Internalize and hurt

I’ve written about rule internalization in the past. It’s when people care more about a rule itself than the reason for the rule. It’s a good mark of someone who isn’t doing much thinking.

I’ve also written about a lot of discrimination. I’ll spare myself the tediousness of linking back to a number of stories and just point out one particularly relevant to the rest of this post: when Constance McMillen was denied the right to wear a tux to her senior prom. A gay female student wanted to attend prom with her girlfriend while wearing something besides a dress. The school acted out of bigotry and denied her that right. (And then got sued and lost, but continued its campaign to alienate Constance anyway.)

Now there’s the case of Oakleigh “Oak” Reed at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan. Oak is a transgendered student at his school and, by all accounts, seems to be well accepted by his classmates and teachers. Even the administration has made some correct decisions with him.

Teachers use him, his, and he when referring to Oakleigh in class. The school has allowed him to wear a tuxedo when marching with the band at football games and he has been given permission to wear the male robe and cap at graduation.

But then Oak decided to run for homecoming king. Like 500 million other people, he turned to the Internet.

[Oak] let the school community know he was running for homecoming king on Facebook.

The honors student quickly became the leading candidate.

He even won. Oakleigh Reed is the 2010 homecoming king at Mona Shores High School.

Except the administration doesn’t see this fact.

“They told me that they took me off because they had to invalidate all of my votes because I’m enrolled at Mona Shores as a female,” Oakleigh told Wood TV.

Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings told Wood TV, “The ballots gave two choices — vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen.”

This is rule internalization at its worst. So the hell what if the ballot is black and white? There is no rational justification in what Geerlings is doing. (But is that much of a surprise coming from someone who has chosen to spend his life in high school?) The reason the ballot only gives two choices is because it would be unwieldy and silly to have it say “Vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen. And, oh, vote for transgendered students based upon official school records.”

This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. If Oak wants any shot at being voted homecoming royalty, he must run as a girl and be crowned a queen – something which would make him a liar to himself and his identity. It’s ridiculous that Geerlings desires that such a thing happen. But giving it an honest shot means Oak can’t be crowned – even though he actually is the 2010 Mona Shores High School homecoming king.

Congratulations to Oak for winning. Shame on Geerlings and co. for acting shamefully and internalizing rules.

But I’m not directly addressing what matters; maybe I could just sum up this entire post in one line: Don’t treat people like shit.

Obama helps correct misdeeds against Constance

Constance McMillen is that girl whose school denied everyone prom because she’s gay and they’re bigots. The school then encouraged parents to host their own prom while sending Constance and a couple of others to a fake prom. It’s pretty disgraceful, full of ignorance, and plainly ugly. Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Mississippi, like much of the rest of Mississippi, has a lot of sexually immature Christians running around. But then, it’s always nice to have more explanation why the state routinely ranks last in education.

Fortunately, Constance will now be attending a LGBT reception at the White House.

McMillen will attend a White House reception Tuesday for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens from around the nation in recognition of gay pride month.

The White House confirmed Friday that Obama will host the event and is expected to deliver brief remarks.

After the prom controversy, McMillen said, she faced a hostile environment from her peers and transferred out of her northeast Mississippi school district to a school 200 miles away in Jackson.

In the more educated environment of the Obama administration, she won’t have to face such aggressive hostility.

Don’t visit Fulton, Mississippi

Constance McMillen wanted to go to her senior prom with her girlfriend. Her school said no and canceled the event out of nothing more than pure bigotry. Upon the news, donations, scholarships, and invites to privately held, inclusive proms ensued. Soon a judge ruled that Constance’s rights had been violated, but he did not force the school to go forward with the prom for two reasons: 1) it was originally scheduled at a time too soon from when the ruling happened and 2) a private prom to which Constance was to be invited was being hosted. That didn’t stop her town of bigots from excluding her, though.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn’t much to keep an eye on.

“They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them,” McMillen says. “The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to.”

Last week McMillen asked one of the students organizing the prom for details about the event, and was directed to the country club. “It hurts my feelings,” McMillen says.

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. “They had the time of their lives,” McMillen says. “That’s the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn’t have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].”

To make things worse, there’s actually a Facebook fan page called Constance quit yer cryin. Here are the sort of comments from her fellow students (comments that are now buried under posts from the decent people who have discovered this bigotry):

Mitchell Henderson: lulz rug munchers are hilarious. Come join me in hell, there’s ipods all around for dance parties. As long as you bring someone to scissor with.

Melody Carol: JAlthough, she asked and they said no, she should have just stfu and dealt with it. The school did not need to cancel the prom to shift attention from here. That’s just gay.

Brittany Kay Brown: jeremy, that’s your fault for not coming out of the closet. IAHS is not a bigoted school. This whole town is based on Christianity.

Caleb Waddle: i just wish she would shut up and quit makeing the freakin county stupid you say well its there fault but since when did the public do anything to you just shut the freak up already.

Traci Taylor: Carnathan who wants to c 2 girls makn out…especially one of them thats parents are totally against it.

Comments via PZ.

ACLU apologizes to American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association donated $20,000 for the sake of having a non-discriminatory prom for Constance McMillen. The reason is that the AHA is based upon a concern for humans, not some mythical sky fairy that has nothing to do with humanity other than being a reflection of its lowliest traits. Despite this, they originally received this response.

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’ ” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.

No shit the word “atheist” has negative connotations. So why compound the problem with a negative feedback loop? It isn’t helpful to discriminate against a discriminated group. The ACLU of all organizations should understand that. And apparently they do (provided enough time).

