Are Gay Equality Rigths Orgs Really Fighting for Equality?

Last year I went to speak in Mississippi and that was the first time I had ever been to that State. As soon as I stepped off the plane I realized that the Mississippi state flag still has the Confederate Flag in it (see picture above)! Seriously Mississippi, it’s 2010.

Anyway, I’m sure by now you have heard about the prom in Mississippi that was canceled because a lesbian wanted to go with another girl and wear a tux. I have a few thoughts:

You can see on the link above that GLAAD, among many other organizations offered to pay for a LGBT-inclusive prom. Though it is a great idea to keep the kids safe, of which I’m all for, I find myself conflicted because GLAAD and other LGBT equality organizations say they are fighting for equality. In my eyes, equality is defined as equal, therefore, integrated. I just don’t see how one can fight for equal integration while promoting separation? I know, I know…the safety of the kids. Yes, I get that! I especially get that in Mississippi!

But instead of trying to “fight” by sending mixed messages by separating, try to “fight” within the given structure—injunctions, etc. I am really proud of this lesbian girl because she refuses to let GLAAD or anyone else pay for a separate LGBT prom, because she wants to be integrated. Good for her—she’s showing much more maturity than the gay organizations that are supposedly fighting for her right to be equal.

What do you think?

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • J.Random

    LGBT-inclusive doesn’t mean Straight-/exclusive/. The offers aren’t for a prom only LGBTs could attend; they’re for a prom at which those kids would be *included* as fully as straight kids.

  • http://www.benlemery.com Ben

    It is unfortunate on all sides that there is such a strong overreaction to something so trivial. The school strongly overreacted to this and instead of cancelling the whole prom, they could have simply put a strong “public affection” clause stating no shows of affection during the main prom march. Obviously there worries were based on them marching out in the front of the crowd and having some big makeout session to prove their point or something.
    To be honest, I don’t think the students would have cared either way and this is another push by parents who think there kids will somehow be waving rainbow colored flags the next day.
    GLAAD is a joke of an organization and never presents real ideas or thoughts. They want it all but are not willing to look at reality. They are right up there with PETA and the ACLU.

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    I think I’d answer: we need both. Certainly I mostly hang about in a straight-majority world, most of my friends, colleagues, and family are straight. And I think it’s really important that straight-majority places are open to LGB people.

    But, there are times when I really benefit from being in an LGB-majority space. That’s where I find places to discuss my faith with no-one thinking about whether my same-sex relationship stops me being a Christian; to discuss the ways I parent without anyone thinking that same-sex couples shouldn’t parent; to give my wife a peck on the cheek without anyone thinking we’re ‘flaunting our sexual orientation’.

    I don’t find myself in same-sex majority places every day or even every week, but I need to be there sometimes so I can reflect in issues in ways I can’t otherwise.

    Will be interested to see what others have to say!

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    J.Random – I totally understand the need for LGBT allies, and the prom ‘inclusion’ is also most likely including straight allies. But I just feel that there are too many mixed signals. For instance, Arne Duncan, now the Secretary of Education for the United States, was most recently the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, and he proposed for a new Chicago High School: The School for Social Justice Pride Campus (it did not pass). Here’s the link:

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/13/gay.friendly.school/index.html

    It’s one thing to have a safe space to be you as a LGBT teenager, as Rachel said. I’m all for that! But calling something ‘open to everyone’ is a falsity because who would go to that high school except LGBT [Q] students? Sure it’s ‘open to everyone’ but in reality it’s self-selecting. In the situation of the high school, Josh Edelman, executive officer in the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of New Schools says in the article:

    “It is not going to be a ‘gay high school,’ but yes, in a way, it is meant to target kids who feel they have been victims of bullying for their sexual orientation or perceived orientation,” Edelman said.”

    So then, it actually is a gay high school. Just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like if I stand in a garage and call myself a car. I’m not a car, and it doesn’t matter how much I try to convince everyone I am a car. I’m not. That’s what this stuff seems like to me. Maybe I’m way off – and I’m totally open to having my mind changed on this one. I’m just really confused with all of these “equal but separate but actually equal” mixed messages.

  • Jack Harris

    I am at two different places with this :

    1. While I can see the necessity to create a safe place for GLBT students to feel comfortable bringing a date to a prom, I also worry about self-segregation and the fallout from that GLBT students are already perceived as “the other”. As someone who did his graduate work in higher education at Mississippi State University, I know that support and acceptance is not at a high level there. So my concern about further segregating GLBT students is very high.

