Constance McMillen Fake Prom 2010 Student Rebuttal: Bigotry or Bullying? (Yes. Both.)


Constance McMillen Prom Fiasco – Welcome to the Dollhouse:

More fallout from Constance’s prom fiasco. A student from IAHS wrote a nasty Open Letter about the fake prom debacle, and it’s official, Constance McMillen Promgate 2010 has hit an all time low.

A classmate published this to defend the student body’s actions when they scheduled a prom for themselves and deliberately sent Constance elsewhere with five other kids (the **open minded readers only** disclaimer is the author’s, not our own, FYI):

**Open Minded Readers Only**

I am a senior at IAHS, and I’ve known Constance for the last 6 years. Please hear our side of the story before you decide on our fate.
The party we had in Evergreen (the county neighborhood I live in) is 30 mins away from the school. we rented out the community center, hired vendors, decorated, and our parents ran the security/chaperone staff- but it wasn’t prom. Prom was at the country club where constance and 7 other students were. The reason the senior class boycotted the actual prom was not because we hate gays.

We wanted a drama-free gathering to celebrate 3 great years and 1 lousy one together, and we wanted to lay low. We also wanted to do it without the main cause of the lousy. What people are failing to realize is that much of the fault of this whole stink lies with Constance, not her mistreatment by the school district, but her crazy-reckless need for attention. It sounds mean and horrible and like we planned it all specifically to embarrass Constance, but we didn’t. We let her have her prom with her girlfriend and her tuxedo and we went to party it up in the “boondocks” not because we wanted her rights violated, but so we could salvage what has turned into a total fiasco.

As a whole we didn’t support her decision to throw the district under the bus, or her insinuations that we’re all just a bunch ‘a hicks driving around in beater pick up trucks spitting tobacco and burning crosses. IAHS is one of the top schools in the state and I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that we took a stand and just said you know what? forget it, we have just as much right as you do to have a party for ourselves. So we did, and now we’re getting flack because poor Connie’s ego got a bit of bruising. She’s playing the lesbian card to prove she ALWAYS gets what she wants. This time, we didn’t just let her.

Take it as you will, because I’m sure it sounds like we faked her out, but understand this- the decision NOT to attend prom had nothing to do with the school or with Constance’s sexual preferences; it had everything to do with proving we weren’t going to let her and the ACLU steamroll us into doing what Constance wanted. We flexed the muscle of the majority and we’ll suffer the consequences.

DISCLAIMER PLEASE READ:

Obvs this gross letter by a classmate of Constance’s gave us a lot of feelings and so we wrote about it below. We got some pretty nasty comments about our feelings, which follow, so please read it thoroughly before commenting.

Following the mercilessly cruel and parentally-enabled actions of Constance’s classmates this weekend and the aforementioned despicable and hate-filled letter written by a fellow classmate, a few of us here started discussing our own confusion about the student body’s absolute depravity, as well as the fact that none of her friends stuck up for her and why none of her enemies spoke to the press and how anyone could start the “Constance Quit Your Whinin’” Facebook group. Could kids and parents really be this homophobic? Where were the gay haters with their anti-gay religious signs? There were also questions raised by us, and the press, as to why Constance didn’t talk about her mom being gay more often (she mentioned it once, quickly, in a radio interview).

The Constance conversation seemed notably absent of religious rhetoric, which is unusual for a case like this. Is it productive for us to blame homophobia for 100% of the actions happening here? Does that get at the root of the problem and help us combat it in the future? We suggest that it does not. This is also about being a teenager and bullying, just as the DADT discharge of Jene Newsome by some asshole cops was not just about homophobia — it was also, to a large degree, about racism — Constance’s situation is not just about homophobia, it’s about bullying and the cruelty of teenagers, and how homophobia is such an essential element of teenage bullying these days.

90% of LGBT students have been harassed in school based on their perceived sexual orientation. Yet 60% of teenagers support gay rights and gay marriage rights. This disparity is worth our attention.

We believe that we can ask these questions and that it’s responsible to ask these questions and that asking them does not negate or even challenge our absolute empathy for and support of Constance, as has been expressed in all our coverage of this so far.

We wrote this under the assumption that we all know here that we’re on Constance’s side. OBVIOUSLY M*THERF*CKERS!! OBVIOUSLY?!! Hello! Guess who we were in high school? YAAH! We were the ‘uppity feminazis’ who got eyerolls every time we raised our hands! Words like ‘feminazi’ are not words we endorse, they are words volleyed against us.

We aren’t victim-blaming! As gay press, I think when people are homophobic against us, we need to fully understand the root of the issue in order to combat it properly and strategize for a more harmonious future!

OK, let’s begin! This is our response to the student open letter:

You know what this feels like to me? I just think that for whatever [ridiculous] reason, most of Constance’s peers found her personality annoying. Constance was unpopular. And not in a quiet, unassuming reject way — Constance is not Allison in The Breakfast Club or even Dawn Weiner in Welcome to the Dollhouse or even Fern Mayo in Jawbreaker. She is disliked in a catty, teenaged way, and her queerness just makes it that much easier to ridicule her. Constance is more of a Rachel Berry or Tracy Flick, you follow?

Sure, many of them probably disliked her specifically for being gay, or suspected her of being a ‘pushy feminazi’ because her mom was gay. The Student Rebuttal loathes “Connie”‘s personality way more than her homosexuality, but damn if that ain’t convenient ’cause her church doesn’t like homos either. The students couldn’t even resist the chance to make fun of the special needs kids by sending them away from their own prom, and it’s not ’cause G-d thinks the special needs kids are sinners, it’s ’cause kids are assholes.

The Facebook group Constance Quit Your Whinin’? That wasn’t started by kids who started disliking her the moment prom got canceled. That was started by kids who disliked her already. If Constance was the most popular girl in school, the kids would’ve rallied against the school administration (kids are always more likely to rebel against authority figures than each other), but she wasn’t. This whole story started way before the ACLU showed up. It makes Constance’s strength even more admirable.

We wondered how on earth a story like this could erupt with no one from the other side wanting to speak to the press. That was one of our questions. We think we get it now: they didn’t speak out because they truly felt Constance was doing it for attention and didn’t want to show they fell for the drama by getting on TV or calling the newspaper. [ETA: Of course, students are desperately wrong to interpret activism as drama, this essay is an explanation/speculation, not a defense]

These kids had already decided that was how Constance usually did act, and this time her actions put a mean spotlight on them — bonus! church hates gays — and so they saved their biggest senior prank for Constance. The students didn’t run from the press, they rolled their eyes and walked the other way. They’re annoyed that they can’t embarrass her so much that she’ll stop telling people about it, that she prefers speaking out to being shamed when they try to shame and silence her. That’s the kind of cruelty we’ve been witnessing — bullying.

To these kids, Constance is the angry feminist lesbian their parents warned them about. She seems quite lovely to us, obvi. Teenage groupthink is merciless. Personality is important. Would this have happened if Constance was the most popular girl in school? If you think the answer to that is “no,” then you have just opened a door worth walking into. We’ve seen how differently America reacts to Rosie O’Donnell vs. Ellen DeGeneres, yes? We fucking love the hell out of both of those women (I prefer Rosie, ’cause she yells more, but that’s just me), but America doesn’t. These are worthwhile conversations to have.

Why was Constance kinda on the DL about her mom being gay (or “being ignored by the gay media” according to this article) — only mentioning it really in a radio interview most news outlets didn’t bother to listen to? Maybe Constance wasn’t sure that she wanted us to know. We are wondering if Constance’s peers had accused her of being attention-seeking from the get-go because all the moms who knew Constance’s mom told their sons and daughters to avoid Constance’s Mom’s daughter. Maybe it wasn’t the press that downplayed it. It was Constance. She said it once, on the radio. Her mom wasn’t at the Ellen taping, as far as we know. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Constance has never mentioned her mom specifically, only her dad or her ‘parents.’ Maybe Constance was afraid that having a gay Mom would open her up for more ridicule, and she’d be taken less seriously. If so, that’s a problem, and we need to talk about that!

I mean, I have a lesbian mom, and it took me three years to tell a friend that my mom was gay for the first time. I did it because he was my best friend, and he asked me the night before he met her if she’d dislike him because he was gay. His own parents didn’t know, after all. And I laughed and wondered what would happen if I opened my mouth and told him the truth, and then I did. It was snowing; we were walking outside. He held my hand and we kept on walking until we reached a building, and he opened the door and we walked in. Life kept on going, after all. That might have been the only time it didn’t feel slightly awkward. After that, though, I told everyone.

Even now, (as far as I can remember) I’ve never mentioned my mom’s sexuality in a serious context; it’s always a throwaway line unless it’s part of an emotional essay of some sort. But in general I only let it come up as a joke. Except I guess those few sentences up there in that paragraph before the one you’re reading now.

And I didn’t feel comfortable identifying publicly as queer until I felt I was old enough and far enough from home that my sexuality and reputation would have nothing to do with hers. I also, somehow, didn’t want to play into that conservative fear-mongering concept that gay parents make gay kids.

See when I was younger, I couldn’t get this image out of my head from a bad talk show I saw in the late ’80s or early ’90s, where a few kids with gay parents were there to discuss if their parents had turned them gay or not. It turned out that SURPRISE THANK YOU PHIL DONAHUE most of these kids had indeed been turned gay by their parents. This was like a different time when people wanted to believe that Evil Gays Recruit Recruit Recruit so they produced this kind of propaganda (like this talk show) to ensure it. Before I knew that stuff wasn’t true I had to consider that it was true. And it scared me.

I don’t think these kids only hate her for her homosexuality, though they might hate homosexuality more than normal because they hate her, like how kids make fun of an annoying kid for being a redhead not b/c they necessarily hate redheads, but because they hate that kid, and use his redheadedness as yet another tool from which to craft their oh-so-clever bullying. There is more at work here than just homophobia, I think. When the school canceled prom, the students should’ve rallied behind Constance and made the school change their mind. Instead, they decided to make their own prom without her so-called “drama” and blamed Constance, not the school.

And the parents? Well, chances are they just really do hate gay people. Just enough to do this, and to endorse their children’s grotesque cruelty.

GAY PARENTS:
Speaking of gay parents, here’s a college English essay written in defense of gay parenting. (@dallasvoice)

As the child of a gay father myself, I know personally what it’s like to be worried about someone finding out that my family is different. I feared that if my friends found out my dad was gay, they wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore and would probably tease me and think I was a lesbian.

Children who grow up with a gay parent are inevitably going to be judged and ridiculed at some point in their life because of their parent’s sexual orientation. However, I believe this helps us to grow up as stronger and more tolerant individuals.

BEAUTY AND BASKETBALL:
The New York Times says Baylor University basketball play Brittney Griner is revolutionizing beauty, but Jezebel calls bullshit. “Though the piece does acknowledge that most web chatter is devoted to speculating about whether or not the teen is a lesbian or, indeed, a man. How to work around this? With “beauty arbiters” giving half-hearted endorsements!”

VISIBILITY:
Knockout Homophobia, a campaign to raise awareness about us [us being gays], is in the running to win a grant from Pepsi’s refresh project. You can vote now and every day in April!

BOLLYWOOD:
Actress Celina Jailtey has urged her followers on twitter to boycott Bombay Gymkhana after the club asked a well-known transgender activist to leave. “Apparently it is the same club where during the British rule it used to be written outside “Indians and dogs not allowed.”” (@indiainfo)

COPING:

Racism can lead to depression
: a new study finds that those who deny or ignore their experiences of discrimination are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. (@science daily)

CHIEF:
Cherokee Leader Wilma Mankiller dies. Mankiller was the first female leader of the Cherokee Nation and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. (@cnn)

SEX SHAKE DOWN:

Yale bans sex between professors and students
, and the writers at Salon wonder if the administration is overstepping their bounds.

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1732 articles for us.

189 Comments

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    is this real life?

    It doesn’t matter if Constance is annoying, queer, smart-alecky, stinky, or just too fucking awesome for that school – she has every right to go to prom just as all the other kids do.

    No one, for whatever reason, deserves the humiliation Constance has endured.

    Do you think it’s possible that they didn’t like her before prom was canceled because she and her mom are queer? Because she didn’t let the kids, administrators or teachers brow-beat her into the closet? Oh that uppity homo! just so attention seeking by being out! Doesn’t she know that we don’t want to have to deal with that?

    Admittedly, there are parts I don’t quite understand your point, so maybe is this something you could re-think and re-work? It feels like you’re trying to rationalize this community’s mind-blowing shitty behavior, as if somehow she deserved it. It really comes off as victim-blaming, when I think you’re just trying to present an alternative theory, one that doesn’t make it look like the world is full of such evil rancid assholes. Having lived a very similar high school experience to Constance’s, I can assure you, high schools, from kids to administrators, are full of rancid assholes. And sometimes the simplest answer is the worst one: they’re homophobes.

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      Replace “uppity homo” with “uppity racial minority” and you basically have my life story. Parents, ostracisation by the whole school, being called an “attention seeker” just for doing what I wanted to do and just because I happened to do well in exams. My God. The more I read about Constance and her dysfunctional relationship to the school, the more I get flashbacks to my time in primary school (and the end of secondary, where “anxiety disorder” and “took Humanities instead of Science and is now top of the Last Class by default” got added to the list of Things to Hate Tiara For). It’s seriously disturbing and it’s giving me serious visceral reactions.

