Second Chance Prom for Constance McMillen

Which she wouldn’t need if she didn’t live in a town full of sanctimonious liars. Congratulations to Fulton, Mississippi for the place you now hold in the annals of bigotry.

Mindy posted last week about Constance McMillen, whose Itawamba County School Board refused to allow her to attend prom with her same-sex date, promised (after a court ruling) to invite her to a parent-organised prom with her Itawamba Agricultural High School classmates. What did they actually do? They sent her to a venue with only seven others from her school while the rest of her classmates had “the real prom” at a different venue. Shunning is alive and well.

“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].”

That her principal and other teachers were at the fake venue to chaperone indicates that there was school connivance with the parents who organised the other prom to actively keep Constance and these other students away, not just a spiteful act from a classmate channelling Heathers. Indeed, in such a small town as Fulton (pop.<4000) virtually everybody else must have been in on the plan to deceive McMillen, otherwise news about the hiring of the caterers, florists, pavilion etc would have been normal gossip that her family would have heard. Shame on them all, especially for including the disabled students in the excluded group – why was that, exactly?

Of course, the justifications are rolling out: the idea that where McMillen was sent was “the real prom” and nearly everybody else in the senior class just boycotted it to go to “an alternative party” to have a “drama-free gathering”. Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what the Jones Valley High School classmates of Carolyn Tasmiya King-Miller thought in 1965 in Birmingham, Alabama. Hint to IAHS students: they’re not remembered very well by most of the world, even if King-Miller herself is now gracious about reconciliation attempts.

The Facebook profiles and photo albums of students who went to the “parent-prom” showed many revealing attitudes and images of the real feelings of these “drama-free” classmates, not least of all that most of the photo albums are titled with “PROM!”.

Most (but not all) of those profiles and albums have been locked now, but not before others cached them where one can only hope the sentiments will haunt them through many a future college and job interview. There’s plenty of evidence there that this was not just “an alternative party” – all the prom accoutrements were there, limousines and all.
a super-stretch limousine used to take students to the parent-prom

From comments at La Figa:

And, if you look at the facebook profiles for the “secret prom” attendees you see the same pages recurring in their profiles:

Greenville Christian School
The Charleston Baptist Congregation
Little Creek Baptist Church
“I’m Proud To Be Christian” by Aaron Chavez Religious Center
Prayer In School Religious Center
I Love Jesus Religious Center
Freedom Rally 2010 “A call to Revival”
Dedicated to Christ
Going to Church Religious Center
God id Love Religious Organization
Jesus Daily Religious Organization
I’m a Christian & I’m Proud Religious Organization
The Resolve Tour Religious Organization
ChristBuild Inc Religious Organization
Christ In Action Non-Profit

There seems to be no sense of cognitive dissonance there with them at all.

It’s nice to see that at least one of the anti-Constance groups created on Facebook has been flooded with people joining it to support McMillen, to the point that the original admins of the group have all left! Although some of the commentors on another Facebook Page have resorted to classist anti-rural stereotypes, which is crappy on a whole ‘nother level.

Anyway, back to Constance herself. Luckily, there’s the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition to offer a second chance: Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition Working With Donors to Host Second Chance Prom for Constance, IAHS Students

The MSSC is organizing its Second Chance Prom, this year in Constance’s community, so that ALL students, gay and straight, at Itawamba will have the opportunity to be themselves at the prom.

I’m sad for Constance that she has been put through such a terrible experience of rejection by her family’s neighbours. I’m glad that the MSSC is there to help her meet more accepting people who can offer her support.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, religion, social justice

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16 replies

    • Something I only just figured out, too, which astonishes me for the Bible Belt: they planned to hold the school prom, and ended up holding the parent-prom, on Good Friday? As you all know, I’m not a believer, but I would never invite churchgoers to a *party* on the day commemorating Christ’s Passion. Easter Sunday, maybe – that’s a day of celebration. But Good Friday?

  1. Maybe the figured God would over look that since they are such great Christians?
    Kudos also to the other seven kids who attended the “prom” with Constance. Even if the students with an intellectual disability were tricked into being there, they didn’t let it get in the way of them having a good time, and good on them and the other students for showing their support.

  2. I just feel sick every time I read about this. The homophobia, the disableism (because Jesus wouldn’t have wanted kids with learning disabilities at his prom either), and the sheer cruelty of it just astounds me.
    And of course they’re pulling the “she just wants attention” trick — because of course, if you’re a member of any “other” group, you’re just supposed to shut up and smile no matter what. This reminds me of Melissa McEwen’s famous “swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon” line — of course it’s always the people refusing to swallow shit who are accused of ruining the afternoon (or the prom), not the people asking them to eat it.