    2. At the same time, I also feel that developmentally high school students who are GLBT and their peers are not developmentally ready to have an integrated prom. It took YEARS to insist upon racially inclusive proms all over The South so asking for complete integration after just one incident may not be realistic. I DO believe that it should be the ultimate goal.

    My Suggestions :

    * I think a possible way forward would be to have the separate proms for a few years. This would allow the GLBT students to feel safe and comfortable in a prom setting and at the same time, I would create open forums to discuss GLBT issues in the high school and have the nucleus of that group be the planning committee to create an completely integrated prom at a predetermined date in the future.

    *Both prom committees committees could have representatives from both groups and make intentional efforts at inviting people to attend BOTH proms.

    Finally, I think the best way to ever create a setting that is open and accepting is education and interaction of both straight and gay students over time. Dialogue, understanding and bridge building is the only way forward. I think its important to realize that change cannot happen over night but it should begin.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jack – You’re so balanced…I really appricate your suggestions and think they are extremely worth-while practical. Tell me, because I’m curious, what in the world must that have been like to be a gay man in MS? Does it make a difference on a big-time college campus?

  • Jack Harris

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate that. I was a graduate hall director of an all male freshman tower that housed over 400 students. Being “out” there was actually not that difficult. While I am sure there were many who did not understand/like/condone the fact that I was gay, I never had an issue on that campus. While it may be true that noone said anything to me because, as the saying goes, “Southerners will never be rude to your face”, we also have saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone come sit by me.”

    Born and raised in The South, I knew how to navigate situations to make myself supportive and available to other GLBT folks on campus but other minorities as well.I am also a graduate of South Carolina and Auburn, so I wasn’t knew to Southern Campus Culture.(YES I took a tour of the SEC, football season is very conflicted for me)

    One of those cross over moments is when I lead a building wide discussion on the Confederate Battle flag. We established very specific guidelines with regard to what is civil and uncivil discourse. While I don’t think anyone walked away from that discussion with their minds changed, it at least created awareness of how others felt.

    I think the fact that I was the mediator of the discussion helped in that, many students in that hall knew I was gay and at the same time born and raised in The South. I was also a “frat guy and jock” so I “looked” like them which I think also helped. I can remember that program very well because as we had the lobby filled with students, both black and white, they saw me enter. Many of them expected me to trash the rebel flag because I was a gay liberal but when I started the discussion with the fact that not only was I gay, I was also a direct descendant of Jefferson Davis, who was President of The Confederacy AND George Wallace, The Infamous Former Governor of Alabama who stood on the front steps of The University of Alabama to announce to Autherine Lucy that he was allowing her access to UA under orders of the federal government, it seemed to catch their attention and gave me respect among them.

    Today, I am still shocked that being related to some surly characters in Southern History would give me street cred but it did–and so I ran with it! Oddly enough I think it made the evening go smoother. Anyways, thanks for allowing me to ramble about the memory–it brought back a lot of memories! :)

    Jack

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    I guess I don’t get the point of your concern in your post, Andrew. She was seeking an inclusive prom and the school district (and now her community, which is now planning an exclusive, invitation only prom that won’t invite McMillen) chose to exclude her. Why is it so terrible that an organization — especially one that addresses the needs of a specific population — offers a service for those in that population, especially when they are being specifically excluded from the larger population.

    And now that I’m really thinking about it, couldn’t this be seen as a game of “blaming the victim”? She attempted to attend her school’s prom with her date. The school district canceled the prom. The community sets up its own prom and blames the lesbian for this whole mess. Another group offers an alternate and the lesbian and this extra group is being blamed for promoting segregation??? C’mon…

  • Iphimedia

    I am so disappointed and hurt by this whole post and some of these comments. Andrew, as I always say when I post, I thank you for your work, and it has meant much to me, but I think your compassion and empathy have failed seriously here. I almost didn’t post a comment, because I am feeling sick and lack energy. But I came back because I feel I have to answer some of these points.

    1. Andrew: “You can see on the link above that GLAAD, among many other organizations offered to pay for a LGBT-inclusive prom.”

    As Rachel says, LGBT-inclusive does NOT mean straight-exclusive. Andrew, where did you get this idea, and why? I saw your answer to Random, which I will answer below. I don’t think it was a worthy or well-thought-out answer.

