Serious domestic/intimate partner violence trigger in the first few paragraphs.
Sitting on my bed with her back against the wall, my lover—who’s come to visit during my first year of graduate school—tells me that she’s at last made her decision: she’s going to study fine art. I should be happy for her, but I’m suddenly listening from a place so deep inside myself that the sounds leaving her mouth no longer coalesce into meaningful units. There is a moment of blankness, and then, as if someone else has taken control of my brain, I am forced to watch a vision of myself getting up from the chair where I’ve been sitting, putting one hand around my lover’s throat, holding her against the wall, and slapping her face back and forth with my other hand until she is senseless and bloody. I see myself screaming in her ear, letting her drop to the floor, and kicking her in the stomach as hard as I can. In the vision, my mouth moves but no words come out.
According to The Advocate, and the young woman herself:
To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a "fake prom" while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.
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.
This morning over breakfast I was reading the New York Times (ah, the delights of spring break!) when this headline caught my eye: Mississippi A.C.L.U. Rejects $20,000 for Alternate Prom.
You might remember that earlier this month I wrote a blog called Homophobia: Bad for Straight Kids discussing the decision of a Mississippi school board to cancel its prom because they could not otherwise prevent Constance McMillen and her partner from attending. (They also forbade her from attending in a tuxedo. This is not just about homophobia. This is also about gender expression.)
The ACLU and its Mississippi affiliate are representing Constance and a group called Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSCC) is organizing an alternate prom for the community. The ACLU of Mississippi is apparently the fiscal sponsor for the MSSC. According to the New York Times article, the American Humanist Society offered a $20,000 gift to MSSC to help fund the alternate prom, and a fundraiser at the ACLU Mississippi rejected it, explaining via email that “Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist."
Talk about being imprisoned by stigma. Here the stigma attached to atheism potentially thwarts an attempt to fix a problem caused by the stigma attached to homosexuality.
It's been a long time since I was last sitting at breakfast, reading the Times and came across something that drove me to my blog. When I began my blog during a sabbatical a few years ago that's how it used to happen: Breakfast, newspaper, outrage, blog. Lately, though, I've been lucky to be able to even skim the headlines at breakfast, and as for time to sit down and blog, well, that's been nearly nonexistent. So it was refreshing to have the time this morning to casually read the paper and then stumble upon an outrageous statement, and then to have some time to blog about it.
Which makes it sound like I am happy to be outraged, which is not the case of course. I'm simply happy that given the outrage there was time to read, think and blog instead of just feeling frustrated and angry.
This morning's reaction was to an article with the headline "Pentagon Steps Up Talks On Don't Ask Don't Tell", written by Elisabeth Bumiller. It is a relatively short article with several sources of irritation.
Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington, wrote Noel Coward in 1947. Till the early twentieth actors, actresses and all things to do with theatre were considered unseemly as a career choice. Actors were often conflated with 'rogues', 'vagabonds' and 'loose women' as an underclass. The twentieth century saw a paradigm shift whereby an acting career could bring fame and fortune, and actresses and actors like Vanessa Redgrave and Ronald Reagan could enter politics without having their characters impugned.
Two nights ago someone (or some group) vandalized the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Center (LIGALY). The front door was shattered as were the windows on the van that LIGALY uses to help teenagers get to the Center for meetings and social events. Nothing was stolen. It was clearly an act intended to send a message rather than for any kind of personal gain.
LIGALY (pronounced "legally") is one of my favorite Long Island organizations. It was started by David Kilmnick, who I'm proud to say is a friend of mine. He began with nothing but an idea for a project as he worked toward his Masters in Social Work and built one of the most powerful and wide-reaching LGBT organizations on the Island. (He also got his Doctorate in Social Work along the way.) LIGALY now serves not only young people but also LGBT seniors, offering social, educational, and support services. Its Safe Schools Initiative helps counter homophobia in schools, and offers organizing assistance to students wanting to start or maintain Gay Straight Alliances in their schools.
The good news is that there has been an enormous show of support for LIGALY. David reports thatthere have been phone calls, blog entries, news stories, and even a letter from Governor Paterson. Most importantly just since yesterday there have been enough donations to help get the Center's door fixed and its van back in service.And then there's the bad news.
Co-optation and bureaucratization are great strategies for squashing attempts to create social change. There are some kids in South Carolina who are facing exactly that problem right now. They fought for and won the right to have a GSA in their school (the Irmo High School principal announced his resignation last month after the district ruled that the GSA must be allowed) but their victory might have some unintended and negative consequences.
The school board for District 5 of Lexington and Richmond Counties is now considering new rules regulating "student-initiated noncurricular clubs" that will "allow" GSAs but make them difficult to form and will hinder their effectiveness.
If we can thank Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and famed censor, for nothing else, there is this: much of what we know about the sexual subcultures of 19th-century New York is thanks to the efforts of Comstock. Much of the Society's intelligence on the moral depravity of the time came from the personal efforts of Comstock, who went to the fleshpots of the city himself to observe the offenses to common decency and recorded them in meticulous detail to be included in the Society's reports. For this, at least, we can thank him, and perhaps advocate that he be let out of whatever hellpit he's roasting in now, for a few seconds each millenia.
I agree with the first commenter in this post by Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars: can we please just get the fucking Rapture over with already, so that we can rid ourselves of these subliterate cretins who seem to want to Love the rest of us to death? Failing that, can we just buy all of them first-class tickets to one of the places in the Middle East that they hunger so badly to blow up?
This is a good-news/bad-news kind of story: it's good because it shows idiocy and homophobia given the trouncing that it so richly deserves, but it's bad the fact that it took place at all shows that this country persists in treating lunatics seriously when in a just world, they should be laughed at.