Uncool High Schools: Constance McMillen Transfers, Kern Votes Against Harvey Milk Day

CONSTANCE MCMILLEN:

On the downside, this sucks that she had to do this, but on the upside, at last Constance McMillen can learn some shit in peace. The Boston Herald reports:

The lesbian teenager who sued her rural Mississippi school district over a ban of same-sex prom dates told The Associated Press on Thursday that she has transferred to a high school in the capital city to graduate.

Constance McMillen said she now attends a high school in Jackson, about 180 miles away from Itawamba Agricultural High School in north Mississippi. She wouldn’t say which school she attends, but she expects to graduate June 2.

“There was a lot of stuff going on at Itawamba. It was just really hard to do my homework, so I transferred to Jackson to get my diploma,” McMillen said. “There’s a large gay community there. All the teachers are very nice and very helpful.”

HARVEY MILK DAY:

Harvey Milk Day was voted into existence last year by a Republican governor of all things, but it still won’t be celebrated on local high school campuses. The Kern High School District Board of Trustees in California voted 3-1 Wednesday to not observe Harvey Milk Day on May 22.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this story is how much effort it took to have happen – the day was set to proceed on its own without anyone having to take any action, and probably without any real fanfare or actual observance, but a conservative trustee made the point of proposing a vote against it. The trustee in question was the Kern County chairman for Prop 8. Charming. At a special board meeting called on Wednesday, both supporters and opponents of the holiday showed up to share their feelings, with opponents arguing that he isn’t “a good role model for students,” and that we “celebrate his lifestyle, not his achievements.” Clearly these people have not seen MILK, the man’s lifestyle WAS achievement. He’s a role model for getting shit DONE, you know what I’m saying? This exchange in particular was interesting:

“I’m going to oppose the motion [to ban Harvey Milk Day],” Heinrichs said. “I think we’re basically bringing Sacramento’s culture wars down here. I think it’s a distraction, inappropriate.”

“I’m going to support the motion, because Sacramento sends their culture wars to us,” Vegas countered. “We didn’t ask them to send it to us, they sent it to us, we’re telling them, ‘No.'”

Isn’t it horrifying what a shock it is to see someone use the words “distraction” and “inappropriate” to talk about a homophobic measure instead of, say, a GSA?

Others, notably students instead of adults in administrative positions, argued that observance of the holiday was necessary:

“I ask you to allow the students of this district to go forward with their planned celebrations of civil rights hero, Harvey Milk,” Ariel Bustamante said. The student said she had experienced harassment and discrimination, and recognition of Milk would send a positive message. A policy to ban Milk celebrations would send the wrong message. “Voting for board member Mettler’s proposal will only send a message that this board wants to create safe and accepting schools for only those students that happen to be heterosexual or not transgender,” Bustamante said.

In the end, however, the motion passed, leaving us to wonder who is a good role model in a state whose governor starred in Stepbrothers, and leaving Bustamante lamenting that students don’t have “somebody in the school that they can look up to, and relate to, so that they feel safe on campuses.” (@bakersfieldnow)

KAGAN:

We’ve reached the point of meta-commentary on Elena Kagan and her sexual orientation  – Glenn Greenwald at Slate says that the left’s obsession with Kagan’s sexuality is just as bad as the right’s. “Without realizing it, they’ve completely internalized one of the most pernicious myths long used to demand that gay people remain in the closet: namely, that to reveal one’s sexual orientation is to divulge one’s “sex life.” (@slate)

MONTGOMERY:

Montgomery College of Maryland will have an out African-American lesbian as its president starting this August. Dr. DeRionne Pollard has a three-year old son with her partner of 20 years, as well as 15 years of teaching on her resume. (@theadvocate)

PORTUGAL:

The President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, has signed a law that gives same-sex couples marriage-like legal rights without using the word “marriage.” He [said] that, while he is opposed to gay “marriage,” he has no problem with the idea of giving special legal privileges to homosexual couples, without calling the union “matrimony.” He lamented that a consensus had not been reached to create civil unions in a manner similar to France, Germany, and other EU countries. (@lifesitenews)

WOMEN’S COLLEGES:

Margaret Eby at Salon wrote a piece called In Defense of Women’s Colleges, and Jezebel had some feelings about it. “I’ve never attended a women’s college, but the piece reminded me of advice I’ve gotten several times in my life: that I should try to be a big fish in a small pond. Well-meaning people advised me thus when I was choosing colleges, and even when I was deciding where to live as an adult. I think the advice stemmed from the perception I was shy or anxious, and even though I am often anxious and I can be shy, I always bristled at the notion that I needed special coddling.” What do you think? If you’ve had any experience at women’s colleges, has it been positive for you? Why? (@salon) (@jezebel)

CHRISTIAN CHARITIES:

A ruling in Canada questions whether religious organizations have the right to discriminate – an employee of Christian Horizons was fired for her lesbian relationship, and her case against her employer has been through a series of appeals. “Heintz went to work for Christian Horizons in 1995, but five years later she came out as a lesbian, entered into a relationship with another woman–and was fired for doing so. Heintz took the matter to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which found that Christian Horizons could not practice employment discrimination and ordered the group to pay a hefty fine. But on appeal, a higher court found that the earlier ruling was incorrect, at least in part; although the appeals court ruled that Heintz should have been able to keep her job, it also found that the lower court had not appreciated what it meant for Christian Horizons to be a faith-based charity.” (@edgeboston)


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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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12 Comments

  1. brown bear

    Fun fact: Constance is living with a friend of mine; last week, I went to a party at said friend’s house, and Constance was there. We sat on the couch together.

