Constance McMillen, America’s Prom Queen who successfully sued her Itawamba High School after its snide campaign to bar her from attending prom with her girlfriend, was all set to attend another Mississippi school’s prom on Saturday — to protest the school’s lax attitude toward homophobic bullying taking place inside its hallways. Oh, and administrators’ alleged plan to block a gay student from bringing another boy to the event. Walnut Attendance Center is hosting its prom at Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Booneville campus, where, would you believe it, Constance now goes to college, making it an easy trip for the now-experienced student warrior. But the rampant homophobia in the northern Mississippi town of Walnut was also hard to ignore: Signs featuring anti-gay slurs have gone up in the area. But on Thursday, Constance & Co. called off their planned attendance.
The Clarion Ledger reports on the fracas:
McMillen and some residents of Walnut, a town of fewer than 800 in Tippah County, said there were signs bearing expletives and anti-gay slurs posted around town. School Principal Jay McCoy, however, denied that any of the signs were posted inside the school. McMillen said Thursday a female friend was mentioned in some of the signs that allegedly were posted in various locations in Walnut. “These kids are so scared of not just physical bullying, but (the fact that) people are posting signs around the town, and other people are allowing it,” McMillen said.
[…]When the group of teens first decided to attend the event, McMillen said she had heard the school still had a policy against bringing same-sex dates to the prom. “After everything I went through last year, I wanted to talk to the principal about it,” McMillen said. “Your kid doesn’t want to feel out of place or rejected just because they’re gay,” McMillen said. “You don’t want them to feel like they’re not a person.”
However, members of the community started objecting to her attendance, she said. “People (were) telling their kids they can’t go because I’m going to be there,” McMillen said, adding she was told by some involved they didn’t have a problem with same-sex dates, but with her.
But before Constance decided not to show up at the school’s prom (as the guest of a friend of a friend), she entered into all too familiar territory: Rather than let their kids to go the school’s official prom that would have actual homosexuals, parents organized a separate event. Just like Itawamba’s parents did.
Erica Rixie, a 16-year-old junior at the school, said a parent-sponsored prom was created after students learned McMillen planned to attend the school prom. Both proms were set for the same night. Rixie said the parent-sponsored prom was canceled later Thursday afternoon after McMillen and the other gay students decided not to attend the Walnut prom. Students at the school already were upset over earlier news that a gay student wanted to bring his boyfriend to the prom, Rixie said. Rixie said she had planned to attend the parent-sponsored prom, in part because of McMillen’s planned attendance at the school event.
It’s unclear why Constance — who insists she told only the principal and her friends about her planned attendance — and other gay teens decided not to go to Walnut’s prom. But perhaps it was the principal’s guarantee that gay students would be allowed to bring same-sex dates. That Constance was willing to be the date of a high school girl, however, shows this tough chick isn’t done fighting to keep gay kids safe just because she’s gone off to college.
She should just get out of that shithole and poor excuse for a state.
@Steve: The thing is, Mississippi is home to her. She was born there and grew up there, and a lot of Southerners were born and raised here and it’s just as much our home as it is for the bigots. We shouldn’t have to be chased out of OUR home.
I run Mississippi’s GLBT magazine, something that was not even attempted in the state before I started it last year. The state is in transition…certain areas have very out presences and most everywhere else is still cowering in the closet. I think people like Constance will truly help people realize that it’s okay to be who you are and that we’re not going anywhere.
Weirdly, Mississippi is an OK state, and just as beset with problems as other states, but somewhat different ones, too. It’s also not much different than NY State, say, when it comes to gay stuff. Sure, NYC is cool, but way upstate? Nah. And both don’t have gay marriage, so not much difference there. But Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has some gay bars, and like Mike said, there’s some pretty out places, like Natchez, which is one of the gayest little southern towns you could imagine. And Woodville is creeping up on Natchez. Especially when this ex-New Yorker now in Louisiana is going to move there in just a few short months. And in my twenty years of doing business in Mississippi I’ve discovered a lot more “live and let live” attitude there than I found in Besonhurst Brooklyn. Goes to show you, stereotypes don’t work. And with my fine Brooklyn accent, and Jewish inflections, and a gay manner or two, well, I never heard a nasty word from anyone in Mississippi directed at me. And I’m not exactly easy to hide.