      Queermo, Aniota, thank you. Thank you for speaking up. So what if Constance was annoying or charming – how the FUCKING HELL does that justify the amount of discrimination and sheer IDIOCY she’s faced? For all we know, the only reason she’s considered ‘annoying’ in the first place is because she refuses to let her sexuality or that of her mum define her or limit her, even if it means outperforming the regular folk – Queermo’s “uppity homo”. It’s another example of how people around the world are using excuses like “annoying” and “attention seekers” to cut down on minorities and outcasts that still are able to achieve something despite all the damn limitations.

      i gotta puke.

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        OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?

        Why on earth would I rationalize the students’ behavior? WTF? I was just explaining why I think it happened. This is about the student body’s perception of her personality, not about her actual personality. jeez. Did I say, “and that’s okay?” “and that’s how people should act”? NO! I just explained why I felt that these kids acted so strangely. These responses are blowing my mind. Of COURSE I don’t think it’s okay! I feel like I am in the Twilight zone.

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        So what if Constance was annoying or charming – how the FUCKING HELL does that justify the amount of discrimination and sheer IDIOCY she’s faced?

        No it does not. Please show me where I say otherwise.

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          Well the fact that her personality is brought up at all makes this article fall on the “:\?” side. I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to even ask if her personality had any effect – if anything, it just makes for a shield for her detractors to avoid saying “Yes, we’re bigots.”. Also re the title: bigotry is a type of bullying.

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          The story of a student body turning on a friend because of her homosexuality is a very different story than the story of a student body using homosexuality as another excuse to be cruel to someone. I don’t doubt that most of these kids hate Constance for being gay, plain and simple. But that’s not the whole story. they didn’t invite the ‘special needs’ kids to their private prom either, and no amount of equal rights legislation has changed how those kids get bullied and treated.

          Also, it’s important to understand how kids interpret a young person’s “activism” as “drama,” because we are trying here –in our lives — to create strong activists. I know through your work that you have similar goals; we all want to make strong activists and we want to support Constance. In order to support her, we must understand the enemy. They have a lot of misconceptions about her. I don’t agree with their evalauation of her personality — I don’t think it’s TRUE, for chrrissake. It’s not about Constance’s personality, at all. It’s about her classmate’s perception of her personality, which is clouded by bigotry and also by adolescence.

          Understanding why people react to a person the way that they do is an essential aspect of planning effective action to combat homophobia, bullying, and ableism. Understanding how people react to different personality types is important too when figuring out how to move forward — and there’s no right or wrong way. The gay rights movement battles on this all the time and I think we need both kinds of people; we need our radical revolutionaries who don’t give a fuck if people find them brassy or dramatic, and we need our meek little HRC too.

          We fully support Constance. She’s strong and kickass and we love her. WE have zero criticism of anything she’s done — that would be ridiculous– who are we to judge? !! But understanding the reaction of her classmates is something worth discussing.

          I obviously realize that I should’ve made that point more clearly in the writing, but also this conversation has helped me to refine my point and evaluate my motivations, so in that sense, thank you!

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      Queermo, You are correct. It is blaming the victim. Autostraddle basically disregards the homophobic tone of the letter (from “lesbian card” to the defense of what the school did to saying the ACLU was steamrolling their rights – did Autostraddle forget that the rights the letter is referring to is the right to exclude lesbianism) and instead ends up offering a mindboggling apologia to the bullies of the school.

      I also like how Autostraddle seems to have failed to notice that yet again after doubting this girl’s story a letter from an enemy of her’s validates what she said happened in terms of the prom. This comes one day after posting an article which a simple look at the testimony in the hearing would have disproven as bull. At this rate Autostraddle will be giving their “person of the year” to the school district and it’s students.

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        I really doubt that the purpose of this article is to blame the victim–or even to give a voice to the students at Constance’s school. Instead, I think, this is trying to provide an analysis of why those students would ever do a thing like the “fake prom.”
        Think of all the popular girls at your high school: if one of them had started dating a girl, do you think they would have been disliked and ostracized? I mean, okay, very possible, but I came from a super conservative neighborhood and went to Catholic school all my life and when one very popular girl at my school came out as bisexual, her friends stood by her.
        If Constance had had real friends, and a fair amount of them, this whole situation might have never happened–her friends would have rallied for her rights, and supported her, and maybe the ACLU would never even have gotten involved. In high school, this shit just does not happen to people who everyone likes and admires. So, I think Riese is on to something with this article.
        I would like to say that I, actually, do like and admire Constance and her bravery throughout this whole thing.

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          thank you Annie, you’re spot on. That is exactly what I was trying to say. and I do like and admire Constance too.

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          When I came out in high school senior year, and tried to bring my girlfriend to prom, my best friends since freshman year told me to my face I couldn’t be seen with them anymore.

          This wasn’t a conservative catholic school – this was a public school in southern california, and it was only a few years ago. The lack of any friend support, at least that we can see, is not surprising to me, nor does it invalidate any of her claims. Just because she has friends doesn’t mean that they haven’t worked out their own internalized homophobia, and may not have supported her standing up to her school.

          I think the points you were trying to make would have been more useful to place it into a context of privilege in regards to bullying – considering the fact that the students with learning disabilities were also excluded from the real prom. What attention-seeking did they do to be excluded? The separation between homophobic bullying and homophobia doesn’t seem like a useful distinction here. One isn’t any less bad than the other, and in combating homophobia, homophobic bullying gets dealt with too.

          And Riese, I’m sorry if my first comment came off of as way harsh; I don’t think you intended to blame Constance. It’s just the way you framed the online response to Constance, as if it has any merit. I think it just struck a nerve with me, because my own friends could have used any of that language about me and my coming out story. Constance’s story is the story of so many of us queers, and finally for once, *people give a shit.* I just really don’t want to see that taken away or eroded in any way.

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        @Chris HD – Please find for me the section where I blame the victim.

        “At this rate Autostraddle will be giving their “person of the year” to the school district and it’s students.”

        What the fuck? Firstly, we’ll be giving it to Lady Gaga.

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      You guys are being so vicious! I’m astounded. Riese would never blame a victim. EVER.

      She wrote this with a basic assumption that this is a queer site, and she is herself, and obvs she (and Autostraddle) would never think Constance is in the wrong. Maybe because that wasn’t stated very blatantly, that’s why you are all getting confused. But also, 1) it kind of is stated and 2) that all should be a basic assumption!

      We are not blaming Constance, we are not saying that she has a personality to warrant discrimination. That’s ridiculous, no one deserves bullying or homophobia. If that’s how you read this article, maybe suggest that we should refine our point or clarify. But please understand that Riese is the last person on Earth who would engage in victim blaming.

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    Seems like you got here before me queermo, Im just echoing the points that you already made.

    Even if she was really irritating, do you think that gives them the right to not allow irritating people to go to prom? Because i bet they invited people they hated to the other prom, not everyone in that school must all love each other.

    Attention seeking? I think they did the right thing in suing by not allowing her to go to prom. That isn’t attention seeking. That is fighting for your rights. It just happened to cause more attention than she originally thought.

    I also don’t see why she would need to mention that her moms gay, its her moms business. It increases stereotypes that gays produce gay children like you said.

    I think no one spoke to the press because they aren’t stupid, it would just get used against them. Maybe they didn’t speak to the press because the reason is they are homophobic assholes.

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      Well clearly these people are kind of stupid, don’t you think? They were ordered by a judge to include Constance at prom, and then they went and held a fake one. Do you think that’s a smart action?

      No one said Constance’s actions were attention seeking. We said that her peers see it that way. This entire article is written to explain the state of mind of her classmates. It seems that they have found a lot of convenient ways to let themselves think they aren’t homophobic.

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        I think I would’ve liked this piece a lot more if it had been “Ways Constance’s classmates let themselves think they aren’t homophobic”.

        I’ve already explained below why I think they are, but I do think it is interesting how people bury their homophobia under other titles or beliefs. Like people who say things like “I don’t hate gay people, I just wish they weren’t so in-your-face about their sexuality what with women dressing like men and boys kissing boys in public.” People can say things like that genuinely believing they aren’t homophobic when clearly they are saying gays should be invisible.

        Similarly, some of Constance’s classmates may believe that there was no homophobia in their decision to go along with this. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t. It just seems a big leap from considering this sort of thinking to the conclusion that “I don’t think these kids hate her for her homosexuality, though they might hate homosexuality more than normal because they hate her”.

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          i love how, when a point isn’t explicitly laid out for everyone to see, people will automatically assume the opposite point is being made.

          obviously riese isn’t blaming the victim here. and clearly we alllllll know this is homophobia. the point of the essay is that there’s more to it than simple homophobia — just like there’s usually more to anything.

          sometimes i feel like some of the readers here are just waiting for any opportunity to bitch about inclusion or race or exclusion or body image or how their own personal brand of queer isn’t being represented or how we’re falling at the feet of consumerism and cultural brainwashing. and it’s like you want to fight so much that you’re willing to MISREAD and MISINTERPRET any ol’ thing you please.

          WE’RE ON YOUR FUCKING SIDE. obviously! stop picking fucking fights HERE and go start a fucking REVOLUTION SOMEWHERE THE FUCK ELSE, WHERE IT’S NEEDED.

          you’ll never find a single person / team more dedicated to including and appreciating every facet of queer than riese and this staff.

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          I’m a little confused about how much of this comment was directed at my reply, I’m assuming obviously not the victim blaming bit but just in case some of the other stuff is in regard to my comment, allow me to clarify.

          Of course I didn’t read it as saying there wasn’t homophobia involved. But I do feel like Riese has made her point better in some of these comments than in the article. There were definitely other factors involved and they do need to be examined, but saying “I don’t think these kids hate her for her homosexuality” to me didn’t really reflect how intertwined these other factors are with homophobia and in particular how much the letter Riese is citing reflects that the pre-existing dislike of Constance seems to be at least in part because of her homosexuality.

          Riese writes “The Student Rebuttal loathes “Connie”’s personality way more than her homosexuality, but damn if that ain’t convenient ’cause her church doesn’t like homos either.”
          This is the part to me where it felt like the the article was maybe trying to say that the student’s criticism of her personality was reflecting her homophobic beliefs, but I do feel like the point could be made more clearly. I wasn’t certain at first if this is how it was meant or if she was saying that the students didn’t like her personality and it was convenient for an “easy” understanding of the situation to write the whole thing off as black and white church-taught homophobia.

          I do hate that Riese has had to face these accusations of victim blaming that I agree were unjustified, but I am glad that some debate has been sparked because I feel like Riese and Sarah’s comments (particularly the one furthest down the page at the moment) have done a great job of making their point.

          I certainly understand the team’s frustrations with some of the negative comments on this site and again thank you for your dedication to putting out awesome content and encouraging active discussion even though things sometimes go a bit crazy.

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          i was just throwing my comment in the general space where the cluster of weird, unwarranted comments were positioned on this page. it’s specifically directed at anyone who thinks they’re not being represented here or that riese would ever be asshole enough to actually defend the actions of those little shits.

          the article itself WAS poorly written and failed to distinctly make its point — something that’s really out of character for riese and can probably be blamed on the precious 2 hours of sleep i’ll bet she’s been getting every night SINCE SHE STARTED THIS WEBSITE (that’s a different comment for a different day, though) — howevvvvs, i don’t feel it warrants this sort of entitlement-drenched hatred being thrown at her or this site in general.

          and yes, i am protective of riese, usually to the point that i refuse to comment on the bullshit comments b/c i don’t want to be an outright bitch to anyone, especially our readers b/c i really truly do love everyone here. but this? this is stupid.

          for what it’s worth, rachel, i was most definitely not addressing you specifically. and to reiterate, i do love everyone. not that some of you give a shit.

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          Well, you are mistress of your own destiny, but I suggest in no particular order: vodka, nap, writing kickass articles to save the world.

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          I think your ideas are really onto something interesting here Riese and could be expanded to compare this to other situations and bullying at large. Bullying certainly gets a lot of press already in very broad articles that often say little beyond “Oh, no!”, but this offers a unique chance to bring up the issues of overt v. latent homophobia and the role of parents. I would love to see it expanded into a longer Riese’s pieces sort of thing like you’ve done with the Tila and TSwift stories (though I do understand that you’ve got more than enough on your plate already- I wouldn’t be surprised if Laneia’s 2hr estimate was generous).

          Also I like your Riese’s pieces because I think of the candy which makes me think of ET which brings about Drew Barrymore who is of course automatically straddling Ellen Page in my mind so there you go: it all comes back to Autostraddle.

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          Laneia, as someone who has commented often on A/S, taking various sides and tones depending on the topic:

          Firstly, if your point isn’t made clear in the article then yes, people will wonder which side – if any – you’re taking. A/S grows its readership daily and we can’t assume that everyone’s going to be familiar with your archives or positions. This post struck quite a few of us because it seemed to be going in the _opposite_ way from your past work. You say that “obviously” you’re all for Constance and wouldn’t blame her, but this post puts that in doubt (for reasons many people have articulated). It’s cognitive dissonance.

          You can’t really expect everyone to “listen to the author”. The best we can do is take in what they’re saying, acknowledge that that’s what they feel about it, and evaluate that. Sometimes it’s useful and sometimes it’s not.

          But I’m noticing a really disturbing tendency – both with this post, the hipster one, and with the Miss April one – for some of the key staff to hound and yell at commentors who are not 100% positive or who haven’t framed their disagreement in very specific ways. To me it sounds like “Well you only feel that because you READ IT WRONG, why can’t you learn to READ, boo to you”. It’s alienating, it can be felt like a personal attack, it doesn’t create an atmosphere of open discussion. It’s like unless you know the right things to say no one will listen to you, which is really not fair or condusive to a website like Autostraddle.

