As gay Pride weekend is set to launch July 2nd-4th, in the city of Cincinnati, it’s hard to imagine that ignorance and lack of tolerance still run rampant throughout some parts of the country. For gay teens Constance McMillen and Ceara Sturgis, high school has ended. However, acceptance of their sexuality in small town Itawamba, Mississippi has just begun.
McMillen made headlines in the spring when she asked to attend her prom wearing a tuxedo and escorting a girl. Her school district in Itawamba County canceled the prom entirely.
About 250 miles away in Wesson, Sturgis wore a tuxedo, instead of the traditional drape or dress, for her senior portrait. Sturgis believes that she was omitted from the senior section in her yearbook based solely on her attire.
Despite the discrepancy among the two in their respected areas, they have become a support system for each other by the Mississippi Safe School Coalition. The group consists mostly of college and high school students who are on the mission to make schools in Mississippi more tolerant and accepting of, gay youth.
In 2004, the national gay rights group GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) issued a report that stated, Mississippi had the most hostile environment for gay youth.
McMillen transferred schools and completed the final weeks of her senior year in Jackson, Mississippi, stating the stress and negative attention was too overwhelming. “At one point I was walking through the lunchroom and there were people booing. I’ve gotten a lot of hateful text messages.”
Sturgis states her classmates are more accepting than McMillen’s, but that didn’t lessen the sting. “Let’s say we put [my tuxedo picture] in the yearbook. Would anybody hurt like I hurt since I’m not in the yearbook?” she says tearfully. “It wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
It’s silly to believe that a series of narrow minded point of views and misguided judgments lead to the unnecessary heartache of these two girls. If respect and tolerance was in practice for these scenarios, harmony could have been the end result.
For more on the story, visit CNN.com and tell us what your thoughts are in the comments section below. Was the school wrong for not allowing the young girl to wear her tuxedo? What would you have done if you were in the same situation?
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