    2. Andrew, GLAAD and similar organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign pstensibly fight for rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Andrew, you consistently use the acronym “LGBT” but like many in the gay/lesbian worlds, you consistently ignore the “B” and the “T” in that acronym.” Look at your headline, for example. How do you know that this lesbian’s girlfriend, for example, might not be bisexual or transgendered? As a bisexual woman, I cannot tell you the depth of pain and dehumanization I feel at the constant erasure and invisibility, even in spaces like this, Andrew, by people who say they want to reach out to me, but who constantly ignore my existence. Bisexual people and transgendered people are kicked out of churches, schools, the military, jobs, and beaten up at the same rate as gay people but we are not even acknowledged by name in the Christian or secular media, gay or straight. This is not a trivial thing to me and bisexual and transgendered people like me, who feel erased and invisible in the transgendered and gay/lesbian worlds, both secular and religious.

    3. Andrew: ” I am really proud of this lesbian girl because she refuses to let GLAAD or anyone else pay for a separate LGBT prom”

    Huh? I see no link to this information–no evidence. There is nothing to this effect on any of the links you have offered. So where are you getting your information?

    4. Ben: “It is unfortunate on all sides that there is such a strong overreaction to something so trivial. … GLAAD is a joke of an organization and never presents real ideas or thoughts. They want it all but are not willing to look at reality. They are right up there with PETA and the ACLU.”

    This is such lovely, bridge-building language. So mature, indeed, to hurl names at organizations who are doing, like the Marin Foundation, what they believe in their consciences to be right, and to make the world a better place. What have you done, commenter, to leave this world a better place? And why do you mock the feelings of a whole group of people who obviously feel this is a very important matter? And Andrew, why do you not rebuke him, as you have other posters who use ugly, demeaning, insulting language? I was physically ill when I read this.

    5. Andrew:” It’s one thing to have a safe space to be you as a LGBT teenager, as Rachel said. I’m all for that! But calling something ‘open to everyone’ is a falsity because who would go to that high school except LGBT [Q] students?”

    Andrew, your whole rebuttal to Random and Rachel to me seems full of falsities and a lack of compassion, and I was pretty shocked.

    First of all, your analogy of an inclusive prom to a “gay school” does not hold water. These are not logically comparable projects, and the level of commitment (asking people to attend a four-hour prom v. a 9 or 10-month school year) is not nearly analagous.

    Secondly, assuming for a second that we are going to make the comparison, I think you are selling short the students at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in assuming that “who but LGBTQ students” would want to go to an inclusive prom. To me, you are assuming (and I am very sad to see this) that they are as intolerant and uncompassionate as their elders. And they might be. But how can we know? In your book, you, at 19, I believe, a “Bible-thumping homophobe,” chose to immerse yourself in the LGBT culture rather than walk away from your friends. Why give these students less credit? One thing that has struck me in all the coverage of this (contra Ben) enormously important event, is the lack of voice given to the students besides Constance McMillen. How do we know what they think, what their preferences are? I think you are being presumptuous and prideful, reading these young people’s minds like this and assuming they would be less loving and courageous than you were at that age.

    Secondly, I feel that your assumption that what organizations fighting for equal treatment for LGBT folks mean by”inclusive” really is “LGBT only” shows a lack of maturity, humility and trust on your part (rather than your calling out these organizations on their lack of maturity) that I haven’t seen before in any of your writing, certainly not in your book. Why do you decline to take GLAAD at its word? Why are you so untrusting of its stated purposes? And if you will enter into bridge-buidling and public dialogue with an organization that has hidden its relationship with a pedophile, why not post questions to GLAAD and ask them about its real intentions, rather than ask your readers to analyze the public writings of this organization, and then post their opinions?

    This argument, that GLAAD can’t really be trusted on the face of what it is saying publicly, that you seem to be setting yourself up as the authority (or are solicitiing others’ opinions on what GLAAD is REALLY up to) is what shocked and saddened me. I felt I was through the looking-glass when I read this, Andrew. To me, this “quest” for the truth, and this type of argument, is scarily is like men saying that they know that “no really means yes” because, well, they just know. Or the kind of arguments you see on conspiracy theorists’ web sites: what is their real agenda? Isn’t bridge building about asking, and entering into dialogue, and closing the gap between “us” and “them?”