          I understand that you’re protective of each other and that these comments can seem harsh. I have been in your position! But in just over a year Autostraddle has grown into a brand that’s become more than just its writers. You and Riese and all the other staffers become representatives of the A/S brand. And when you have comments that just lash out in vitrol, to the point that Jacqueline felt chased out or that others may feel a “mob mentality”, that doesn’t reflect well on Autostraddle.

          People are trying to share their responses. And not all these responses will jar with what you had in your mind when writing these articles. Not all of us will know what you had in mind, know A/S’s history well enough to figure out your central values (a year is still short). Getting angry at them, or accusing them of only wanting to start a fight, is really not helpful – some of us have come from places that purported to be open but were just fights to be accepted every damn time. Some of us may not be immediately charitable, and for good reason.

          The best thing to do is *not* to be defensive and start trying to find fault with the commentor; it’s to see what they’re trying to say and see how that fits in.

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          I agree with your point that we need to realize that our audience these days has much less of an idea of our usual positions or our background. We probably need to make our positions a bit more blatant for new readers.

          However, I really don’t agree with you about how we handle comments. First off, it’s rare to find a site this large with staff members that will respond to commenters so directly and often. That’s one of the big benefits of Autostraddle and the community we have built here, in my opinion.

          When we respond in comments, I feel that we are usually very nice and respectful. And believe me, that can be difficult. When you put your thoughts and feelings out there for everyone to read every day, some of these comments can feel like extremely personal attacks.

          It might seem to you that our kneejerk reaction is to get defensive. But I would argue that usually we are simply defending our position because we really do believe in it. We think a LOT about our words and our thoughts before we put them on this site. If we’ve published something, then we will stand behind it. Of course, we sometimes end up changing our thoughts after discussing things with commenters, and we’re not afraid to admit that or to make changes.

          I’d point to this very post as an excellent example of this. Riese has at several points, in the article and in the comments, asked for readers’ opinions. This is an open forum, and not a lot of sites can say that. Yes perhaps we get defensive sometimes, but to be called a victim blamer is extremely insulting to our fundamental values. I think that might be one of the worst things someone could ever accuse Riese of. I know I would be very hurt. And if we honestly don’t believe our words reflect what we’re being accused of, of course we’re going to speak up. You’ll notice, though, that didn’t stop Riese from asking for suggestions and making changes to this post.

          If you have some specific examples of comments that were unnecessarily personal or harsh, please share them. You can email me at sarah [at] autostraddle.com, or link here in the comments. I’ll admit I haven’t read every comment on the site, so maybe I’m missing something. But I’m sharing my general impressions.

          As far as your point that we tell people to read, well that’s true. We do. Because often, the criticisms in comments have been addressed already. It can get really frustrating to constantly have to repeat yourself. Maybe we shouldn’t let that much frustration build up w/r/t that issue. That goes back to the point about having a lot of new readers.

          This got really long, and you’re probably going to think this is an example of the phenomenon you’re talking about. If this comment seems combative, I’m sorry, I just want everyone to know how seriously we take our commenters. All that said, we can certainly be more aware of our tone in comments in the future. I’m not sure how much more we can do, but there’s probably always room for improvement. But I for one believe that pretty much all of the conversations we have are respectful and productive. Usually, everyone walks away with a greater understanding of the issues.

          Thanks for your opinion and for caring about the site, Tiara.

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          Oh and one more thing. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we would much rather have these conversations with readers than no interaction at all.

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          Sarah your response here is perfect and I agree with everything you said especially how important our reader conversation is to us.

          I think that we, if anything, approach reasonably worded feelings with reasonably worded defenses. We respond to feeling attacked and I was hurt for all the reasons Sarah mentioned. Furthermore, it is highly unusual for a site of this size to talk it out, so to speak. The only advice I’ve gotten from other editors is “ignore it.” You challenging this is useful because it keeps us in check, I suppose, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable for any of us to feel hurt when accused of being racist or victim-blaming, two of the most hurtful things that you can say to people who realize — as you do — how terrible it is to be either of those things. We might defend ourselves and be angry, but I don’t think we volley around accusations quite that severe? We are trying to be good? We try a lot.

          If you’d like examples of conversations where everything was handled respectfully despite disagreements, you need look no further than Taylor Swiftgate. Furthermore:

          Kathy Griffin’s Lesbian Law & Order SVU Episode: As Good As it Gets

          Election Day Live-Blog

          A Shot at Tila Tequila: The Autostraddle Interview

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          Tiara, RachelwasHere is a great voice when it comes to our comments and we really respect her for that.

          Her comments show that it is possible to express your opinions and even to disagree in an articulate way that sparks more communication and helpful debate.

          Thank you RWH.

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          While I do appreciate your overall point – RWS has indeed been fantastic in this post – I am wary of comments like “it’s possible to disagree in an articulate way”, because that then just brings up the Tone Argument, which has been used to basically shut out people with quite strong frustrations from conversation.

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          I’d just like to say that I think Kelsey has a point. Generally, arguing without getting personal is much more effective. I’d refer everyone to our comment policy for our thoughts on productive debate.

          Of course, with issues like social justice, it can be hard to argue dispassionately because obviously we all have a lot of passion. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. But I think that it’s our responsibility to understand how to get our points across in the most effective way possible.

          And actually I’m a bit confused how this comment jives with your comment about how the editors talk to our readers. If you think that tone shouldn’t factor in, then I don’t understand your criticism? I’m more inclined to think that tone matters a lot, and your points about our comments follow with that. I mean, you probably have some valid criticism because we take our work so personally, it’s hard not to defend it passionately, even if we try super hard to be fair in our responses about it. Anyway, just my two cents. If you have some clarification, I’d love to hear it.

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    Hey, perhaps ye did it as a teaser, but if not ye havent put any content into the paragraph for dallas voice.

    Oh and i second mr ziggy.

    It’s a pity the students didn’t take the high road, get behind constance and sort it all out within the school, but it doesn’t necessarily make them homophobes just very unpleasant… they excluded other kids too!

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    I don’t know if I got here after a rewrite and those two commenter up there read a different article, but for what it’s worth, I didn’t read the musings on Constance’s situation as being victim blaming or anything like that – rather, I read it was a dissection of the reasons why the students may have behaved the way they did. It certainly echoes my own experiences in middle school and, to a lesser extent, high school, where people thought I was annoying because I wouldn’t shut up about the things I cared about.

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    The South is a massive embarrassment to the rest of the country. This is no secret. However, “Promgate”? Seriously? Can we stop attaching Gate to the end of every scandal? You people are giving me douche chills. It’s so lame and pathetic. Enough already.

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      This comment is like when my sister watches grey’s anatomy and gets annoyed that the surgical procedures don’t seem accurate. Really? of all the things to be frustrated by from this whole story, THAT’s what you find ridiculous.

      Overall, i do think this fix makes some good points. i don’t find it hard to beleive that maybe these people acted less out of pure homophobia and more that they just don’t like someone that much and, in a group, kids can be really f*cking cruel sometimes. however, i worry that your point is lost slightly. I don’t doubt that you think what happened to Constance is completely wrong, because i believe you to be an intelligent person, but i think it’s possible to read this like you are justifying their actions. again, i’m sure you’re not.

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      I second Denn’s Grey’s Anatomy comparison here. Spot on.

      But it also serves no purpose to write this off as the South sucks. Homophobia is a problem around the world and certainly is no stranger to the west or north of the US (see: Prop 8, hate crimes, gay marriage vote in Maine, etc). Homophobia is an embarrassment, racism is an embarrassment, any form of discrimination is an embarrassment wherever they are found. It is unfair, however, both to southerners and those who face discrimination in other areas to write off the region as a whole as though these problems are unique to the south.

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      I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you, “Aaron Bowen,” to please think seriously before writing off a large group of people. The same attitude that you take towards “The South” is one that we are fervently trying to reveal and expunge in the LGBT community, as evinced by this very article.

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    Shorter Autostraddle: “I read a Facebook comment by some yokel, and to me it confirmed the nasty image I inexplicably hold of someone I don’t know. Furthermore, here are a bunch of highly speculative and basically meaningless justifications for my dislike of this person, including the citation of ‘a bad talk show I saw in the late 80’s or early 90’s.’ In conclusion, let’s all have some even-handedness and moral courage, and not shirk from portraying bigots and victims of bigotry as equally culpable.”

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    Even if Constance was the most annoying girl in the world, their treatment of trans student Juin Baize – who was only there for 4 HOURS before being hounded out of town – makes them more than just people who got annoyed. They’re bigots, plain and simple.

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    Really, no matter what the fuck it’s about bullying in all it’s forms is so bloody damaging. I was bullied (for want of a better word) at Uni even because I don’t stand for bullshit and speak my mind and was at one point told not to stir things up.
    I hope that all the people involved grow up to be better human beings and that Constance can move on and live her life and be awesome.

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    I agree with Dina. I don’t see any victim blaming in this article. As the authors say, those students are assholes, and many of their parents are too. Nothing justifies their despicable behavior… organizing a “secret” prom and not inviting certain people they don’t like… UGH, it’s like my worst middle school nightmare come true.

    “It feels like you’re trying to rationalize this community’s mind-blowing shitty behavior, as if somehow she deserved it.” I disagree. It feels to me like the authors are taking a circumspect look at the situation.

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    First of all, my personal “bullshit” reaction wasn’t a dismissal of the possibility that there *could* be truth, but the way the whole thing was handled by that site (ie mislabeled photos, putting the girlfriend in the spotlight, citing a comment with no analysis or backing facts besides “um… uh… sounds real to us guys”).

    And regarding why Constance’s mom wasn’t made a bigger part of the story, I think you’re probably pretty spot on.

    But as far as the motivation of the students, I don’t think we can separate bullying from the motivations that feed into it and say “Oh they’re just assholes, not necessarily homophobes.” (BTW, dear Google chrome spell check: homophobe is a word. I do NOT mean homophone, thanks.)

    The writer of that letter clearly does have a problem with homosexuality, because what the ACLU tried to “steamroll” them into was simply letting her go to prom with a girl and wear what she wanted. Her “crazy-reckless need for attention” sounds like what I hear so many people accuse gays and lesbians of all the time. “She doesn’t REALLY like girls, she just wants the attention.” This sort of homophobic response has a long, deep history. It goes beyond sexual orientation as well. “She dresses like a boy for the attention” etc. when people are simply being themselves.

    Maybe she is an attention seeker or maybe she is just being herself and because that makes her stand out she is seen as attention seeking. But in this case her supposed “crazy” need for attention could have been snuffed out with one simple decision- letting her go to prom. There would have been no press, no bad images of the school if it weren’t for the homophobia keeping her out in the first place.

    And boycotting prom to go to an alternate one only gives her more attention and if they didn’t realize that then they are probably not the brightest school in the state. They could have gone to prom, had a great time and ignored her. Would the mere presence of a girl in a tux been so attention-grabbing that they couldn’t possibly manage to focus on their own friends? Instead they went to great lengths to exclude her, made themselves look like assholes and hurt not only Constance but a handful of other students as well?

    Maybe the reason no one has spoken out is that they have nothing to say? Of course amongst friends they do, but to the press? I mean, how would you expect them to justify themselves (in the press, not by web comments) whether it is homophobia or general bullying?

    If there is a truth to be found in the comment that article cited, it isn’t that homophobia was not center stage but that bullying is frequent and widespread.

    This has gotten very long, but I want to make sure to add that I am disagreeing respectfully with Riese’s analysis. I don’t read it as excusing the actions of the students (I think you pretty clearly state that you don’t) or victim-blaming, but rather attributing the students’ actions to more general bullying rather than particularly hating gays. I just don’t think you can separate the two in this case.

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      i guess this has sort of been addressed at this point, but i didn’t get the same impression as you in my reading. i don’t think Riese was treating bullying and homophobia as mutually exclusive in this piece but rather trying to look at intersecting sites/forms of oppression (bullying, homophobia, ableism, etc) and how they interact with each other in order to create the steaming pile of ooze that is Constance’s situation. in this case, how is the bullying that Constance endures informed by homophobia on the part of the students and parents, and also how is that homophobia facilitated/bolstered by her being ostracized? this article isn’t presenting a reductive analysis of this situation, it’s presenting a NUANCED one.

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    Yes indeed, it’s a very well written piece, fair play to you. Ive a question, how long does she have left in that school, sorry, I dont know about the American education system? Because I think the sooner shes out of there the better. Perhaps these people just didnt like her because she was percieved to be different from everyone else but the specific difference is slighlty irrelevant. ie: those disabled children.

    I mean just look at this case-> http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/bullied-to-death-2098808.html and http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#!/group.php?gid=314134088145&ref=search&sid=744434630.3040935461..1 And that case wasnt in the South, it was in Boston. These excuses for human beings bullied that girl till she couldnt take it anymore, there was no logic or reason behind it, the only difference was that she wasnt from America, so perhaps theres no logic or reason behind the actions of these idiots, or no point in trying to understand them. There will always be bullies unfortunately and they’ll pick up on ANY differences that people may have. I just seriously hope that Constance can leave as quickly as possible.

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      I believe this was her senior prom meaning she will graduate this May.

      I get confused because my school only had senior prom but I know others have junior prom or such. But I am pretty sure she said senior, so someone correct me if I am wrong.

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    I had to make this a separate comment, because I didn’t want to just throw it in with a whole bunch of other feelings.

    Thank you for including the article on Wilma Mankiller. She was an inspiring woman. I read her statement a while back when she announced that her cancer was stage 4 and the courage and grace with which she faced death were remarkable, as was her life. She was a passionate, intelligent activist for the rights of women and her people and truly made a difference in this world. Her friend Gloria Steinem said that in a just world, Wilma Mankiller would have been President. But she certainly showed that in our world of injustice, nothing should stop us from making a difference in our community.