And in fact, as a sort of strange idea — if a million gay men moved to Mississippi we’d be a majority of the voters, and take over the place, and put the “sissi” in that state’s name to good use. Com’n down, the weathers nice too, and the beaches! Speedolandia in the making.
@Jim Hlavac: Lots of good points, and you didn’t even mention perhaps the most “out” city you can live in Mississippi, Jackson, with the Fondren neighborhood and the suburb of Ridgeland.
i’m not sure what she accomplishing..is she looking for a reality show??
Mike and Jim are dead on.
I’m from north Florida, which is much like the Mississippi Gulf Coast (only a couple of hours away), and this is my home. My husband and I have been very lucky to have had the ability to travel all over the world, we’ve talked about living in other places, and every time the discussion comes up we decide that this is home and we’ll never live anywhere else. We shouldn’t have to move in order to be a full part of the community, and we don’t really feel like we’re not a part of the community. The more people get to know us here, the more they see that we’re just a normal, happy couple.
As long as gay people remain in “our” neighborhoods in New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Key West, etc., the rest of the people in the country who fear us because they don’t know us will not have the opportunity to see how wrong they are. Trust me, attitudes change every day when people get to know us “boogeymen” and realize that we are responsible people who help the community by creating jobs.
Come visit the Gulf Coast some day! We have the best beaches in the country, the best seafood in the country, and great people who really are pretty open to change once they understand who we are. In fact, now that Key West is fading as a great gay destination (we were there a couple of weeks ago, and it is nothing like it was even ten years ago), my husband and I are thinking about trying to promote Apalachicola, Florida as the new southern version of Provincetown. Apalach (as locals call it) has similar architecture, great boating and beaching opportunities (much better than Key West or P-Town), and best of all it is extremely inexpensive to live there!
@Mike: Would you let us know the name of Mississippi’s gay magazine?
Sure. It’s called Out on the Town Magazine. If you click on my name it goes to our facebook fan page.
And the headline on the front page is pretty misleading. Just because a town in Mississippi has a community college doesn’t make it a “college town” in the sense that politics and attitudes are more liberal. Hell, Oxford and Starkville are the two big college towns in Mississippi and they’re not that different from any other sizable town in the state!
Ceara Sturgis, the girl who was stopped from wearing a tuxedo in her senior photo, went to Copiah-Lincoln Community College…in Wesson, the same town where she couldn’t get the tuxedo photo. Does that fall into the realm of “college town”? I think not.
I have lived all my live on the MS Gulf Coast. At my senior prom back in 2003, there was a gay couple who attended, took their picture, and enjoyed themselves without being harassed or barred admission by faculty and parents. It’s amazing how one state can really be so divided on such issues. Is education to blame, maybe? I can’t help but feel the coast is a bit more progressive than the rest, aside from Jackson, but I realize that’s being biased. It would be great if MS would change overnight and become a beacon of hope to other GLBT folks living in the South. However it’s going to be a long a long journey before that happens. I applaud McMillen and hope that she continues with her message, speaking for those who cannot. 🙂
Regardless of what you people say, this is the state that voted 86% – 14% in favor of BANNING same sex marriage. If people don’t say anything, they are thinking it. MS has a LONG way to go.
Equality would be nice. We’re no different than anyone else. She was trying to stand up for kids they may not have known that they had a choice.
The typical attack you will here from the Mississippi bigots is to try to paing this as somebody trying to get attention for themselves. Down south they have attempted to make “Getting attention” into some evil horrible insult. The reason for this, is that they know that their racism and bigotry can’t survive if people call attention to it.
Good for Constance. And good for the Brave gay kids of Mississippi.
It’s amazing what she is doing for the community over there. It’s so saddening to hear about these stories whereas GLTB people are treated so poorly for no good reason.
@Vermont: Of course it has a long way to go. Mississippi is one of only two states in the Union (the other being Alabama) where fewer than 50% of people under the age of 30 approve of homosexuality. Normally you’d expect those figures to be much higher, and in other states they are…I know when I started my magazine that I just wanted to let people know they weren’t alone, whether they were already part of a community in a big city or out in the country.