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jack – Love your enlightenment to us. Thanks for the ramble :)

    Jon – I am not trying to blame the victim, in fact, I said I was proud of the girl for standing up trying to make a stand for true integration. That takes a lot of guts. I just feel that it’s easy to run away and self-segregate, and I feel that those gay rights orgs are perpetuating such a thing. I love Jack’s idea about an intentional separate prom for a few years and then ease into integration. Yes, it’s the school’s fault and they are to blame for waaay overreacting and doing the wrong thing 100%. I’m sure we don’t have all of the facts from both sides, I just think as a gay equality leader org, this should be handled in a better long-term fashion. Doesn’t mean it’s right or it’s easy or that GLAAD should even have to do such things (because ultimately it’s the school’s/homophobia’s fault), but in my opinion acting equal but separate does no one any good. I say ‘equal but separate’ because I think certain gay rights orgs are using this as a media talking point of ammunition rather than laying out a detailed plan for future follow-up and follow-through with this MS school district. The later, is more important than the former.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    You have one chance for a senior prom. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If she and other GLBT and, let’s face it, any alternative students can’t participate in their school prom because of community rejection, then I have no problem with them choosing to go to a separate prom if offered.

    This community and this school district self-segregated. GLAAD and some other groups offered an alternate solution for those negatively impacted by that larger self-segregation.

    Are you equally opposed to summer camp programs for Christian GLBT teens, allies, and/or the kids of GLBT parents? I’m thinking of camps like the Naming Project (www.thenamingproject.org/)?

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Iphimedia – I’m sorry there is this disconnect. Let me try to respond to your thoughts:

    1. How do you know I ignore the B and the T? The truth is the exact opposite and you have no idea. There are many B and T’s that are regularly involved with my organization, as well as who comment on this blog…and I know they comment because they have told me privately. They just don’t make a point to say they’re B or T.

    2. I know the lesbian’s girlfriend is a lesbian and not a B or T because she said so on an interview with Ellen Degeneres! I tried to find the clip that I saw on TV, but I couldn’t do so. So I am not dehumanizing anyone, least of all any bisexual or transgender people.

    3. I also know that the lesbian girl who stood up for this injustice is not letting anyone pay for a separate prom because she also said that on Ellen Degeneres’ show! I once again tried to find the clip on YouTube or NBC.com, but there must be certain rights associated with this because the clips from the show are not on the Internet, from as far as I can find.

    4. Gay Prom vs. Gay High School: I agree with your 4 hour vs. 9 month school year. I am sorry for that analogy then. I was trying to refer to the principle behind them.

    I was not talking about ‘not wanting to go to an LGBT inclusive prom’ – I said ‘not wanting to go to a LGBT high school’. And you could be right that a lot of them would want to go to a LGBT high school. I don’t know? But I will tell you that I work with a variety of high school kids here in Chicago who are in the public school setting and no, they would never choose to go (straight Christian, straight non-Christian, anything but LGBT). I had many, many, many public conversations with said high schoolers during the vote for this to pass and no one, literally, wanted to go except for LGBTQ kids.

    5. I have had a public relationship with a variety of LGBT equal rights orgs, and I do ask them questions all of the time. In fact, most of what I say regarding gay orgs comes from conversations with my friends who work for them. And the whole point of a blog is to get public readers to post their opinions, so I’m not sure where you’re going with that.

    6. I DID NOT say GLAAD or any other gay org can’t be trusted. Never. Said. That – like most of what you commented that I “said” is totally wrong.

    I did say that I am proud of the girl for wanting true integration, something some of the gay orgs should look closer at (please refer to my previous comment to Jon).

    Jon – You make an outstanding two points there. When looking at it in that light, I totally agree with you.

    The reason I said what I did in the post is because I just honestly think this whole thing wreaks of publicity rather than constructive long-term implementation and change.

  • Iphimedia

    Andrew, just in case your most recent post was in response to my post, I want to say this: I did not call you any names. Not one. I expressed my feelings strongly; I see that and I did use strong adjectives. I don’t think that I expressed my opinions any more strongly than has been done on here before. I can see how my words would have angered and hurt you, though. I was angered and hurt by what I read. Therefore, I apologize for hurting your feelings. If you feel the need to ban me, then do what you feel you need to do. I won’t understand why as I have supported your work financially and verbally (check your email and the comments sections of other posts). However, I trust that you will do as your conscience directs.