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    I don’t understand how the students think that this was avoiding drama? It only created it? Had they just let her come to the event with her date (they didn’t have to pay attention or hang out with her if they didn’t click with her personality). . .then all would have been fine, drama free.

    And, I still don’t understand why they aren’t blaiming the school district. They made the call to cancel the prom?

    I guess I don’t understand. . all I cared about was finding a date for myself to the prom. . .I didn’t care who anyone else was taking.

    Can’t wait until these kids all grow up and realize how stupid all of this was.

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      they’re not blaming the school district because they are assholes, imho. they’re creating more drama because they are cruel assholes. if it was a popular girl they would blame the school district, IMHO, kids love to rebel against authority. but this time the kids prefer to just target Constance and say they don’t like her personality and they think she just wants attention. this is how they sleep at night.

      I hope they do realize how stupid this was when they wake up, too.

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    That is the winner for worst piece written by Autostraddle. Rachelwashere said it all better than I could in her reply at 10:05 AM. I recommend you read that piece and next time think before you rush out an uninsightful, extremely flawed piece like the one you posted today. I expect better and extremely disappointed in this poorly thought out post.

    I am reminded of what my conservative Father once said “Liberals do a terrible job of defending their side of the argument because they spend half their time worrying about hurting conservative’s feelings.”

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      Well in response to your comment Chris H.D. In my opinion one of the reasons liberals do a terrible job of defending their side of the argument is because they get too emotional and personal in their points.

      I too disagree with the opinion represented in this piece, but I think it’s important to respect the fact that someone was willing to write a view point that would most likely generate a heated response.

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        There is no emotion. It is a terrible piece and one Autostraddle should be ashamed for posting. Autostraddle does some good work but this is an unmitigated failure and one that crosses the line into victim blaming. I saw this coming yesterday.

        I can’t respect it in terms of how poorly written it is and I certainly don’t respect it if it’s intent was to provoke by hating on this woman Constance for the second day in a row while offering up excuses for her attackers.

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          Chris –

          Are you able to elaborate on a couple of your unsupported points? What do you mean when you say that you saw this coming yesterday? Where is the line crossed into victim blaming?

          Why would you jump to the conclusion that the intent of this piece was to provoke hating on Constance?

          I’ve always appreciated Autostraddle for its ability to explore various points of view and opinions. That is what I get from this piece as well. The author does a thorough job exploring the minds Contstance’s peers – but at no point is a finger pointed at Constance. It’s important to dig deeper and try to find reasons behind all the involved parties actions to help people understand the bigger issues, isn’t it?

          Anyways – you seem to have made a snap judgement here and I’m hoping you will take the time to elaborate!

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          there was no emotion? did you miss the last three paragraphs about my mom being gay and my feelings about it? i feel like no one read that part or something

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          Yeah I just really have to disagree with Chris. In reality I could get my news on constance, and a lot of the articles here, from other sites, yet I don’t. Why? BECAUSE of the emotion/personality of this site.

          There’s something that differentiates autostraddle from just any other website and I feel it’s the presence of voices and opinions from people who are the driving force behind its existence. So I guess my main issue is that Riese, or anyone who writes for this site, might get shut down by harsh comments by people who disagree with them. And by discouraging them from giving their viewpoints or personal stories, we are destroying one of the many things that makes this site unique.

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        I second this.

        I am finding the responses to the Constance piece really interesting. Previously, this site has been totally pro Constance, and I don’t think this is anti.

        If you read the words carefully, you’ll notice that at no point is Constance directly criticised, it’s all speculation about what her peers think about her. Furthermore, the piece explicitly states that the views of her peers are not endorsed.

        I thought that the whole thing was very thoughtfully expressed, and credit is due for trying to look deeper into the situation, and raising the debate.

        That being said, I don’t agree with the conclusion that the bullying is separate from homophobia. I think RachelWasHere had it spot on in saying you can’t separate the two in this case. And as someone said earlier on, you don’t get excluded from prom for being a straight annoying/bullied person, do you?

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        @Jinnaw21: Wow I love how you over-generalize and reinforce stereotypes. I guess you would be the expert on liberals because you know every single liberal on this planet…NOT.

        But since you know me so well because I’m a liberal, you would know that I’d rather be an over-emotional HUMAN than a heartless, cold bitch.

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    As a lesbian mom, I think a lot about my children being discriminated against because of the way much of society views our family. We live in a liberal place and the kids go to a liberal school and still kids use the word “gay” to mean “stupid” or “worthless”. My son has had a classmate roll dice at him and tell him that the numbers would reveal what percentage of “queer” he is. We talk a lot about discrimination (and not just against queers), bullying and cruelty. My greatest fear, however, is not that my children will experience discrimination because I know they will and I hope to give them the tools to cope with it. No, my greatest fear is that they will somehow grow up to treat people the way the adults and children at Constance’s school have treated her and others.

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    Okay, I read this piece three times… at first I thought it was bordering on victim-blaming, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I see what you’re trying to do – to respond to that letter and to explain the silence of the students – but this entire analysis just seems unnecessary. The students’ willingness to take part in the prom night set-up already told us that they’re mean, bullying douches who don’t like the queer kids or the disabled kids. We didn’t need an analysis that speculates on Constance’s personality to tell us that. And I’m still not sure how her choice to not talk about her mom has anything to do with anything. This is her fight and her story. And in fact, not including her mom’s sexuality in this discussion seems like an attempt to avoid drama, which counters your initial argument.

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      I don’t personally think Constance wanted to start drama, obvi. I think that every time she speaks up for herself, she is accused of ‘starting drama’ by her peers, and so she downplayed her Mom to prevent getting accused of starting drama by her peers because all the bullying had made her think that if she brought her Mom into it, no one would listen to her.

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        I think these points are really important, because it’s just another example of how you have to be a “perfect queer” or whatever in order to have your problems listened to. If she brings up her mom, or if she acts in a certain way, then her very valid concerns will be swept under the rug. It’s sad, but that’s still how our society functions.

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    This is a great, articulate and in depth analysis. Great job Riese. I had never actually bothered to think about how having a queer parent could affect their gay kid and the stigmatism attached to it. I think sometimes you think being gay and having a gay parent makes it easier but I can see now that there could be more underneath the surface.

    People suck sometimes, it is a hard idea to accept but at some point you have to. The “open letter” did make me want to throw up though.

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    great analysis! It really sounds like they are angry at the way the media is portraying their school..period. Initially I was surprised that the students didn’t side with Constance which led me to think that maybe they didn’t like Constance to begin with and this just confirmed it…smdh

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    OMFG!!! You guys! Why on earth would I “blame the victim”?! Do I ever validate the students’ behavior or say there is anything acceptable about it? This is an analysis of why people behave the way they do, it’s not letting them off the hook or approving of their behavior!

    Why would we support Constance every day and then decide today to blame her? wtf? Why is bullying ok?

    Sorry, I just woke up to this and everyone’s reaction has completely blown my mind.

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      I guess this is a more emotive issue than anticipated and maybe that got in the way of really digesting the points you were trying to make.

      But I hope you’ll see that plenty of people did understand and appreciate what you were trying to get across (even if they didn’t agree with everything)!

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      The reactions are blowing my mind, too. I can’t believe how people don’t see what your point was. The whole thing about picking on a redheaded kid but not hating redheads made sense. When someone is picking on you, they use your “flaws” (or what they see as flaws…red hair, homosexuality) to get at your core. Bullys WANT to hurt you, and if there is one thing all humans know how to do, it’s hurt each other.

      What I got from what Riese said was 1. The parents knew what they were doing. Adults hate gay people for many different, invalid reasons. They then go on to teach their kids to hate them as well, and here lies your vicious cycle. 2. The girl, who shared the views of the entire student body in her open letter may not know why she hates gay people. I’m guessing her parents told her to. The community told her to. The church told her to. She is trying to say that their hate for Connie is ANYTHING BUT HOMOPHOBIA, because she knows that is a bad word. That’s where Riese got this info, and she is more using it to say that the students already didn’t like her for various reasons, which made it was easier to dis-include her from the prom. They had backup for when they were called out on being homophobic. There were prob 10 other kids that these students hated, but they had no way of keeping them from prom, so they would just deal with it.

      This is absolutely still about homophobia and discrimination because what started this was that the school board said she couldn’t go. Whether they were prompted to say this because of parents, students, or their own bigotry, it doesn’t matter.

      A secondary of this story is that the students had a secret prom. Now the students are to blame. Now they are part of this. You don’t think they were prompted by parents and teachers to keep this a secret? You don’t think they were groomed to say “We didn’t like her anyway, that’s why!” by parents? I am not taking the fault off of them, I’m just saying they wanted to try to rationalize their actions because, to them, hating someone for being annoying is ok, but being homophobic is not.

      Shit wrapped up in a pretty bow is still shit, kids.

      It is everyone’s fault but Constances. No one who runs this site would ever say otherwise. If info was misconstrued, fine, but LISTEN to the author when she says that is not what she was saying at all.

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      Personally, I’m wondering if some of the people fully read the article… because when I read it, I saw plenty of disclaimers saying, “I am not in any way saying that this excuses the students’ behavior.”

      As I said previously, I WAS that annoying kid. Of course, when I was in middle school my annoyingness was more about environmentalism and my love for science fiction, but the effect was the same – I was ostracized and bullied. I’m glad I moved before I went to high school, as I can only imagine how they would have behaved when I came out (although they called me “dyke” anyway to try and piss me off, lol).

      And I’m sure I WAS annoying. But that still doesn’t excuse their behavior.

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    I think this piece was interesting because you have raised the issue of bullying vs homophobia, but I do agree with many of the comments that we cannot separate the two. “Attention-grabbing” has been an excuse used to silence people who are different, who would not hide and try to melt into the backdrop just because the majority wants them to. It’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” “you can be different but don’t shove it in our faces (and don’t expect us to like it),” or “I love you but not your behaviour or lifestyle.” All of it smacks of conditionality, hypocrisy, and non-acceptance. And when the light of attention is focused on these false platitudes, the ugly truth emerges. The dark mirror doesn’t lie.

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    HEY! guess what? high school kids get bullied. queers get bullied even more. This isn’t victim-blaming, or even brushing off the incident as an adolescence issue.
    As someone who basically studies youth on a collegiate level (youth studies major..social justice and GLBTA minor, yes I’m that kind of lesbian), this behavior, UNFORTUNATELY, is nothing new.
    Sure, we can talk about the horrors of this story until the sun goes down, but we need to find SOLUTIONS. There is a reason why these kids are fucking bigots. gahhhh this is nuts.

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    I’m honestly baffled at how any of you got “victim blaming” or “justifying the students’ actions” out of this. Twilight Zone indeed, Riese. I have been thinking since the first time I saw Constance on tv that she probably wasn’t well liked by her classmates. Not because I don’t like her (I do) but because her classmates would be supporting her if they did.

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    Ok, I’m just going to make one more point here. The conversation we all had yesterday (as referenced in the new disclaimer) was about how this situation seemed really weird. We were only getting Constance’s side of the story. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, but no one from the school had stepped up and proved in the media what homophobes they are. Which is weird, because usually those people are eager to speak up. And when they do, it becomes obvious that they’re bigots.

    Then last night, this girl wrote the open letter, and now I get it. I see why these people didn’t talk to the media, for reasons that Riese has explained in this post. And what I think she’s trying to point out is that this case is even more complicated than just homophobia. The silence of Constance’s peers is indicative of a larger problem. That is, that these people don’t think they are being homophobic. They think they are justified because she’s “annoying” or something. This attitude of justified bullying is SO prevalent in high schools. These kids don’t realize they are perpetuating the negative attitudes of society. It’s something we need to be aware of so we can combat it.

    This article is about how Constance’s peers view this situation. Their attitudes show latent, rather than overt, homophobia. That’s what we’re dealing with now, and that’s what Riese is trying to highlight.

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    Reise, you express shock and anger at the negative reactions to this poorly written article. However instead of reacting surprised, maybe you should reread it and ponder how it comes across. The article basically lets the students of the school off the hook in terms of being accused of behavior which is based in homophobia while, even if that is not the intention, throwing quite a bit of the the blame on Constance. You state that the students reacted negatively to Constance not due to her want to go to a prom with her girlfriend but because they already did not like her for other reasons – such as her being a feminist or being opinionated. You negate homophobia being involved in terms of the reaction of the students.

    Your interpretation of the letter is as poor as the interpretation of the anonymous comment was by that other site yesterday. We all roll our eyes when a person states “I have nothing against blacks. Some of my best friends are blacks” before they go on an anti-black tirade. Yet somehow in this case, the cues to the letter being steeped in hostility towards the notion of divesity being employed when it comes to homosexuality were ignored. Do you really think the following line from the letter is sincere?

    “The reason the senior class boycotted the actual prom was not because we hate gays.”

    If so I have a park in New York City I am looking to sell. That should have been eyerolling time not that should be the basis for deciding that the students probably did not act out of homophobia.

    There are plenty of opinionated young women and men at schools. When it comes down to it that was not the reason this woman has been treated this way. I am glad you put up those further comments. However when an article is met with very negative response maybe it is time to look deeper into how the article came across and not just blame the readers. I read the article 3 times before my first reply. If I can read and comprehend Finnegans Wake, I think I can read and comprehend your article. I will admit much of my annoyance was already in place due to what I see as a poor decision to post that dimwitted person’s article concerning an anonymous comment.