On behalf of the ACLU of Mississippi, I would like to offer our sincere apologies for the inappropriate e-mail you received from a member of our staff regarding your generous offer to sponsor and donate to a prom for Constance McMillen.

As I believe you’ve heard from the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, MSSC makes the final decision about which sponsorship related offers to accept. It was an error for our staff member to insinuate to you that our organization had that decision-making power.

Furthermore, please understand that the sentiments expressed in the e-mail you received from our staff member do not reflect the views of our organization in any way. The ACLU of Mississippi is a stalwart defender of freedom of belief and expression for all, and we are appreciative of your commitment to protecting those principles, as well.

Nsombi Lambright
Executive Director, ACLU of Mississippi

We still hate you but the First Amendment does not

When Constance McMillen wanted to go to her prom with her girlfriend and her school said no, she sued over the violation of her rights. A judge has given a big victory in principle (a smaller one in practice).

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the American Civil Liberties Union’s demand to force the Itawamba County school district to put on the April 2 prom. However, he said canceling it did violate 18-year-old Constance McMillen’s rights and that he would hold a trial on the issue.

“The court finds this expression and communication falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment,” Davidson said.

It’s too bad the school was going to hold the dance so early, but the principled victory here is huge. Constance deserved to bring her girlfriend with her to prom; the judge affirmed that.

Of course, the school actually has the inanity to continue.

Ben Griffith, the school district’s attorney, said his clients were pleased with the ruling.

“What we’re looking at now is the fact that the case is still on the docket for a trial on the merits,” Griffith said.

Got that? The Itawamba County school district is pleased to hear that they violated the rights of one of their students.

And as if that wasn’t enough,

McMillen isn’t sure if she’ll go to the dance.

“I’m going to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and will get a feel of how everybody feels about me. That will help me make my decision about whether I’m going to the private prom,” McMillen said. “I want to go because all my junior and senior class will be there, but I don’t want to be somewhere I’m not welcomed.”

This lack of acceptance turned to intolerance has a real life toll; I think that’s something that can get missed in all this. We should all fight for equal rights because, as Nelson Mandela said, “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.” Rights are exercised by individuals but they are had by all. If just one individual is denied her lawful rights, then they cease to be rights and instead become privileges.

But in all this personal turmoil, hardship, discrimination, and general social concern is some good (auxiliary) news:

[Constance] has appeared on the “The Early Show,” “The Wanda Sykes Show” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to talk about how she is fighting for tolerance. DeGeneres presented her with a $30,000 college scholarship from Tonic, a digital media company.

We hate you so much we won’t even let you dance with your friends

Constance McMillen is a gay high school student at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Mississippi. She was going to go to her prom with her girlfriend, but the school objected. The ACLU quickly got involved.

The district announced Wednesday it wouldn’t host the April 2 prom. The decision came after the American Civil Liberties Union demanded that officials change a policy banning same-sex prom dates because it violated students’ rights. And the ACLU said the district not letting McMillen wear a tuxedo violated her free expression rights.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oxford to force the school district to sponsor the prom and allow McMillen to bring whom she chooses and wear what she wants.

This is an astounding level of bigotry. Rather than allow a student to go to a prom with her date of the same sex, the school district actually believes it is better to ruin everyone’s biggest senior moment next to graduation.

Of course, they aren’t going to take the blame.

A school board statement said it wouldn’t host the event in Fulton, “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events” but never mentioned McMillen or her girlfriend, who also is a student at the school.

There is often a tremendous amount of arrogance floating around the egos of those who have petty control over others, but this really takes the cake. [D]istractions to the educational process? What are these people on? Did they consume large quantities of alcohol before writing this? Was it all hard stuff?

The fact is – and this is the silver lining – the district recognizes that they will lose any lawsuit against them which challenges a ban on same sex dating. They do not have the right to ban any such thing. Upon recognition of this obvious fact, they have sought to maintain getting their childish little way by dirty means: it’s high school; everyone knows what is happening with everyone else. When they tried to blame the victim for their ineptitude and lack of concern for equality, they knew exactly what they were doing.

…the 18-year-old lesbian high school senior reluctantly returned to campus to some unfriendly looks, she said.

“Somebody said, ‘Thanks for ruining my senior year.'” McMillen said.

There was never any doubt this would happen. The district ‘leaders’ went ahead and ruined a significant moment in the lives of an entire high school class and then had the gall to blame an innocent student. They know the law disagrees with their stance. They know McMillen has a right to attend her prom with her girlfriend. They just don’t know why they’re morally wrong.

The school district had said it hoped a privately sponsored prom could be held. McMillen said if that happens, she’s sure she’ll be excluded.

“It’s a small town in Mississippi, and it’s run by an older generation with money. Most of them are more conservative and they don’t agree with it,” she said.

Okay, they topped themselves. I thought just canceling the prom was bigoted enough. Now the school is actually encouraging others to set up a private event. Why would a private event not be the same supposed distraction? Why does location matter? Why doesn’t the school want to host an event they can monitor with security for the students?

Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said he supports the school district’s decision and knew of no private efforts to host the prom.

“I think the community as a whole is probably in support of the school district,” Walker said of the town of about 4,000.

Oh. I guess if a lot of people agree, then it must be okay. It’s not like the school district is on its way to an assured legal defeat due to its bigotry or anything.

But wait! There’s more. As always, the arbitrary religious figure must be paraded out.

Southside Baptist Church Pastor Bobby Crenshaw said he’s seen the South portrayed as “backwards” on Web sites discussing the issue, “but a lot more people here have biblically based values.”

“But”? “But“?