    Regarding B and T folks, I am so glad that you are in dialogue with them. But how could I know this? You are right, “I have no idea,” and can have none, because you never once address B or T issues publicly, in your book, or anywhere else. I read your blog every single day, and never once do you acknowledge the varying and challenging justice issues faced by the range of queer people. You consistently use the term “gay” as if that covers the entire range of people you are trying to build bridges with. This is why I say I feel invisible here. I have attempted to addres this issue with you by email, and in this forum. I asked you a question about this in your post on “Go ahead, ask me a question; I dare you.” You make the remark above that your B and T contact “just don’t make a point to say they’re B or T.” I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a subtle way of saying, “why do you feel you have to” or not. I feel you ignore us because (and you never really responded to this point) of your headline, as just one example.

    Regarding your dialogues with young people, again, that is great to know, and I applaud your efforts. I am sorry for the results–that they show unwillingness (this is how I see it from the information you gave) to be an ally of fellow LGBT teens. I still think, however, that making the assumption that none of Ms. McMillen’s specific group of classmates would want to go to an inclusive prom is too broad. Perhaps I am wrong, and too optimistic. I do think their voices have been missing from the discussion.

    I am glad that you have relationships with GLAAD. Regarding not trusting GLAAD, no, you did not state this. You did not say it.I was wrong to say you “argued” it. But your whole post, especially the headline, implies that GLAAD has some kind of ulterior motive. That they are not being upfront or sincere in their offers of an LBGT-inclusive prom.(I know that you disagree with the “LGBT-inclusive prom” solution as being not “integrative” enough. But what else is it you object to? All organizations, including yours, seek publicity, and I don’t see any problem with this. Can’t publicity, getting the word out on issues that need changing, be part of longterm change? Maybe GLAAD is hoping that LGBT-inclusive proms catch on as a long-term solution. What exactly is it that you object to, beyond having a diference of opinon on how GLAAD proposes to solve the prom problem.

    Thank you for reading and for all you do,
    Iphimedia

  • Jack Harris

    Your Welcome Andrew. I am not sure how I got on that ramble but I said all of that to say that being GLBT in Mississippi( or really anywhere in The South) can be a challenge. (Utimately I DO get around to making a point) LOL!

  • wackywilliams

    Iphimedia I have seen Andrew make refernce to the trasgendered I know, as to the bisexule I’m not sure I have only been keeping up with this blog about 6 months, I was diginosed Trasgendered @ 14 but found out less then 4 months ago that I have intersexed with a genetic makeup that is has been reported in one other person on the planit, so I do understand the invisabilty facter, & to be truthful when I first met Andrew I didn’t feel he could relate to my issues becuse I only heard the refernce to gay but I quickly learned when I lisoned to him that he was just as interested in my exspernces as he was of any one elses, I hear a lot of defincevness & hurt in your posts & I can really relate I struggle dayly to come to grips with the challinges of fitting into sosity & exspeshill mainstream church, the two churches that I have attended in the last two years have genuwinly tryed to incorperate & accsept me but don’t know how exsacticly to act that out sometimes. I admit in this situation I have no exspernce really, when I was in school I was a loner & didn’t wish to interact with the studint body & I quit in 7th grade so never did all that highschool stuff, but one thing I can say in there was a 7th grade dance that the school said was manditory & the girls had to where dresses & the men suits & it must be mixed coupls so I was just going to skip that day becuse I had really no intrest anyway & knew I WAS NOT!! going to show up in a dress!! but a intresting thing happend a sub teacher that I had in 5th grade for a couple of weeks that I had befrinded becuse he was being made fun of by the students becuse he had gotten into a bike accsedent on his way to school & was bloody & missing teeth, ran up to me as I was walking home & asked me what I was going to do about the dance, when I said I was going to blow it off he asked me to meet him out frount of the school that day & he would fix things so I could attend, he just said to wear my best suit & tie so I did, well while waiting I saw a quite butifule women walking towords me in a stunning red coctail dress, it was my fomer sub teacher!!! he was a cross dresser & he took me to the dance, we had a blast but unforntiontly he did get fired the next day, my point being that help can show up in unexspected ways, we all want to just be exsepted, & you don’t always flaunt your life in public but dosen’t mean theres not people out there lisoning & responding. I hope you can look past the hurt & see Andrew always tryes to say everything in love & do his best to build bridges for all. sorry I rambled so much

  • http://www.livingitout.com Rachel

    Here’s probably not the best place to comment, as it’s all got heated and full of anger and sadness, but I’ve been holding a comment for a while, and it would seem to fit.