    Sometimes things aren’t all that complex. The girl wanted to go to the prom with a girl as her date. She got refused. It went to court. The judge made an ambivalent decision – basically saying the school is wrong but still allowing the school not to live up to it’s obligations. The students don’t like the gay girl and said screw you to her by pulling this latest stunt. Yes, there are areas of the South that act like this petty.

    When you post something like the following you come across as excusing the students entirely of any moral obligation, cleanse them of any possible homophobic stain, and ultimately apologize for them. This line more than any other is what I think set people off and rightly so.

    “We think we get it now: they didn’t speak out because they truly felt Constance was doing it for attention and didn’t want to show they fell for the drama by getting on TV or calling the newspaper.”

    That line is so foolish and even contemptible that it sinks your entire article. Please read that line again and tell me how that sounds to you. You might as well say the students are not acting out of homophobia at all but just feel Constance has a big mouth. Also it leaves out something fundamental when it comes to bigotry. Most bigots don’t want to be accused of bigotry. That more than any other reason is for the silence.

    I don’t think your intent was bad. However I think you overanalyzed this situation into an area where it became a rejection of homophobia existing among the students. That would have been fine if something supported that but nothing does.

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      if you read this article three times and you still think Riese was trying to excuse or reject homophobia among the students then i wonder if you really DID comprehend Finnegan’s Wake.

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        bcw, sometimes a person’s intention ends up not being what is translated to the page. I think this was a case of that occurring. In coming back and reading this later, I immediately noticed that the area which stunned me this morning now had this note behind it.

        “ETA: Of course, students are desperately wrong to interpret activism as drama, this essay is an explanation/speculation, not a defense]”

        That “of course” seems to assume that one should automatically know what the writer’s intent was even if it is not conveyed in what is written. I could go by past history but considering the same site had no problem posting a link to an anti-Constance screed yesterday (one actually based on an anonymous comment), that would not be a wise move. Even then if it is speculation on why the students behaved the way they did, it has no basis to back that up. If anything that student’s letter indicates hostility towards gays having the same right (the letter writer defining themselves as the victim of an organization and a person demanding an equal right – a common trend in bigotry).

        I think the true failure of the article can be found in the intro.

        “Is Constance McMillen’s treatment by the student body more about bullying than about homophobia?”

        Imagine for a moment this line “Is the Little Rock Nine’s treatment by the student body more about bullying than racism.” to get an idea how poorly conceived the article’s theory is. It illuminates what a poor angle this was to take. Anyways not much more can be said. Hopefully the next time an article like this written it will be better thought out.

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          i think your criticisms of the writing are valid, but at the same time i think this piece needs to be read in the greater context of autostraddle’s coverage of this issue (which has been much more extensive than simply yesterday’s link) and the mission of autostraddle in general. while the intro may seem to posit bullying and homophobia as mutually exclusive and in its wording even suggest the former could be somehow *more* responsible for this situation, i think Riese clearly goes on to examine how bullying and homophobia INTERACTED with each other to create this one teenager’s personal hell. she’s looking at the nuances of this situation and trying to understand its complexity, and i think also shed light on the larger problem of how intersecting forms of oppression can mask each other and lead to reductive analyses; in this case that Constance’s exclusion was based solely on the community’s homophobia, as opposed to the community’s homophobia informing the kids’ homophobia which informed the bullying which was bolstered by existing bullying all in the effed up town Ithahawamba built.
          -
          i suppose i probably take for granted that I’ve been reading for a long time and feel i understand the fundamental values of this site, which may not always seem so obvious when taking one article at face-value. and at the same time i understand that it’s a writer’s responsibility to get their point across every time and that writers should be held accountable for everything they publish. i guess i would just be a little less quick to call out victim-blaming or apologism (is that a word?) on someone who, based on writing alone, clearly thinks very long and hard about every possible conceivable angle to things and is personally invested enough to devote her entire life to providing a forum for us to shout at each other about this stuff.

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          i want to add to bcw’s excellent point (bcw, have i told you yet today that i love you yet), because i actually think that it’s not just about reading this within the context of autostraddle or even me personally. it’s reading this within the context of responsible media and journalists and pretty much any website besides Glen Beck dot com. The opinion I was accused of promoting is an opinion I wouldn’t expect to see ANYWHERE, not on jezebel, not on gawker, not on huffpo, queerty, mediaite, new york magazine, feministing, or in your local newspaper.

          What journalist in their right mind would ever, ever, ever condone these students behavior? That’s why I take offense, because in order to think that I would be capable of something that really no one else in the media should be capable of seems like a radical reach to me that can’t help but come off as undeniably personal.

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      @Chris HD — I don’t believe any of the ideas that you say this article is endorsing. Therefore, if this article endorsed any of those ideas, then it is because I am a bad writer or this was a poorly written piece. It’s not because I do believe those ideas or want to endorse them… because I don’t. So that’s impossible.

      I want to address this section:

      “We think we get it now: they didn’t speak out because they truly felt Constance was doing it for attention and didn’t want to show they fell for the drama by getting on TV or calling the newspaper.”

      That line is so foolish and even contemptible that it sinks your entire article. Please read that line again and tell me how that sounds to you. You might as well say the students are not acting out of homophobia at all but just feel Constance has a big mouth. Also it leaves out something fundamental when it comes to bigotry. Most bigots don’t want to be accused of bigotry. That more than any other reason is for the silence.

      Okay, that’s a fair opinion. However, my sentence only addresses why the students didn’t speak to the press — not why they feel how they do about Constance. I have no doubt they are totally homophobic. In fact, that’s why it’s so weird that they DIDN’T talk to the press to share their homophobia, as homophobic people so often love to do in our experience. That sentence attempted to explain why we hadn’t heard the Jesus Hates Constance shit we usually hear.

      I think this is the crux of it: I personally believe that the bigots in these situations speak openly to the press. That has been my experience from running this website. Rarely are these convos so one-sided. Both sides usually speak out.

      You, Chris HD, believe that in these situations bigots usually DON’T talk to the press b/c they don’t want to be labeled as bigots. If that’s true, then I am wrong to say what I said there.

      But I don’t know if there’s any way to figure out which of us is correct here?

      How should I rework that section of the article?

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    I can see why some of this got misinterpreted. But shit happens! It’s good to get a convo going. I’ve been reading autostraddle long enough to know that there would never be victim blaming & excuse making going on here, but I guess you can’t assume that every casual reader would know that. Thanks for giving me stuff to read while I lay here with mono yay!

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    girls girls girls.

    i think the point riese is making, and correct me if i’m wrong riese, is that
    1. what happened was AWFUL and no one deserves that kind of humiliation and unfair treatment.

    2. if constance were popular, this would not have happened this way.

    sounds like she was already in the “uncool” crowd, but that no one really paid much attention to her, until she affected them. the fact that she’s gay and the idiot school district cancelled prom added fuel to a tiny little match and it blew up. the school district acted out of homophobia, but the student’s reactions were based ALSO out of her lack of popularity.

    Imagine you were in high school, and you were an insecure douchebag who was REALLY trying to get in with the popular crowd, and just trying to make it through high school in one piece, if someone you already didn’t really like bc she wasn’t in said popular group, did something that caused your prom to get cancelled, wouldn’t you hate her? i’m not talking about YOU, you the lovely evolved smart readers of autostraddle…i’m talking about high school morons who just wanted to go to their prom.

    When I was in high school, this is EXACTLY the way it would have gone down with me, bc i wasn’t popular. No one hated me, it wsn’t like I was getting gay bashed or anything, but let me tell you, if my best friend who WAS popular had had this happen, it would have happened in a different way.

    obvs they are homophobic…what riese is saying is that on top of the OBVIOUS issue of societal way of hating the gays, it’s really about popularity.

    this is high school, remember that. and look at the amazing response constance has gotten from the media. she’s presenting wanda with her GLAAD award. people love her. she can do anything.

    clearly this whole situation was absurd and horrible and handled REALLY poorly by all involved, starting at the top, with the bigoted adults, but this viewpoint is an addition to that. riese is just going a little deeper into it, into what is an obviously wrong, but nuanced, situation.

    that is all. yay constance yay, and also…proms are gay. :-)

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      My thoughts exactly. This is how I remember high school. It didn’t take much to tip someone from kind-of-friend to full blown enemy. It could be homophobia, racism, classism, etc…but the result is almost always the same. A bully thinking they’re justifying his/her actions because the bullied is “different”.

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      “2. if constance were popular, this would not have happened this way.”

      Constance, being gay in a homophobic city, would NEVER be popular. Her EXISTENCE would be seen as “attention-seeking”. This is what some of us are trying to get across – that for as long as Constance existed and lived her life in her city there was no way she wasn’t going to get bullied or ostracized. Her only option would have been to shut down part of her identity.

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    HOLY SMOKES! I stop reading for two days and the whole place explodes! I don’t have time to read and re-read and process this all right now but I wish I did. Can I request that someone recap what the hell went down in the article and comments in a few days once the dust has settled? Like Rachel’s prop 8 trial recap style?

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    To be quite honest, I don’t have anything special to add to this discussion (I think a lot has been said/smoothed out), but I’d be out of character if I didn’t throw my support in for Riese at one point. I understood the article, maybe because before I even read it I expected it to be on Constance’s side, and I would be thoroughly surprised to read Riese “victim blaming”. From my experiences in high school, no one ever wanted to be homophobic — they didn’t associate “gay” with actually being homosexual, it really meant “stupid”. For a moment they forgot what “gay” really means. That’s not to say that the kids at Constance’s school don’t know what being gay is, it’s just that sometimes kids are mean and they will find any way to express their dislike. Constance being gay/wanted to bring her gf to prom was just a vehicle for them to express what they already felt towards her.

    In any case, I’d just like to say thank you to Riese for all the hard work you put into Autostraddle, and everything you do for the community.
    xx

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    They are always there. Remarks, shouting in the halls or full on fights, on the surface purely motivated by racism or homophobia.
    The most popular guy in our school? A fabulous, out, black diva.

    We know what buttons to push, we know how to create distance, difference. We know how to make someone cry, how to make them hit us in the face if that’s what’s needed to come out on top. We don’t want to be that person, we make sure someone else is. It’s cruel.
    It’s cruel until someone whispers that being different is what will make someone notice you in a crowd, what will make you get somewhere, and that most of us get tired of causing tears.

    (Btw, Riese, I love your essay, I love that we can have this debate and that you take part in it. Thank you.)

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    granted i’m a relatively new follower but i’ve found this particular situation absolutely devastating and after a good 3 hours of catching up on all the latest controversy last nite, i am near tears for this poor girl.

    i don’t even really need to share my empathy for constance at this point, but just want riese to know that this is not a poorly written article. it is just not providing the answers that everyone is seeking and i myself am still baffled at the situation itself, not the reporting.

    i graduated from a ‘rich kid hs’ in north dakota, a place with very similar conservative opinions as MS. yet here, not a single person would ever think to exclude or segregate “homosexual sinners, special ed. kids, immigrants, etc.” nowadays i get a couple drunk assholes at the bar, but not fascists.

    for me (and possibly what you are trying to say), this has turned into an ‘scandal’ that goes way beyond homosexuality. i’m astounded at constance’s perseverance and strength facing not just her sr year, but what may have possibly been 4 years of HS hell. kids commit suicide over these types of unfounded and cruel ways. being an outsider + being openly gay on top of that is a lot to swallow for one teen.

    what i find most disturbing is the role of the parents through all this. a quick look through facebook groups will show you 40-year old grown women remarking ‘that BITCH ruined it again’ and ‘this is what happens when you take God out of our schools!” most aggravating was the fact that one of these women was African American and she herself would’ve been unable to attend her school’s prom 5 decades ago ‘under God.’

    i hope that every single person is held accountable for his/her words and actions, as well as those that stood by silently and watched a fellow human being stripped of her civil rights.

    ALSO the fb group is called ‘Constance quit yer cryin,’ [not whining].

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        I’ve been accused of blaming the victim (Constance) and condoning homophobia and writing off homophobia and excusing the behavior of these students. I can’t imagine anything more hurtful.

        This essay was clearly not written that well and my point wasn’t clear, but even the original draft did not state definitively that I believe any of the things I have been accused of believing here. It just astounds me how quickly people are to write ME off, because I am absolutely confident that there was no definitive way to read this — negatively or positively. At worst it was confusing and asking me to clarify would’ve been nice.

        But the attitudes and feelings I’ve been accused of having here hurt me. I am hurt and honestly if it’s that easy for people who I know are not new readers — who have been reading for a while — to be more eager to write me off as a bigot than to consider another, equally accessible angle or to respectfully disagree, or to say this is the worst thing ever written on autostraddle… it’s that easy, really? to turn on everything like that?

        i’m all about debate. but accusing me of condoning homophobia rather than asking for clarification is the worst insult anyone could volley at me. i don’t want this comment to turn into a pity party, and i accept responsibility for bad writing, but this is the end of something.

        i’m sorry. please. i have to go do more work for free for everyone now, brb.

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          Because it took me so long to type my comment below, you had posted this. I know you don’t want a pity party but I feel for you, I really do. I don’t understand how some people can just throw comments at you like they have, which even I found down right surprising and insulting, and I’m still a relative newbie to your site. Some people are so quick to judge, and give little thought to how their comments could make you feel. I’m gutted you’ve been made to feel like shit, and I hope those who have made you feel like this, feel some sort of regret, or atleast hopefully think twice before commenting.
          For what its worth, I think you are a truly amazing writer and am grateful for your hardwork and dedication to this site. Please remember that you help so many people all across the world and I sincerely hope this doesn’t affect your future. (you have me worried with your ‘this is the end of something’, please don’t let this be the end)

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          just my two cents… i was going to say this earlier but didn’t bother because i wasn’t adding anything new to the discussion.