    It was magical.

  2. Ken Mettler… I hate that man.

    This is one of those many times I feel sick to be a resident of Bakersfield. Hearing the news yesterday just made my chest so heavy.

    There’s Ken Mettler signs up all over town. Who wants to join me in vandalising every one of them? I was thinking.. “MILK” in big gay letters.

  3. Jessie

    Considering how conservative Bakersfield is, I’m not surprised that this passed. It’s incredibly sad, but I didn’t have any hope of it passing.
    I’m a resident of Bakersfield as well, Rachel.
    I can’t stand Mettler either.
    I count the days until I can move out of this small minded city.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t surprised either. But it still hurt. In fact, I’m not even surprised that he did this. I was reading yesterday’s paper and there was an article saying Kern is the ONLY county that has deliberately taken action ~against it.

      I think the worst part is knowing that he’s going to win the seat. There was one democratic runner, and she dropped out. So he’s basically running unopposed.

      I hope that when I decide to get in to politics the same way Harvey did, I will have Autostraddle’s endorsement.

      Someone’s got to stand up for us….

  4. I wish I was born one day earlier so that Harvey Milk Day could be on my birthday.

  5. jul

    hm. i used to be kagan-y by ‘not talking about my personal life’ at work, but that was before i had come out to my family.

  6. Pingback: The B&R Friday Edition | Bob Parks: Black & Right 2010

  7. I went and read the Jezebel article, and I think that the author’s concluding comments are a pretty good summary of my experience. I am currently attending a women’s college. In this environment, I find that my professors and the staff, for the most part, are not homophobic. It’s very easy to talk about your girlfriend to either the nurse or your prof, and I’ve never felt weird about it. Also, I’ve felt like wearing a tie to class in all seriousness (and I have!), and on those days I never received a blink from my profs and I received compliments from the majority of my friends (I did receive a horrified glance from one friend). Who’s dating whom is a pretty regular topic of gossip, but in the usual voyeuristic sense–it doesn’t feel any different from the kind of gossip at a co-ed institution, from what I can tell. At my college, varying degrees of attraction to women and different kinds of gender presentation feel very normative. My college regularly hands out scholarships, awards, and prizes to women here for various academic achievements, and many women here go on to be nominated to nationally recognized scholarships: Fulbright, Watson, etc.

    The end result? It’s like having gone through a bunch of abusive relationships, and then finally having that one good one where you stand up at the end of the day and are able to raise your standards for yourself, because you’re able to put your life in perspective and realize all the SHIT you’ve had to deal with, and will no longer tolerate. Going to a women’s college means at the very least, being able to recognize sexist attitudes outside of that four year bubble and learning how to move beyond those attitudes, to understand and realize when someone is holding you back just because of your gender.

    One more thing: at my college (and this might give me away :)), we have this process called “confrontation”. Admittedly that word carries a negative connotation and I don’t agree with it, but ultimately confrontation is about asserting oneself in social situations with your peers. Instead of apologizing for oneself, or apologizing for one’s opinions before speaking, one is asserting how one feels and why one thinks that way. This process is written into our Honor Code and we encourage students to use it, in the hopes that they will realize that they can take control of their lives.

    So long story short: I think women’s colleges are COMPLETELY necessary. They’re not a place for women to get a college degree “easy”. My classes are damn hard, and so are the ones at the surrounding co-ed institutions (which are at the top of the rankings themselves) at which I take classes. What they are is a place to re-calibrate women’s (and, increasingly, all non-traditional or minority classifications–gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality) sense of acceptable social norms: you can read about it all you like, but to actually live it is something else.

    • Molly

      BMC, right?

      I went to a women’s college and it was amazeballs, seriously. I wouldn’t give up that experience for the world.

      I think it’s telling that one tiny (1300-student) women’s college sends more women on to science PhDs than ALL OF THE IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS COMBINED.

      Also, you would not believe the lesbian and LUG population. If I’d been as self-confident then as I am now, let me tell you, I would have been getting laid every goddamn minute of every goddamn day.

  8. Luna

    I attend one of the most FABULOUS women’s colleges on this here planet Earth and I can tell you now that honey, ain’t no coddling involved. Not only have I learned to be confident, but I’ve learned to speak up, to speak out, and to look good while doing it. I have been offered so many opportunities while at this college, my network is continuing to expand, and I truly feel as though I am gaining a HELLUVA education while being here. Not to mention the fact that as disgusted as I am with men, I don’t have to worry about my dorm reeking of them. But you know, if their company, somehow becomes necessary, I can just cross the street. Women’s colleges are the SHIT. And anyone who doubts it is a hater, plain and simple.

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