    I also had the experience of reading the book and thinking that it overlooked the B and T of LGBT. It would be really helpful if its next edition could encorporate those explicitly, since Andrew I understand you do have good insights into those experiences too.

    For those who read this thread and are hurting – this whole LGBT/Christian thing can be such a tricky area and I feel sad that things on this blog have made things seem harder. What amazes me is just what a diverse group we are here and how rarely things written trigger others’ pain. We should remember to celebrate the times we can communicate honestly and with understanding, as well as acknowledge the times like now when we fail.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Wacky – Thanks for sharing your life and story. And for everyone, we are actually brining Wacky out to Chicago to speak at our Living in the Tension: The Event on May 18th held at a gay club in Boystown (Roscoes).

    Iphmedia – In regards to the most recent post about constructive dialogue, it wasn’t based solely on your comment; when I read yours it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back from the last month or so of people thinking it’s ok to personally insult me as a first option instead of talking to me. I just couldn’t take it anymore. And by no means am I going to ban you! All of your support has been so humbling, and all of your comments to this point have been very constructive and have represented the bi-community really well! That post was more of a general reminder to everyone that I’m not standing for insults anymore.

    I’m hearing your words on the Bi – Trans communities, and I am going to be very intentional to work on that. To start, I would love it if you would be open to doing some posts on what it is like to be Bi – your stories, thoughts, experiences, etc. Would you be open to that? I would be honored to provide such a forum for all of the readers of this blog. You are so right that many times it’s the Bi and Trans that get left out of everything – not fitting with straight folks or with the gay community. If you could email me Andrew@themarinfoundation.org (I’ll make sure I’m on the look-out for it) we’ll get that started right away. Thank you for being so open and honest about your frustrations with me, the blog, etc, and I take them very seriously and look forward to being present with you and improving on these blind-spots. Much love!

  • kerriann

    I have always strongly believed that everyone should enjoy being a majority, and feel what that feels like. I also suggest that everyone be a minority and see what that feels like socially.

    I love mixed spaces, I love gays and lesbians together, I love my trans-lesbian friends… I never met a queer person I didn’t love really.

    The girl who came out, and bravely wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom just makes me smile. I smile inwardly at her courage, and think what an amazing woman she is. I think about how my high school experience was so horrifying, that I can hardly bring myself to think about it.

    When I want to go dancing, I love lesbian and gay places, because I want to feel a kind of passionate love, a love where I don’t have to worry about leering straight men, and they are a problem in some of our places. Straight men are not safe for me to be around if there is alcohol, and I certainly don’t want to be in their bars or clubs. Most bars in town are straight male bars, complete with sports blasting everywhere. Frightening, not fun.

    GLAAD came up with a very good solution, to ensure the kids had a really great shot at a prom. Proms were not even a possibility for me, nor were most lovely social events that straight people take for granted. But lesbian space and gay space, and our trans friends … well theirs is a lovely beauty with our young and our old together. There is the emotional safety and sense of relief I feel at the end of a long work week with straight people running everything to come into the welcoming beauty of gay space. It’s an energy, it’s a connection. Straight people have plenty of space all to themselves. They have mega churches, they have weddings everywhere, they have social security survivor benefits.

    Black people have a black church for a reason. Gay people have gay churches for a reason. And straight people do have a culture and energy too. There are times and places to all be together, there are times and places where we need our own group, where we long to hear only our own speak and dance and celebrate. This is not segregation, this is simply social survival for many of us. There are times when women really don’t want to be around male energy or domination, because straight men scare me a lot of the time. I don’t feel relaxed or comfortable when they are in charge, and I often feel their objectifying stares at women. It can be quite offensive in a bar. It’s why a lot of straight women come to our clubs, because they want to dance without men hitting on them, and believe it or not, women are raped and drugged in straight bars. That’s a real fear.

    I love to dance too. This is kind of long, but I believe the majority should not say that a minority doesn’t have a right to places of its own. We are not one big happy family. We come from varying degrees of privilege in the world, and to say that a minority can’t determine it’s own culture or space I think lacks a certain understanding of what being a minority in a hostile majority world really means day in and day out.