          To me, this is a matter of debate etiquette and format. Though my opinion has evolved from my initial reading of the article to now. I have no problem with the structure language or initial clarity of the piece, it was clear at all times that though riese+laura had taken a supportive stance with regards to constance, they were just trying to examine the inconsistencies of the case, in todays culture it truly is unheard of for the other side to stay so quite [especially when there are probably at least a 100 voices involved]. Know thine enemy.
          But ignoring my reaction to the piece. I feel people should have stuck to debating the points, not an attack on the author. My opinion as an AS reader won’t be swayed by people saying the article is x,y or z. it will be swayed by clear logical rhetoric. such as sarah’s point about latent homophobia. or havilands post about the effects of popularity and to a certain extent queermo’s clarification and insight about her friends rejecting her when she tried to take a stand.

          ps as a turtle i resent the use of thick in a derogatory fashion, its genetics, i cant help having big bones and anyway my mammy says my shell is b bb boo ti ful.

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          I JUST WROTE A COMMENT AND THEN HIT THE WRONG BUTTON FUCK!

          Sorry. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all the work and time you clearly put into this site. It’s become a huge part of my internet life in the past year. Autostraddle feels like a family of sorts, and that means the world to me. I think you have earned the benefit of the doubt if I’m ever not 100% clear on something (side note: I totally got what you meant by the article, but I guess everyone reads things differently). Take a break and relax. Come over for some booze. I’ll make it worth your while. Wink wink. Seriously, though, I love you and thank you!

          XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

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          Riese, the last thing I would want to do was hurt your feelings and I think I kind of did. It is now very clear you did not intend the article to come across like it did to several people here. That happens when writing. Sometimes a word missing here and a word missing there or relying too much on your audience knowing you may cause the wrong impression to get out there. It may cause an article to come across in a manner that was not intended to readers. Even then this is certainly nowhere near a mistake on the scale of the Monica Hesse/Brian Brown debacle. If that was a a 10 on a level of 1 to 10, this was just a 1 (maybe even a fraction of 1).

          I think you have a great gift. You are very analytical and observant. I love your writing which mixes the thoughtful with an entertaining prose. That is one of the reasons I check this site every day. So please don’t let anyone, including someone as jerk like as me, get you down. Not every piece is a home run and, even then, sometimes the pieces that are the most trashed turn out to be the most acclaimed later. Critics have been known to be wrong alot after all.

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          thank you chris, that means a lot to me! I do think that this conversation has actually made us all have a lot of productive ideas today, and it’s worthwhile. And I thought a lot about Monica Hesse/Brian Brown today, mostly like it wasn’t like THAT, was it? really? And b/c I talked about my own personal life with my gay mom at the end, I actually labeled this thing as being by me, which I am often afraid to do because honestly, I’m not good enough at this yet — this website exploded and I’m so excited, but sometimes I’m not as good at having coherent, well-thought-out and perfectly explained arguments every single day — and I like to gauge reaction before copping to it. Which is a cowardly thing to do and I’m working on that.

          Anyhow thank you.

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    Well, I didn’t read this article and think it was ‘victim blaming’ at all, to me Riese was just trying to understand the reasoning and thoughts behind the other sides actions – Isn’t that what journalsim is all about?

    I guess at the end of the day some people just read and take things differently, (or don’t really read things thoroughly enough in some instances) Is the glass half full of water or half empty? Is it really water? Are you the kind of person who will actually takes the time to taste it too, and by thus discover its really something else, or just assume its water based on your preconceived ideals? Ok, that was perhaps a shit analogy, but all these crossed wires have me baffled. Riese/Autostraddle have supported Constance since day1, so why on earth would anyone think they’ve stopped now??
    Oh and,
    Positive or negative everyone is entitled to their opinion, BUT (in my view) to start criticising and attacking the ‘writing’is uncalled for and just plain rude, and by that I’m referring specifically to you Chris H.D and your “I expect better and extrememly disappointed in this poorly thought out post” comment.

    Debates are healthy, but so are hugs…

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    Okay, so I think the problem here lies more with the execution than the intent of the article and this is quite a sensitive subject so lots of people are all up in arms (to say the least…and it doesn’t help that we might not have all the correct info from those involved who are actively speaking out), but in keeping with the *spirit* of this site and everything I’ve read by Riese and other writers here, I can honestly say, “I got you, girl. I got you.”

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    Okay this whole comment debacle is making me have a lot of feelings and I have to get this out so I can get back to actually doing my job before my coworkers tear me to pieces and eat me.

    I think the crux of the misunderstandings going on here is the tendency I’ve seen within marginalized groups to see things in a very black-and-white manner. (I’ve also seen this happen in conversations about gender and race.) This whole “you’re either with us or against us” thing. Since this article took the time to examine the thoughts and motivations had by the “other” side, some of the readers took that as an endorsement of those viewpoints and ran with it.

    But don’t we have to understand the thoughts and motivations of the people who are against us? Isn’t that a part of dialogue?

    I don’t know, I don’t think I’m articulating myself very well here – I think the cold virus I’ve got right now must have eaten a few brain cells. But… yeah.

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      I think this is a great point, Dina. It’s hard to try to take the mindset of people who you perceive as against you, if even only to try to analyze it. But if we don’t try to understand the thought process, how can we change it?

      It’s hard to want to understand how the “other” thinks because trying to find rational, explainable thought patterns isn’t easy to reconcile with your belief that they are 100% wrong. It’s even harder to try to do that and then explain it to someone else without sounding like a sympathizer. To Riese’s credit, I think she managed to do it and because of the issue you mention there was probably always bound to be someone who would mistake that analysis for excuses.

      I’ve experienced this a lot with various forums and amongst friends when I say that I feel sorry for homophobes. I feel anger and a lot of other things to- my instinct upon first hearing about the faux-prom was to scream, drink beer and go to the gym (in lieux of softball where I had hoped to hit things before practice was canceled). But once I calmed down, I felt continued anger along with sympathy. Not because I don’t believe their actions were awful and inexcusable, but exactly because their actions were awful and inexcusable and such things can only be motivated by powerful negative emotions like fear and hatred. Fear and hatred are no fun at all, keep you from enjoying things/people you should and in the end when you look back on the awful things you did you get to suffer from guilt and shame. I don’t think for a minute that this comes anywhere close to what Constance has suffered, but I don’t think we have to compare them. All suffering sucks and I feel bad all around.

      But most of the time when I try to express this I’m met with a quick “I don’t feel sorry for those ASSHOLES, they are opposed to WHO I AM.” Which isn’t an unfair feeling, but does, I think, simplify life quite a lot.

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        Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, that’s my first response as well, at least in my head/computer room. But it’s not a terribly helpful response to hold on to!

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    CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE other TEENS THAT WERE CHARACTERIZED AS HAVING “LEARNING DIFFERENCES/DISABILITIES”??! WTF. As a Lesbian and a person who has ADHD and a math learning difference while reading the news articles a little red-flag flew up.

    Obviously, we can infer that these teens are mentally challenged, and that the media was attempting to be politically correct. But last time I checked being learning disabled as in having dyslexia or disgraphia does not place you in special education classes. Also, mentally challenged is different than learning disabled. They were correct to avoid the “r word”, but were quite incorrect to refer to the mentally challenged teens as having learning disabilities.

    If I did I did not mean to offend anyone, but rather I just wanted to vent for a quick moment.

    I would also like to applaud Riese in her brutally honest analyzation of this incident. The internet is full of trolls and they simply should be ignored.

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      Yes, yes, this. I don’t have learning difficulties myself, but a lot of important people in my life do. I think the intersections between learning difficulties and bullying are quite strong, too.

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      YES WE CAN BECAUSE THAT PISSED ME OFF SO MUCH TOO! I was yelling at my computer about it last night.
      I also have ADD and some sort of problem with numbers. And like five other mental illnesses CAN’T YOU TELL?!!

      anyhow! the media attempted to be politically correct and labeled the special needs kids as being kids with “learning disabilities.”

      Also? statistically i think way more than 2 kids at constance’s school have ADD or dyslexia or any other learning disability. Eventually this misapplication of the term was phased out of media coverage, thank the lord, but yes, that got my goat as well.

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    Look, as a bisexual who wanted to take her girlfriend to prom at a private catholic school, I understand where Constance is coming from. But to be honest, there was a very simple way around the whole thing. All Constance had to do was find either a gay guy at her school (there had to be at least one) or a straight guy who didn’t have a date and have them “officially” take her girlfriend. That’s what I and MANY other gay/lesbian/bi students at my high school did. The administration absolutely knew what was occurring and didn’t mind because it was being done in a way that didn’t go against their “official” policies and views. Is it wrong that we sometimes, as gays, can’t get all of our rights? Yes it is horrendous. But by simply following the rules put in place in this instance and being good examples once at the prom, a difference can be made. Also, I’m friends with a girl who goes to high school with Constance (she’s a junior and also a lesbian) and she has told me that this whole thing was blown out of proportion and that Constance is/was trying to get attention and act out. She’s a bully towards other students and does indeed as disgusting as it is to say “play the lesbian card”. It upsets me that instead of doing this for the right reasons, Constance was being selfish. I could support her if she was a true activist and wanted to help, but from what I’m hearing she just wants her 5 minutes of fame.

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      Sinclair, thanks for the trolling. You are dealing with people and a board that can see trolling from a mile away. From your need to tell a board that is primarily lesbian/bisexual female that you are bisexual (red flag number 1) to your support of deceptive practices which involve kowtowing to prejudice (red flag number 2) to your sly mention that a friend of yours – who you make sure to mention is lesbian (red flag # 3) – knows Constance and she agrees exactly with that letter (red flag # 4), you are kind of obvious. I’d say nice try but that was weak.

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      But you shouldn’t have to take a beard to prom or anywhere else in life. Regardless of Constance’s personal motivations, I think students anywhere should absolutely stand up to schools. It’s not okay to be told that who you are is only unofficially acceptable.

      I can understand wanting to take the easier route and go with a dude- nothing wrong with that. But if a student is willing to take the flack and spotlight it brings to stand up to the injustice, there is no reason they shouldn’t.

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        Also, even if the comment is genuine, I’m not inclined to take the opinion of some random from the town to decide if she “plays the lesbian card” and seeks attention, even if that person too is a lesbian. The idea that homosexuals who are open or activists or even show a noticeable hint of their sexuality are flaunting it for attention is a tired stereotype so ingrained in our society that it can be one of those things even homosexuals sometimes accuse each other of.

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    Really? I’m trolling? Because I don’t agree with you and have a different opinion or have information that doesn’t support your opinion I’m fake? That’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever heard. I took the “easier” route to take my girlfriend to prom, but you know what? How I went about taking her, by being respectful of the fact that those were the school’s rule and going around it and going to prom and not making a huge scene about it made us look responsible. The principal commented on how cute of a couple we were and all the teachers said the same. This gives strength to the cause down the line because the faculty can say, well they went and didn’t make a big thing about it so why not change the rule and let same-sex couples take dates. I’m not saying that fighting the rules is wrong. Like I said, I support people who do it with the right intentions, but if you’re doing it for your own selfish gain then I’m sorry I can’t stand behind you. And it is important to say that my friend is a lesbian because she is, and it shows that its not just heterosexual bigots who are mad at Constance. While there are bigots who hate her just for being gay, there are a lot of people at the school who dislike her because of how she acts towards others.

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      I don’t disagree that your route might have been the best in your situation- especially given that it was a private Catholic school (I was initially raised Catholic and have seen many minds changed by the presence of an open homosexual couple where a direct attack on church teachings would’ve closed hearts and minds much quicker) and I am sure that being visible did make an impact. I am sorry if my remark seemed to minimize that impact.

      But whatever her motivations are, I still can’t see how this “whole thing was blown out of proportion”. If the facts are as I understand them and as the district seems to have stated them in court – that the prom was cancelled because she wanted to bring her girlfriend/wear a tux – then I think it deserves every bit of attention it has received. For a student at the school who just wanted a normal senior year, I’m sure it does feel like it’s being made too big of a deal. But it is discrimination, so I think the response has been reasonable.

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      Sinclair, your post is trolling 101 as is your response to mine (“That is the most insulting thing I’ve ever heard.” – really – you might as well sign it Sinclair the Troll). It has nothing to do with disagreement. There has been a lot of disagreement between posters today and on other days. I knew by your first sentence what you were doing and that you would end up saying you somehow had inside negative information about her. Just the way it works. My favorite was the “friend of mine” knows her part. So you can keep up the act. Some will debate you. Some may say stop picking on this poster. But you and I both know the score and those that have had to deal with trolls will too.

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        I think this is ridiculous because you sound like an idiot. This isn’t some article on AOL news where everyone has access to it. It’s on some random new website for girls who like girls and noone else is going to come on here. And its not a friend of a friend situation. I actually know and speak to the girl who goes there, shes not some friends cousins nephews pal. And you act as if we in the community are immune to a few rotten apples who would use their sexuality as a weapon in a set up situation. It’s not the norm but there are constantly people like that. I had a guy in my dorm verbally attack and say outrageous stuff to everyone and when the RA confronted him he went to the RD and said it was because everyone wanted him out of the building bc hes gay. I’m just saying that from what I’ve heard about Constance, she fits that profile.