The sad part is, a lot of people want to receive the magazine out in the country but our ad revenues are not great and I can’t send subscriptions out. They can view it online at least, I suppose…
The sane Francis
Stories like this and the one in Flagler County, the school district in Texas that was going to end all extracurricular activities so there isn’t any GSA’s also that gay boy in Arizona whose been discriminated against with the school district saying he’s making up stories, really speaks wonders about how certain parts of this country truly and honestly think of us. Yes, there is discrimination everywhere, but generally if something happens in a NY, Chicago or Seattle, something is done about it, awareness is raised, there is outrage. In Mississippi, things like this are a regular occurrence and seen as just a regular thing. These people would rather not have a prom or create a completely separate prom, than to just spend a night with anyone gay in their vicinity. The levels of pure, unadulterated hate towards us by these people is astonishing and pretty scary, at least I’m scared for the gays/gay-accepting people in these areas.
Also, to those who say they haven’t “had an issue” in these backwards areas, especially in the South. That’s because it’s all about appearances in these areas. They aren’t going to openly be bigoted, because that would be impolite. Instead, they are going to trash you behind your backs, a lot like this. But make no mistake, the lack of hate directed to you in your face is not a lack of hate in general. Silent hate is actually even scarier than outward hatred, because it’s the silent types that do the worst damage.
Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is when the argument comes up about gay people and living/moving to conservative/liberal areas. Do you tell a 18 year old gay kid to stay in upstate NY and not move to Manhattan or Brooklyn? Do you tell a kid from Iowa not to move to Chicago? Do you tell a kid from southern Ohio not to move to Pittsburgh? Or how about a kid from Baltimore, shouldn’t he/she just move to DC or NOVA? It’s not fair, that we should be put in these situations, but safety and personal happiness comes first.
DeGuyz in Mississippi
@mike,Steve It’s the small pockets (hornet’s nests) of community members that have put the state at risk. I never thought I would say it but when it comes down to suppressing our rights, they will break any laws out there to do it. Since 2005, they have gone to great lengths in suppressing a case where they were caught with their pants down. The difference is all of these acts of hate and discrimination in the past have occurred on the state level where the state could use their own laws and courts to protect themselves. One of these hornet’s nests got together after the hurricane and put the grand plan into action. They got caught by federal agents within the first week. Representing this type of case in MS is non existent. It doesn’t appear in the registry for any attorney’s to pick up the case, at any cost. As a result of the conspiracy surrounding the criminal acts, James requested and received spousal rights for us from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. What has happened here will ultimately be a plus for LGBT. It is noted in the list of demands. Since there are no attorneys here to assist in opening this case, help is coming from another source. Mississippi is a good state. It’s some of the people in power who make the struggle what it is. Check out the website for the facts and wait for Pandora’s box to open. It has been 5 hard years but James is still pushing doors open. His mother died as a result of their hate. One thing you don’t do is mess with our mothers…. To be continued
http://www.facebook.com/pages/DeGuyz-in-Mississippi/163118500388873?v=wall We’ll try to post as the case opens. A new day is on the horizon.See ya there.
DeGuyz in Mississippi
@Jim Hlavac: Don’t count that thought out. It may very well happen.
I live in this small town of walnut and none of these accusations are true. There were no signs and the school let all of the
students purchase the tickets for them and their dates,no matter what their sexuality. There was no bullying, everything just got blown out of proportion!
@Anon: So this entire story was a complete fabrication? Forgive me if I take the word of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clarion-Ledger, the newspaper of record in Mississippi, over a random comment on an article.
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
Mississippi: Most folks in that state are still ticked off that they can’t lynch Blacks any more………They still are so desparate to cast hate on those who are don’t share their inbred vile hatefilled creed……..
The only difference between now and the 1960’s is the color of their hatred. Used to be Black,now its rainbow……….
DeGuyz in Mississippi
@Anon: We’re glad to hear things are okay in Walnut. Take care..:)
Mississippi has had SEVERAL LGBT magazines and periodicals in the last 20-30 years that I know of. Currently, there are three new publications being discussed by philanthropists, journalists, and organizations. Considering you’re from Pensacola and produce a regional periodical, I understand that you might not know the historical facts regarding Mississippi’s LGBT community or what’s currently happening within some of its communities.
But, Mike, I agree with you wholeheartedly about this being OUR home. It’s one reason I decided not to leave the state and stay to encourage growth in the LGBT community. Sadly, most of the progress occurring in Mississippi [regarding the LGBT community] occurs in the Jackson Metro which has close to a million residents and a thriving gay community. It’s the poor and rural communities where you see a lot of this bigotry and backwardness.