    For me, it is about being made invisible or not welcome. It’s being well qualified for a job, and then villified for finally getting the job. It’s about gay boys who were beaten up by football players and called sissy, it was about falling in love with a girl in high school long ago, and being beaten up for it, and beaten up very badly by straight boys. It was about my solidarity with queer boys, and African Americans at my largely white high school. It was about never feeling safe enough to kiss a woman in public until I was about 46 years old. I don’t think a straight person could even begin to imagine this, and until the straight world does, hell yes, I want my own dance club now and then. I loved working at gay companies when I was first getting started in business long ago. Thank god for my gay guy friends, my lesbian companions, for our gender bending world. Thank god for the little kindnesses that gay men show the world. Thank god for the strong dykes who stand up for their girl friend’s right to have a prom, and for Ellen who has the power of celebrity to give the woman a $10,000 check on her show.

    Thank god for every liberal bishop in the Episcopal church who voted for the VERY FIRST lesbian bishop ever in the history of that church! Thank god for straight men of conscience who supported this incredible lesbian cleric. I suppose this isn’t the most well reasoned post, but when I think back to my days in high school, I think two groups had it the worst… lesbians and gay boys, and African American boys and girls. I got hatred coming right at me, and I suffered to watch my friends being called the “N” word, and ostracized from the prom because they were black. Wow, if the truth came out…. I don’t think straight people know the half of what they just let happen socially. And somehow, it is those social insults and the hatred coming from the pulpits, and people who make gays, lesbians, trans feel threatened at best, and totally negated at worst.

    Times are changing. A lesbian high school student had the guts I never had at that age, and she gained her courage from our movement for black civil rights and women’s liberation and gay liberation, and trans solidarity…
    because of all those movements for social justice, that young woman finally said NO to a high school in the south, and GLAAD was right to reach out and support an alternative. No one should have to attend a prom with abusive leering straight people putting the stink eye out there at them. No one should ever have to suffer the way lesbians and gays have suffered. It’s why Jesus stood by the outcasts in the first place.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    It looks like Constance McMillen (sort of) won her lawsuit. The school specifically discriminated against her, but won’t be forced to take back the prom. But everyone’s supposed to be invited to the private alternative prom, including her. We’ll see how that all pans out.

    On the other hand, a Flordia gay teen is taking his male date to his prom and the school’s fine with it. Apparently, his parents aren’t. He’s been kicked out and he’s now living with friends. (http://www.macon.com/2010/03/24/1070478/gay-rights-backers-reach-out-to.html) So I guess you have to take it all in perspective…

  • kerriann

    Yes, it is all about perspective. I’m glad Contance won her lawsuit, and it seems like a fair thing to do, to create a brand new prom away from the high school and invite all the kids.

    I’m still meeting lesbian and gay teens getting kicked out of their homes, almost all come from fundamentalist Christian backgrounds. So pathetic and so tiresome after awhile. And because of this danger, I would never want to put the kids in danger. We have all kinds of issues… youth going to bars underage. I worry about the kids. Although I advocate everyone coming out of the closet and taking the blows, I have never advocated this for vulnerable gay and lesbian teens. “Save up your money, get a job, finish your education, and then get a place of your own, and only then come out to your parents” has been my advice from over 30 years.
    And I tell them that they could be accepted, it could be awful, they could be accepted as the years go by, or they could be disowned entirely. We pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor… freedom has a price, being true to yourself has a price. As gay friendly as the world “appears” it is not that friendly to youth. Shame on those Mississippi high school administrators for shaming the love of a young woman, shame on them!

  • Iphimedia

    Hi, Andrew. I accept your invitation humility, gratitude and joy. I have sent you an email. I am sorry it has taken me a while to respond. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Iphimedia.

  • kerriann

    Don’t know about everyone else in the world, but my fight is for freedom.
    Equality is legal, freedom is transformational.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Looks like Candace McMillen’s community’s other prom is now canceled. They initially refused to sell Candace tickets, though it looks like she came past the purchase deadline which isn’t surprising given that she’s been out of school all this time. It was asserted that they had the same rules as the previous school-sponsored prom: no same-sex dates and girls had to show up in a dress. Afraid of a lawsuit, the group sponsoring the second prom decided to cancel that one. (http://www.towleroad.com/2010/03/itawamba-county-mississippi-private-prom-now-cancelled.html)

