“...I just want to be myself and go to the prom that I was supposed to have since I've known what prom was.” Constance McMillen
I have wanted to write about Constance McMillen, since her story began to
filter into mainstream media. If you aren’t familiar with her story,
to read about how her school canceled prom instead of allowing her to
attend with her girlfriend.
The sickness in my gut and heartbreak I felt over this story needed to be put on paper. I wanted to
bitch-slap the school district and the people of Fulton, Mississippi
for their ignorance and their judgement. I wanted to shame them. Then I
sat down to write this post and a whole different story came tumbling
Ten years ago I was that ignorant, judgmental person who believed that gay people chose to be gay. Maybe because they had shitty
boyfriends or girlfriends or they were molested or they just wanted to
stick their middle finger up at the world. Whatever their reason, they
I was also the person who was frightened of them because for sure every last one of them must have AIDS. I assumed they
all had sex in the bathrooms together, maybe even one partner after
another, at their gay bars.
I doubted they believed in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny and had nightmares about them taking over the
world and no babies would ever be born and all of existence would come
to a screeching halt. The remaining gay people would look at each other,
laugh and exclaim, "This is silly." They would decide they didn’t want
to be gay anymore and start procreating and all would be well in the
world. I believed in fairy tale endings back then too.
My brother had a friend who was *gasp* gay. I, of course, assumed this meant my
brother was gay, but I’ll save that story for his wedding. One evening
while my brother was visiting me in California, his gay friend Brian
came over for dinner. Brian is one of those gay men that makes you
think of flamingos or flamenco dancing or whatever bright feathery pink
image you can conjure up and at first I was all, “Oh here we go. Mr. Gay
Guy proving a point.”
Then (cue the dramatic music) I found myself forgetting I was a bigot because Brian was hilarious and full of
side busting humor and by the end of the evening I wanted him to move in
with me and make me laugh every night over dinner. I would cook and
clean and anything else he wanted if I could just spend time in his
presence. I wanted to marry him. But he isn’t the kind of guy who pays
the bills and I am a writer, so we would have had to live out of our car
and he drives a scooter so that wouldn’t have worked. And. Also.
Because he was gay.
After he left that evening I turned to my brother, feeling quite proud of myself for hosting a gay guy for dinner,
and asked, “Why does Brian choose to be gay?”
My brother looked like he might pick up the nearest object and hurl it at my dumb ass and
replied, “Are you fucking kidding me? You think he chose to be gay?” He
then proceeded to tell me story after story of horrible experiences
Brian had been through, he made me understand the judgment and hate he
felt every day. He finished by telling me about an evening when Brian
confessed through tears that he would give anything to just be normal
and not gay because it was just too hard and people were too harsh.
I sat there with tears in my eyes and couldn’t believe what an asshole I
had been. I was ashamed of myself and as I write this I feel that
painful and embarrassing slap in the face of stupidity. I couldn’t
believe I had been so ignorant as to think being gay was something
people chose just to piss the rest of us off or because they had been
jilted by a lover or two along the way. Of course no one would choose to
be treated like an outcast and have to hide in a proverbial closet
their entire lives. Who would do that to themselves?
I was so lucky to have been given that night with Brian. A night that opened my eyes and allowed my prejudices to be lifted. I wish I could
go backwards and take back every sideways glance and ignorant thought
that I ever gave or had. I can’t. But. I can work everyday to teach my
children to live a life without judgment and prejudice. And I do.
If you will allow me a moment of grandstanding I would like to say this to
Itawamba Agricultural High School and Fulton, Mississippi.
This is your chance. You have been graced by Constance McMillen. She is your
moment. You can choose to ignore it and stay in the miserable valley of
judgment and ignorance or you could take her hand and climb this
mountain with her.
She deserves to go to her prom. Not a fake one to make up for the one that you canceled. She deserves her real prom. She deserves to be
treated like every other high school student in this country. And you.
YOU. Have the power to erase this all and show the world how much you
care about children and their spirit and their dreams. You could teach
us all a bit about grace. All you need to do is take your moment.
Also check out Pajamas and Coffee. She tells it like it is. None of this pleading sappy crap.
Mama Mary also rocked the subject. If you have daughters, you should definitely read it.