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          So now you were a victim of a verbal attack by someone who then played the “gay” card. How convenient in helping to validate your pov. That is a red flag too when it comes to trolling. The old let me tell you how the persecution of me by a person exploiting their [sexual orientation, gender, race, religion] occurred and doesn’t this show I am right. You also toss in an “idiot” comment which is designed to show you as having mental superiority (those that question you are clearly village idiots) even though you and I both know you are following the already quite clear company line – which by now judging from several sites has become comments that this was not a major incident and Constance blew it out of proportion because she wants attention.

          Then you do another red flag. Trolling is primarily on niche sites and, in most cases, the trolls give themselves away due to the same tells (several of which you yourself used). And when called on it, the defenses are usually the same (indignation, the calling of anyone who questions you stupid, and the old “why would I come to this not so big site to troll”).

          However here is the biggest tell of all. This site has been discussing Constance for weeks now. If you are a regular visitor to this site, you would know that. Certainly if you had true inside information you would have said something in advance of the company line. However you did not. Instead you posted today the same regurgitation that seems to be showing up all of a sudden on GLBT sites. What a coincidence;) Why not post the very first day something was blogged here about Constance? I mean after all you had an inside scoop. If you are not a regular visitor, how convenient that you showed up today. Again a lot of convenience occurring isn’t it.

          Like I said, you are dealing with people here who know pretty much every trademark of trolling. And you have engaged in several of them. The pros at trolling will go as far as to create fake Facebook pages, MySpace pages, email screen caps. So detecting yours is pretty darn easy in comparison.

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          OMG you know what, I can’t convince you I’m a real person no matter what I do, and yes I have been reading the the other pieces that talk about Constance. And I personally wasn’t a victim of Carl, I didn’t live on his floor, I lived the floor below him but saw his behavior. And for every Carl you have a bunch of other people like me who are decent people who actually work on the campus pride projects and talk to the administration, who don’t just go yelling and screaming for them when they need help. All I know is what my friend told me, and I believe her. I get you’re skeptical because you 1. don’t know my friend and 2. don’t know me, and that’s fine. As for “the village idiot” thing it has nothing to do with you doubting what I’m saying about Constance, you can disbelieve that, but I think it’s both extremely frustrating/funny that you are so positive I’m trolling when I’m not.I don’t even know how to prove I’m just a normal person with an opinion because I’m not putting any of my real information on a comment on a website.

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    I’m curious about the systems in american schools. With regard to the bring a beard thing,
    - did ye have to bring someone from within the school?
    - did ye have to specify who your date was prior to the night. I’m baffled that a school would even go to the bother of finding this out.

    with regards to constance’s school.
    - are schools unless specifically stated secular,
    - wasn’t their defense something about straight friends taking advantage of the couples discount…is this standard practice, because all our tickets were the same price.
    - and finally whats with the tux ban thing. my school had no idea what i was going to wear before i showed up on the night…

    our prom’s were organised through the past pupils union nothing technically to do with the school/school district/parents.

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    It depends on the school. Some schools don’t care who you bring or what you wear (within reason). Some schools (like mine) you had to write down who your date was when buying the ticket and if the person went to another school had to get a form signed by their principal that basically said they weren’t a disciplinary problem at their own school. My school did have the same thing that if you bought the tickets as a couple you got a discount of about $25 for the overall price. So instead of $275, the tickets together were $250. The public schools in the U.S are all secular, private schools are either secular or more likely religious. As to outfits, we didn’t need approval or anything, but it was a known fact that if you wore something that was out of control you weren’t going to be allowed in so people used good taste.

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      My prom was like that too (although the tix were more like $100). I wouldn’t have been able to take a girl to prom, either. (I had a boyfriend at the time so it was a moot point… I shoulda boycotted it, because prom sucked anyway.)

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    I’ve reread this article so many times in the last two hours at work and every time something new pops up that either irks me or brings up a new question. I think the ability to reread this and see a new point is indicative of great writing, so well done Riese. It is important to have writers/press/awesome people who are eloquent and intelligent and can ask the tough questions/bring up issues which clearly are uncomfortable for some. I truly, truly appreciate everything this site does for the queer community, because in reality this site covers issues and brings up sides to arguments that many other queer sites steer clear of. It is sites like Autostraddle that my younger lesbian sister can read and engage in. It offers a place of intellectual arguments and more importantly a sense of respect for differing points of view.

    During the process of reading and rereading this I made notes on a legal pad so here they go. The part of the article which clearly stated the point of this article, at least in my eyes, was the part in the disclaimer which says:

    “We aren’t victim blaming! As gay press, I think when people are homophobic against us, we need to fully realize the root of the issue in order to combat it properly and strategize for a more harmonious future.”

    This is where the truth of the post lies in my eyes. The article clearly divulges into understanding how the open letter written by the classmate differs from just plain ole homophobia. Clearly Constance has a personality which annoys the hell out of people, the issue with picking on Constance lies there. In my opinion, it is because of how Constance is perceived by classmates as annoying that is the issue here not that she is gay. Her being gay is just an added bonus for the bullies, another way for them to reach out and try to hurt her and knock her down a few pegs, which high school does for people with a personality or for those who are different. Bullying is the issue not the fact she is gay which is obvs an issue in the entire whole of the problem but I think her classmates use her sexuality as an excuse to hate her even more. Clearly she is not well liked by her peers, clearly her being gay is an issue for this community but at the root of this entire piece is the simple fact that Constance is different and the bullies use the fact she is gay to pick on her. The comment about the redheadedness sums up the entire issue for me: “…though they might hate homosexuality more than normal because they hate her, like how kids make fun of an annoying kid for being a redhead not b/c they necessarily hate redheads, but because they hate that kid, and use his redheadedness as yet another tool from which to craft their oh-so-clever bullying.”

    After rereading this article, one point Riese made resonated with me more than anything else and to be honest I found it quite annoying. As an out lesbian, one who from my impression of her and her actions is proud, why did she not mention the fact her mother was a lesbian as well? Is that an issue I don’t know but in my eyes its almost like if she mentioned the fact her mother was a lesbian in interviews or the press coverage it might some how non legitimize the argument. Like mentioning her mother is a lesbian would be a horrible thing and might affect how people perceive the issue because of her mother’s sexuality and her own. I can understand how there might be a stigmatism because of the old conservative tactic of well gay people raise gay kids, but why is that still an issue in 2010. Clearly there is some sort of thing going on there and I think that is horrible.

    In conclusion I am sorry for the length of this comment but I felt like I should say something and express my point of view. And fuck I had two pages of notes on a legal pad with questions/feelings I wanted to share with someone. So there.

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      I have lots of feelings about the mother thing which I’m too tired to articulate right now, but I’m glad you mentioned it because I think that was one of Riese’s most interesting points and she did a lot of personal sharing and I hope we talk about all of it.

      But I think it’s presumptuous to say that “it is because of how Constance is perceived by classmates as annoying that is the issue here not that she is gay” without also considering that what the students find annoying about her personality may be her open homosexuality.

      The difference between a lesbian and a red head is that her being out and how she choses to present that – whether it is how she dresses, what she says, having a girlfriend – could very well be a large part of what the students don’t like about her personality. While a red head might get teased for their hair, hair color doesn’t exactly have the same influence. If a lesbian shows up to school dressed in an androgynous style and refers to her girlfriend it could well be taken as “that obnoxious lesbian looking for attention and sharing awkward personal information” and the student could decide they don’t like her “personality” when really the thing about her personality that bothers them is a direct result of her homosexuality. A red head showing up at school with red hair might get made fun of, but it doesn’t have the same influence on the perception of their personality.

      I’m not saying that the comparison isn’t valid at all. The case could well be that students have other reasons for not liking her and just use gay as another insult because they can. I just think it’s important to think about both possibilities.

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        Thank you Corey for your response, I really appreciate it!!

        I think my mother point was sort of ignored (which to me was the heart of the article — again, clearly this wasn’t my best organized work, not like I ever really organize things that well) in most of the commentary so thank you (and Rachel) for bringing it back up.

        Constance not mentioning her Mom in any interviews besides that one radio interview… to me, that was the big tip-off that this isn’t the first time she’s had to defend herself against bullying or unfair treatment. This isn’t the first time she’s had to strategize based on the perceptions of her classmates rather than on the perfect world she seems to be envisioning with this fight in particular.

        This homophobia and bullying didn’t come out of nowhere, and we forget that the parents who let their kids do this have their own Constance — they have Constance’s Mom. I doubt the ACLU told her not to mention her Mom. IMHO, she’d been bullied about it before, other parents perhaps disapproved of her mom b/c of homophobia, and she knew that throwing her Mom into the mix wouldn’t help her case. It wasn’t the media ignoring it; she kept it quiet. I can relate to that!

        I’ve noticed on this thread at Queerty on the story a commenter named “JOHN” playing “devil’s advocate” and positing a similar point to what Corey brought up in her comment. The response to John’s opinion was nearly identical to the initial response to my perceived opinion, which I found interesting.

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        “We are wondering if Constance’s peers had accused her of being attention-seeking from the get-go because all the moms who knew Constance’s mom told their sons and daughters to avoid Constance’s Mom’s daughter.”

        I think this bit very much supports the previous point I was trying to make but w/focus on the mom instead of just Constance’s own queerness.

        It can be hard, as Riese’s personal story shows, to come to accept your own homosexuality without feeling like you may just be shadowing your mom (hell, I felt awkward coming out because my BFF is a gay boy and I was afraid I’d be seen as copying him) and it’s even scarier to wonder how other people will accept it.

        It’s no one’s first assumption that you’ll have a gay mom, especially when you have a dad very much in the picture (haaai there heterosexism). There is some public visiblity of people like Meredith Baxter who had kids and later came out, but not a lot. And gay people who’ve had gay kids? I can’t think of any public awareness. You’ve got the double fear that the straight community will assume that we’re on a big gay reproductive recruiting mission and that the gay community will downplay it lest we encourage that ridiculous fear.

        And when people are hit with any information like that outside of their norm like a gay mom who was previously married to a man it can be easy for them to label it as attention-seeking. Then add to it that Constance is gay? I’m sure she has been teased for it and it has probably only thrown harsher judgment on anything she does that is viewed as queer or different and possibly even disbelief that her gayness is legitimate. The knowledge of her mom’s queerness probably has played a role in informing their idea of her personality and it’s a shame if she feels like she does need to downplay it for her own legitimacy.

        The LGBT movement likes to point out that gay people can come from anywhere and be anyone, but we clearly need to do a better job of showing people that a family can have all kinds of queer – your parents, your siblings – and it’s not strange and doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less real or internally produced than anyone else. Old fears can be hard to put to rest, but I think sharing stories like yours Riese are what we need to move forward. Thank you.

        (I hope this makes sense, I haven’t had my tea yet…)

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    Wow, I’m late on the commenting here but it seems to me that Riese is addressing a really important, difficult issue which is:

    Nobody wants to think they’re an asshole.

    Most young people in America today kind of know that disliking someone because they’re gay or because they’re of a different ethnic background or because they’re learning disabled makes you an asshole. But that doesn’t mean that any of these minority groups are actually accepted, it just means that people feel that expressing dislike of someone specifically because they belong to one of these groups is unacceptable. Therefore, these kids probably don’t all think they dislike Constance because she’s gay, they’ve convinced themselves they simply dislike Constance. This is the problem we face today in terms of understanding how to discuss homophobia.

    Personally, I think this was really nice work.

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    well it was 250 for both people, meaning that each ticket was 125 for each person. It was an ok prom, it was a great location and we had a 3 course meal and a venetian dessert table and a pretty good dj and we got gift bags, etc lol. My gf hated the whole thing and couldnt wait to get to the hamptons house we all rented haha but i had fun having one last night with my hs friends.

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      Our tickets were something like 25 for both couples and everyone goes out to eat elsewhere before hand. I think they gave out a cheap snow globe and everyone seemed real excited about there being fancy soap and lotions and deodorants in the bathroom. Public v. private, eh?

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      My prom was $100 per person and they didn’t even feed us (aside from, like, a cold meat tray and some punch). SEE IT TOTALLY SUCKED.

      Oh, and this was a public school (in a wealthy suburb, obvs).

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        yea i went to a public school prom as a date with a friend and it was totally different. The kids from the local public school didn’t really go to the prom, they just did the Hamptons houses for longer or went to the islands. Whereas prom kids did a week, they did 2. My prom was ok, but i could see skipping it and saving the money my parents spent for a better after prom week. I just liked the being in a house with a bunch of friends and my girlfriend away from all adults and having a never ending party on the beach and the cheesy bonfire with cardigan while sitting on a lifeguard tower (it was all so Hollister ad like…) lol.

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    Maybe I take for granted the fact that I read AS daily, but I didn’t require a disclaimer at all. But everyone’s different, and that’s ok.
    In fact, Autostraddle gets my brain in such a way I never thought possible. I appreciate you guys everyday & really need to find people IRL to have these kinds of intelligent conversations with.

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    Hi! I love Autostraddle, and I’ve been stalking Riese for like..too many years, so I guess I understood what she was saying, because I was really surprised to see all the negative responses. I think this was a great article, and it was refreshing to see a different side of it that makes sense.

    Good job!

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    Maybe this is just me, being the extreme gay rights supporter that I am, but I’m extremely disapointed in Obama or atleast some high level politician for not speaking out about this craziness. Maybe I’m insane, and you guys can tell me so, but it blows my mind that this is not a bigger deal then it is. I don’t understand how this type of injustice can just go past people unnoticed. This girl deserves a fucking medal of honor for what she’s had to go through, just to attend her prom like any other high schooler. I can’t even believe this is happening. Who the fuck do those school officials think they are, telling a girl she can’t go to prom??? Who cares if she’s a homo??? How are principals even given the authority to say who can go??? He should be fired from life and so should all the parents and students. I strongly believe Obama should have taken this injustice and spoken out, and made something positive of it, by rallying for LGBT rights!!!!!!