    Meanwhile, the GLAAD-sponsored inclusive prom in Fulton County is still planned and open to any student, regardless of their date’s gender or if they’re in a dress.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    It has been so interesting keeping up with the trajectory of what Candace and other gay right’s orgs are continuing to do in light of what has happened. I have to say that I’m really enouraged of how GLAAD has recently handled everything – they seem to have changed a lot of (what I at least percieved) their original tone away from ‘media blip’ to sustainable change in that MS community and school district. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens…

  • kerriann

    GLAAD is actually a very sophisticated organization. They’ve done amazing things for years. Very much in line with the Jewish anti-defamation league. And that is what goes on now, the open defamation of lesbian and gay men day and night, by a cruel right wing machine, which spends millions of dollars to stop our human and civil rights. When I think what they do daily to demean gay folk, it shocks me. So organizations like GLAAD are essential, and can go to places like that small town to support the courage of one lesbian high school girl of conscience and courage.
    One girl against that entire establishment, talk about the power of being in love, wanting to dress up and dance with your beloved. Three cheers to GLAAD and Candace. If nothing else lesbians are creative and persistent throughout time :-) Happy Easter everyone. Lovely Easter messages on JesusInLove.org today. Now that website and blog is lesbian and gay spirituality at its most artistic and creative! We are a visionary spiritual people.

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    This whole Fulton, MS, prom thing is getting pretty twisted. The original school prom was canceled to prevent Constance McMillen from attending. The first original alternate prom was originally going to ban participants from bringing same-sex dates, but eventually canceled due to fear of lawsuit. A second alternate prom was scheduled at Fulton’s country club and this particular prom was to be open to all.

    Turns out, that it looks like this second alternate prom was an elaborate ruse. (source=http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/04/did-haters-secretly-move-prom-so.html) Only seven teens, plus Constance and her date, showed up for the official prom. It’s looking like an uber-secret prom was scheduled somewhere in the community with the explicit purpose to avoiding McMillen.

    If this is all true, I find it truly sickening the lengths that a community will go to avoid one girl and her date.

  • kerriann

    Well Jon, the straight world was once accustomed to our closetedness, and counted on our silence. Now we have taken our personal power, taken to the streets, and inspired a younger generation to be out and proud. Doing what Candace did would have been inconceivable to me when I was a high school senior. I had an aversion to proms and dances, because I had an aversion to boys. But I had no consciousness of a positive alternative, so there was nothing. There was the absense rather than the presence.
    Now of course it is all unraveling for straight institutions in small towns in the south, just as it did for racial integration, although gay white and black movements aren’t exactly the same, there is some comparison.
    It took a long time to end slavery, for women to get the right to vote, but I believe our lesbian and gay young people have the passion of the liberated. They are the Candaces of the world, and they make me smile, because they are doing what I never could do back in the day. It causes me no end of happiness to listen to young lesbians tell me about what they are doing, what they did at age 15, how they feel now. It is perhaps upon me now to listen in such kindness and happiness to their tales of liberation, and that’s what Candace wanted. To be in love, and ask your date to the prom is an age old thing. We had seniors who created their own lesbian and gay prom awhile back. We can all celebrate this high school girl’s courage, because it took great courage to do what she did, and risk this kind of social outrage. Everything lesbian and gay men do in love with each other threatens the monopoly on human existence that heteronormativity once had. You can compare it to cornering the market, so once upon a time, heteronorms ruled America, churches had no knowledge of us, high schools were completely unaware of gay teens.
    Once upon a time, hetero marriage was all there was, and all my brothers and sisters who tried this, realized later how unfit they were for this.
    I’m hoping that Candace can reveal that gay and lesbian teens will be able to fall in love at the same time as their heterosexual counterparts, so that we aren’t so out of step developmentally. But I also fear for gay teens who come out in happiness, only to be kicked out of their homes, or truly humiliated by homophobes. It is up to us as gay elders, to stand by our youth, to be there in love for them, to listen to them… in seeing them, we heal our own past, our own humiliation at the hands of a brutal homophobic world that I hope disappears forever. But again, straight people will come to know us, only when we come out, only when we risk everything in our love. And we need to be sure that Christ is for everyone, not just the heteronormative, which the life of Christ never represented anyway. We are Christlike in our same sex groups and places, we are Christlike outside the heteronormative world, we are a people of liberation.
    And a teenager shall show us the way :-) Thanks Candace!!