love us. Some are utterly disowned, some kicked out into homelessness, and others may be abused.
I don't know Derricks parents or what his relationship to them is like. But it seems an awfull high price to pay for the simple act of sticking up for yourself. Even if your son's actions bring you some social embarasment because you don't believe in what he's doing...cutting him off should never be an option.
But Derricks troubles are not done...predictably, he also has to contend with a portion of fellow students who appose his bringing a same-sex date to the prom and care enouch to protest it at town hall. Their completely B.S. excuse is that "We don't care that he's gay, just dont talk about it."...uh huh....right...
some quotes from the offended students:
“We knew Derrick was gay,” said Keith Bowman Jr., a high school senior who showed up at the rally. “They don’t want (Cochran) to be known as a pro gay town.”
No worries there bud....
and this one by the leader of the rally protesting Martin, who has also asked to have her prom ticket refunded rather than be seen dancing next to a gay:
“I don’t believe in going up there and dancing with gay guys like that,” she said. “It’s also not just him bringing a boy. It was bringing all this attention to it.”
Mike Manning and Tanner:
Queerty put together a montage of clips from the showing their very touching on air reunion. The love between the two of them was palpable and the segment ends with Mike giving Tanner a promise ring before Tanner has to return home. Upon returning home, Tanner decides that now is the right time to come out to his parents about being gay...and about being in love with Mike. I'm a big softy...it broke my heart to watch what happened. In short, he indicated to his mother that he had something important to share with her and that he was in love with someone. To which she said, "please let it be a girl because that would be the only thing that would crush me and dissapoint me(loving a man)...it wouldn't matter who the girl is."
And their goes his belief in his mothers love in one fell swoop. I say that because I've been there...many of us have. The unconditional love that we grew up to believe was ours...wasn't. So, Tanner calls Mike to give him the tearfull news. He also tells Mike that his mom told his dad who said if he had a gay son he "couldn't go on living"....oh man, the drama. "My son is gay, let me kill myself now." Argh....pure emotional manipulation if ever it existed. Mike then goes on to give a tearfull and impassioned monologue about what kind of parent holds out unconditional love to their child all their life...just to remove it because they are gay.
Whether or not Tanner has been kicked out or disowned, as the video on queerty suggests, is unknown. Mike has tweeted that he and Tanner are "just friends for now". Which suggests Tanner is dealing with alot of heat right now. I wish I could share the video here but, alas, it seems to exist solely on Queerty for the time being.
As parents, we spend so much of our lives doing our best to raise our children to be responsible adults. One day they may carry a gun and fight for our country, we allow them to drive a car at 18 and get married. Why is it that they can't be trusted to have made a reasoned decision about who they love? And I know some people will take this badly, but no parents love should come with those kinds of strings attached. You don't have to like it, you don't have to approve....but when you throw your child out or threaten them with removal of your love as a parent, you show that that love always had limits. It makes me so mad everytime I hear it....and we get HUNDREDS of emails from teens coming to terms with their sexuality and afraid of losing their families if they tell the truth....I wish our viewer/readers could see that mountain those emails make....its an unimaginable tragedy and reality of life for many gay teens.
Whenever I judge someone...I always get confronted with a situation in which I am shown that I can do the same thing. But I can't help it, whether its my mom telling me I am bound for hell, or Jays father disowning him forever, or any of the three stories listed above....coming out has risks....and it makes me angry that one of those risks come from the people who are supposed to stand by us no matter what. Its no great wonder that so many LGBT teens commit suicide....or that we build our own families in order to find the love and support missing in the ones we were born into....it should never be. But these are the steps that young LGBT people are willing to take...and all to often the price that is paid for their courage.