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      It wasn’t a huge deal because as terrible as it is, it happens everyday. People get treated the same and worse than her all the time and it’s horrible but if everyone spent all of their time talking about all the bad things that were happening, they wouldn’t have time to actually do anything about it. So hopefully, that’s what’s happening.

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        I know that LGBT hate crimes (I do consider what she is enduring a hate crime) are not an abnormal occurance. But what is abnormal is the amount of media attention this has caused. Whens the last time so many people were exposed to an issue concerning gays on a national scale? I would say a very long time. Obama could have taken the time to direct attention to not only gay rights, but anti-bullying, reform for public education… etc. I know we’re still dealing with the backlash of Health Care Reform, but he could have taken the time to make one speech concerning all the topics above. It would have made a huge difference.

        I’m a high school student. And I completely agree with Riese, NONE of this would have ever happened, even with her gayness and their homophobia, if Constance was the most popular girl in school.

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        I know that LGBT hate crimes (I do consider what she is enduring a hate crime) are not an abnormal occurance. But what is abnormal is the amount of media attention this has caused. Whens the last time so many people were exposed to an issue concerning gays on a national scale? I would say a very long time. Obama could have taken the time to direct attention to not only gay rights, but anti-bullying, reform for public education… etc. I know we’re still dealing with the backlash of Health Care Reform, but he could have taken the time to make one speech concerning all the topics above. It would have made a huge difference.

        I’m a high school student. And I completely agree with Riese, NONE of this would have ever happened, even with her gayness and their homophobia, if Constance was the most popular girl in school.

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    hi hi

    i just wanted to clarify my earlier, fuck-laden comment. i think the initial confusion regarding riese’s intended point has been addressed and cleared up, so i’m only going to speak to the idea that team members and regular readers seem to be attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with us.

    a) that’s not true. plain and simple. disagreeing with us is totally cool and there’s really nothing we’d rather do than re-explain a theory from different angles or process your / our feelings together, right here in these comments — and i’m being completely fucking sincere. the only way anyone will ever ever learn about themselves or others is through OPEN, RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE.

    i think maybe this point has been made on like, a bajillion different occasions. which sort of brings me to my next deal…

    b) do i expect new readers to go back and read everything we’ve ever written before they reply to something? um no that’d be ridiculous.

    the point i was trying to make earlier is that it was so easy for a few of you to assume that riese’s position was in opposition to your own. even though later on, some of you admitted that you thought it was odd that she’d take that position, you still ran with your assumption.

    to me, this says more about your nature than anything else. when you go on the attack, more or less unwarranted by actual words, it does make you look unnecessarily combative and ready to fight anyone over anything.

    would it not have made more sense to assume, while on a queer publication, that an article written by a queer author [looking over her bio would only take a newcomer a couple of seconds] not to mention the founder of said queer publication, would more likely be in support of the queer girl at the center of the story rather than against her? i mean, would that have been a huge leap? i honestly don’t think so.

    c) being attacked on the same mothereffing points on what’s starting to feel like a weekly basis is getting really old. we know that you want more racial and body diversity — we do, too! we talk about it amongst ourselves, as well as a ton of other thing, a lot! today’s tomfuckery comes hot on the heels of last weekend’s Calendar Girls nonsense. and yes, it WAS nonsense. a special kind of nonsense in which some of our readers simply can’t fathom that we have a plan and that it’ll take a year to see through and like, we’ve got this shit on lock.

    in conclusion and holy hot fuck this was a long ass comment — if you think you could find yourself being better represented on another website, please let me know. if you think there’s something we could do better, please let me know. if you truly believe that we don’t understand what it’s like to be fucked over, judged, discriminated against, totally misunderstood and fucking pissed off, then you don’t know us very well.

    we are on your side! you’re going to have to fucking trust that we know what we’re doing here and there IS A PLAN and we’re busting our ass to do everything we can FOR YOU. seriously — all of you.

    if you have a criticism or a tip, yes! feel free to share! — PLEASE! — but for the love of everything you’ve ever held dear, have the decency to do so in a constructive, thoughtful way. we are people, too, you know.

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    Everyone should go and look at the photos on Autostraddle’s prom gallery. You’ll notice a good number of the 100+ prom pictures come from places you’d think are more, or just as, homophobic as the community in Fulton, MS. They didn’t cancel their proms yet IAHS did. Why? Because they’re more homophobic? I doubt it. Other contributing factors came into play in my opinion and Riese’s thinking and analysis on the matter is not only plausible but likely. Keep asking questions, Riese. I don’t visit Autostraddle for news blurbs.

    Now go look at the prom gallery for a bit longer – I’m sure it’ll do everybody some good.

    Sidenote: For what it’s worth, I read somewhere that a majority of the people in that anti-Constance Facebook page said that they loved Jesus or something to the effect that they were proud Christians in their profiles – well, before they locked them that is.

  47. Pingback: Blur the Lines - Mississippi – FLAMING!

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    Hi there,

    Long time reader, first time commenter … *grin*.

    I just simply want to express my support for Autostraddle, including all of the team. You have quiet readers, like myself, who actually have reading comprehension skills and do not misinterpret articles or jump to flame the calendar choices. I love the site, and I appreciate thoughtful essays like this one. You could have just posted the letter, but instead you took the time to write an interesting editorial about the subject, looking for a different point of view on it. I laud your efforts.

    Love and ponies and rainbows,
    Susan

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    First of all, Riese I think you’re a brilliant writer and I don’t think you should let some of these disparaging comments affect you too much. Putting your opinion out there means that people will inevitably disagree with you once in awhile, especially when you approach a heavily nuanced situation from a thoughtful and curious angle rather than forcing it into a black and white dichotomy that all too often happens in the media and in our society.

    When I was a freshman in college, I accidentally got my sorority in huge trouble because I wrote a blog post detailing the events of initiation night that got sent in anonymously to the powers that be. Let’s not even get into why I was in a sorority, suffice to say it was one of my more significant mistakes. Anyway, according to Panhellenic, the older girls’ decision to get us pledges drunk and dress us up in funny costumes during initiation was “hazing,” despite the fact that nobody minded, and because my blog went viral, we lost our events, senior formal (which, hey, is just like prom) and almost got kicked out of the school.

    Let’s just say things weren’t so friendly after that. I went from being reasonably well-liked to the most hated girl in the house, the scapegoat for everything that went wrong, the victim of relentless bullying, and was subjected to extreme emotional and verbal abuse. I spent many nights up writing, more in disbelief than anything else, that this is what my life had become.

    But that was five years ago. My point is that I understand what Riese is saying from a personal standpoint. When I was getting harassed in the sorority, it did not matter what I said or did, because EVERYTHING was fair game and everything was considered horrible. Just like the analogy of the hating the red-headed kid’s hair because you hate the red-headed kid, I was called out from being everything from too talkative, to using too big a vocabulary, to listening to the wrong music, being to “blonde” etc. It seriously didn’t matter if I was the most pleasant, agreeable, sweet person on the planet…these girls were determined to hate me, and hate me they did. And trust me, you do NOT want to be hated by a hundred angry sorority girls.

    I cannot even IMAGINE what it would have been like if I had decided to come out at a time like that. Granted, I was so emotionally damaged by these girls that my confusion about my sexuality had taken a serious back burner status to everything else, but I’m sure it would have just turned the already raging fire into a veritable nuclear bomb.

    So, I think Riese makes a valid point when she says something must be fueling these idiot high school kids’ hatred more than simple homophobia. It is the lethal combination of groupthink and fear which produces situations such as this one, and it is an ugly facet of human nature that should be addressed. When a group of people decide that it’s a good idea to ostracize and bully an individual, it takes an incredibly strong-willed person to overcome that bullying, and an equally strong-willed person to stand up and say that what their friends are doing is wrong.

    Luckily for me, one girl DID stand up. She was friends with all those mean girls, but she told me that she would rather risk her reputation being my friend than be accepted by a bunch of people that would do something so hateful and irrational to a person they once claimed to like. We are still friends to this day. I hope Constance has someone like that in her life, and if she doesn’t, I’m sure it will happen for her in college.

    Thanks, Autostraddle, for once again holding up a microscope to the sociology behind hatred, and this includes, but is certainly not limited to, homophobia.

    Also, it was great meeting you girls at Dinah, and wasn’t that earthquake ridic??

    Cheers,

    Katie

    P.S. If you want to know the end of the story, me and the girl who decided to be my friend against the odds made the decision to leave the stupid sorority once and for all and take a holiday in Spain (literally) for a semester abroad. Six months later, I met the love of my life, and everything’s peachy. See?? there IS hope :)

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    I’m a quiet reader too, I just want to show my support for how excellently Autostraddle runs their site, and responds to all these comments, good and bad. This is exactly what the internet is for. (And looking up photos of puppies and feeding my hypochondria). We are all very lucky to have Autostraddle and the chance to get all our feelings out of our systems. Thanks Riese!

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    So I was out of action yesterday with stomach flu. When I got online today, I’d thought I’d take a couple minutes drink a diet coke and catch up on all the autostraddling action I missed.
    We’ll a couple minutes turned into two hours. One diet coke turned into three. There may or may not have been some chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers involved.
    I just want to say that there were so many great issues brought up in this post and the comments that followed.
    Sometimes Autostraddle is a giant lovefest. And then sometimes, you know, there are posts like these there is a little less love going around.
    But it’s moments like these that really demonstrate just how vibrant and awesome the community is. And although we all may have a lot of really (really) powerful feelings, may get angry, may get defensive, may not always agree 100% of the time, I think we all can say that it would really suck if we didn’t have a place like this. And not in a good way.
    Riese, for serious, you’ve created something special here. I love it so much, I wish it were a physical place I could visit, like a bar or country or taqueria or something. Thanks!

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    I got the link to this article off of the “Constance Quit Yer Cryin” Facebook page. I’ve been lurking on and off there for the past few days, after I read about it on….gulp…Perez Hilton. ( It’s a bad habit, I know, I am trying to kick it…) Anyways, Within an hour, maybe less, that page was taken over by Constance supporters. I joined, and watched as people started to threaten students, parents, teachers, etc. One particular Facebook user decided to post actual pictures from the prom all over this page, and others listed the names of all of the students, parents, and teachers who acted against Constance. I watched as these students were torn to pieces. Girls were called whores, the guys were called f**s, and threats were made.
    Then actual students would join in, and say their piece which just added fuel to the fire. That page is like a car accident, I cannot look away. I started out in full support of Constance. Then I felt really bad for the students because they were made EXTREMELY public, and were now being harassed. Now…I’m slowly backing away. This situation is so out of control. My thoughts:
    1) Someone in that town, whether it be the school, parents, or the city itself, should have sat those kids down after she went to the ACLU, and told them to stay the hell off the internet with this stuff. They have girls that attend school there bragging about being unwed mothers, but bashing gays and lesbians.
    And it’s not just that, but after Constance went on Ellen, heck, after she went to ACLU, they should have prepared for all of this. What was it, a week ago that girl in CT hanged herself after 6 of her fellow students ridiculed her? No matter how strong someone may appear to be, 6 students is one thing, but having random internet people harass you is a whole other. These kids, and Constance, are at extreme risk. And no matter what your beliefs are, no one should have to fear for their life. No one. That’s what makes me really sad about this whole thing.
    2) Along with that is the school itself. Because they too started a Facebook page, and it was started with what they believed was good intent, but that quickly turned sour. They posted that everything they decided was based on Religion. God’s word is final, enough said. They stated ” We hate homosexuality, Not homosexuals….” And how they loved Constance, but she needed to fix “her problem”. They also stated that they want there children to be raised in an environment where they never had to publicly view homosexuals kissing, or holding hands. But yet, in the pictures posted of the prom, girls were wearing VERY revealing gowns, and were grinding up against the guys. That’s allowed, but Constance couldn’t show up in a tux?
    3) I’m so confused on where I stand on this entire subject now because it has just lost all control. If I’m rambling, I’m sorry.
    What I do know, is that no matter what, I will love my child regardless of their sexual orientation. God must love Gays, because they are here, and they aren’t going anywhere, and I am fine with that. My best friend is gay, and I love him to pieces. It doesn’t affect my life. I just know that I would be really sad without him.
    That’s all.

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      I certainly agree that harassing the students through Facebook is wrong, no matter what they’ve done.

      But as for the page started by the school district, I wouldn’t believe it. What with going to court they have obviously been in close contact with their lawyers and while the district may have made a bigoted decision that sparked this whole thing, I don’t believe they are dumb enough to go to Facebook to defend themselves. Anyone can make a Facebook page or group claiming to be anyone they want. Supporters of the school may have a page, but I would bet good money the administration has nothing to do with it.

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    Constance had a lot more peer support from her classmates before she went on Ellen and collected her $30 grand scholarship and referred to her entire hometown as “backwards hicks”.

    For some reason, the other kids didn’t want to dance with her after that. Go figure.

    I feel sorry for Constance though. I think she probably has Histrionic Personality Disorder.

    I also feel sorry for the ADHD kids who went to the “fake” prom because I don’t think they played any role in bringing lawsuits on the schol over a dress code.

    Back when I was a kid, the schools enforced very strict dress code policies but the kids weren’t all armed with lawyers back then. The ACLU didn’t exist yet.

    I think it was pretty much a given that everyone had to dress all gender appropriate and somehow we all still made it through and graduated okay. I don’t know if some of those kids are on a psychologist’s couch today because they had to dress a certain way to fit in. From this story, you would certainly think so.

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