It’s worth noting that these towns and villages are very, small, rural communities mostly in Northeast Mississippi. I’ve lived in Mississippi for 35 years and had no idea where Itawamba or Walnut were before Constance. From my experience, most of those towns and villages don’t consider themselves part of Mississippi because they are so close to Memphis, Tennessee, or Alabama. They certainly don’t consider the liberal Jackson Metro part of *their* state. There are small towns like this all over America.
For the curious among Queerty… The state is mentally and politically divided into: North Mississippi (largely conservative and home of the AFA) which includes Walnut and Itawamba with liberal pockets around UM and MSU; Central Mississippi which is mostly liberal and gay-friendly including the Jackson metro area; and the sometimes conservative and sometimes liberal South Mississippi which includes Hattiesburg and the Gulf Coast.
I realize the media, politicians, and history teachers like to keep Mississippi as a punching bag to make the rest of the country feel better about its own racism and homophobia, but there are growing numbers of progressive minds and communities in Mississippi that are fighting back. Instead of complaining from afar, we’ve planted our roots and decided to take back our home—one fight at a time. We realize Mississippi isn’t perfect and are collectively working towards fixing that. We also realize the LGBT meccas aren’t perfect either and know NY and CA still haven’t achieved equality and still have large numbers of gay bashings and cases of discrimination each year.
Let’s face it, homophobia isn’t just a Mississippi problem… It’s not just a rural problem… It’s an American problem that all of us have to recognize and fight against.
another tireless media whore….
It’s worth noting that Mississippi was one of the FIRST states with a constitutional ban and the question was posed in a confusing manner. It’s safe to say 5-10% voted incorrectly. I nearly voted FOR the ban because of the wording.
Sadly, I know several militant queers, feminists and anarchists that voted for the ban because they feel marriage is an antiquated, patriarchal system and would lead to the assimilation of the queer identity. Yes, there are actually liberal, militant queers, feminists, and anarchists in Mississippi.
The ban was a wake-up call to many in Mississippi’s LGBT community. As a result, Unity Mississippi was established and OUToberfest (outoberfest.com) began the following year. The point of both was to establish a better sense of community in the state and build a strong network between communities. Since then, we’ve seen new bars open, more LGBT orgs created, an ACLU wing dedicated to LGBT issues, Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition grow, trans support groups launched, and GSAs starting to form throughout the state. There have been countless rallies (even to support those in California when Prop 8 passed) on LGBT issues. We even protested in front of the AFA.
So, VERMONT, you can throw that number around, but that number was exactly what many in our state needed to snap us into action… Much like Prop 8 woke up the rest of the country.
Sure, we’re making baby steps, but we’re determined to help this place evolve with each tiny step.
Can anyone tell me why this bitter “alan brickman” is so jealous of Constance McMillen? She is making something of her life and trying to help people but he is just being a tired whiney blot of negativity.
Miss Brickman needs to S T F U already.
She is not even a thin hot lesbian, why should i care?
Nobody ever talks about the Trans student who went to school with Constance who got harassed/bulled and kicked out and didn’t get tons of money, fame/recognition, or anything at all unlike Constance.
I know for a fact you cant take same sex couples to prom in Eunice, New Mexico or in west Texas. I went to high school in Eunice and am from Midland, TX. You cant do it in either.
@Art Smith: said..
“Nobody ever talks about the Trans student who went to school with Constance who got harassed/bulled and kicked out and didn’t get tons of money, fame/recognition, or anything at all unlike Constance.”
Would these be the same students that refused to stand up with Constance about the prom and didn’t even tell her that the school was trying to pull a fast one and reschedule? Sorry, but she basically stood up alone and the other gay students there backed down from everything I read, so then why in the world would they get any recognition?
@Mike: My Grandmother lives in Tupelo. She actually had the nerve to ask me to come and visit her there. I told her “When they stop lynching gays, I might consider it.”
I, Unfortunately, have lived in Mississippi all my life and attended Community college in North Mississippi. I am so proud of Constance for being as brave as she was/is. Unless you’ve lived in that area, you have no idea whats its like. When I came out at 17, I instantly became homeless, and have suffered through discrimination my whole life. It has just been in recent years that I have learned to be truly proud of who I am. I’m now 24, with one year left in college and plan on getting out of this place as soon as possible after graduation. Then, as far as i’m concerned, Mississippi can be wiped off the map. It is by far the most hateful, uninformed place in this country.
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