    • I wonder whether they didn’t tell the kids with learning disabilities about the alternative prom because they weren’t sure whether either they, or their parents, would let the cat out of the bag.
      Not that it makes it hardly at all better: “it’s not that we didn’t want you there, it’s just that you can’t keep your mouth shut”.

  3. Yeah, I have the feeling that the other kids who weren’t invited, regardless of whether or not they had learning disabilities, were considered “untrustworthy” in some way (either that, or their parents were). As you mention above, it becomes all the more disturbing for the fact that the teachers were actually in on the deception — I really can’t begin to fathom the levels of hatred in these people.

  4. Apart from numb incredulity, I feel only admiration for Constance and her girlfriend. It would have been so much easier to submit to the bullies, seeming as there are about 4000 of them, and include everyone they’ve ever met. That girl has righteous courage. Yay for the internet so she didn’t have to fight this alone, I suppose.

  5. As the mother of a girl very close in age to Constance, some of whose friends have already come out, I’m in tears of rage. May Constance grow up to kick serious ass in whatever field of endeavour she chooses, while at the same time may her relationships be rich and satisfying. May she come across those f**ers later in life in some context where they are falling over themselves to be recognised by her. May she be dignified, but aloof. May they languish in small-town misery and mediocrity. That’s my wish.

  6. What a wretchedly mean thing to do to Constance and to the other students who went along to the prom, thinking that they were going to be part of something with their classmates.

    Do you think all those good christians at the hidden party went to church on Sunday?

    • From stuff I’m reading elsewhere it appears that Constance had heard something about the parent-prom, but when she asked one of the school’s Heathers where it was going to be they just said it was a “private party” from which she correctly deduced that she wasn’t welcome. So it seems she had a fairly good inkling that the official prom was going to be boycotted by known bigots, but probably didn’t expect that it would be quite such an overwhelming boycott by her classmates.
      Deborah, I bet they all went to church on Sunday. Who knows, perhaps their pastor was in on it as well – pastors often have kids in high school, after all.
      Napalmnacey, I’ve canvassed a few churchgoers I know well, and they are just baffled about how any professed Christian could either organise or attend such a party on GF. But I’ve noticed that for a lot of the US Bible Belt being Christian seems more like belonging to “the right club” than about belief per se.

  7. Tigtog – re: Good Friday. I can’t ever have “fun” on a Good Friday, growing up with a Catholic mother. It’s baffling that these “good Christians” would party like that on such an important day in the Christian calendar. And behave so cruelly!
    This whole affair is absolutely horrendous.

  8. On another blog where I read about this (I think it was Alas, A Blog), they mentioned that the party prom (the one with most of the students at) had girls indulging in fake lesbainism. So it’s ok as long as it’s a show for the boys, but not ok if the girls actually enjoy it.

  9. Katherine: GAH. Just. GAH..

  10. I was actually wondering how many of the girls were faking it, and how many were taking the one chance they might have in a community like that to get close to the people they really are attracted to. I’d be surprised if Constance and her girlfriend are the only gays in the village, but given what they have been through I’m not surprised that one one else is in a hurry to come forward.

  11. I would like to make a correction. The Second Chance Prom is for everyone and not just Constance. This was planned before the incident with Constance. Constance is a wonderful person and she has really paved the way the past few months. I am so very proud of her but the prom was for all the youth in Mississippi. Constance will be at the prom and so will Ceara Sturgis. She has made news in Mississippi also. I will also be there as a vounteer and couln’t be happier. I am so very proud of these young gay youth. I just could not be more proud of all of them.

  12. I realize this is totally an old thread, but I saw your musings on the oddity of holding prom on Good Friday here and 0n Pharyngula. My guess is that, other than the fact that, as others have pointed out, Good Friday just isn’t considered a holiday that most people notice in the US, for those who are inclined to notice it, it would be considered a net positive. After all, Prom is heavily associated with teenage sex, and if there is the slightest possibility that teens might feel too guilty to do the dirty deed on the day that their Lord and Savior died, that would outweigh the negatives of dancing on said day. Then again, I don’t know how Baptist that part of Mississippi is, or how much the old joke about sex being dangerous because it might lead to dancing holds true.

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