Constance McMillen: I was sent to a fake prom

constance mcmillen

There are just no words for this kind of wrong.

The Advocate interviewed Constance McMillen this week– the high school senior whose Mississippi school canceled prom because she wanted to bring her girlfriend — to discover that McMillen was sent to a “fake prom” this past weekend while the rest of her class had prom at a secret location organized by parents.

When Constance won her case in court, which decided that she couldn’t be barred from prom, the judge also didn’t force the school to hold prom because a parent-sponsored, private prom was already being organized (which Constance and her date were to be invited to). However, Constance wasn’t invited to the prom and said the organizers seemed to go out of their way to keep information from her about it. Then the event was supposedly canceled last minute, and Constance was sent to the country club for the new prom location — only to find 7 other students there with her teachers and principal. She tells the Advocate:

“They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them,” McMillen says. “The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to.”

Last week McMillen asked one of the students organizing the prom for details about the event, and was directed to the country club. “It hurts my feelings,” McMillen says.

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. “They had the time of their lives,” McMillen says. “That’s the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn’t have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].”

It’s just disgusting that even when the law upholds justice in cases like this, bigotry and hate still manages to somehow rear its ugly head. This makes all the more clear that it’s not just laws that need to change, but the larger culture of hate and intolerance that is pushed at us from every angle. These parents should be fucking ashamed of themselves.

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53 Comments

  1. davenj
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I hate to say this, but I knew it would happen the minute I saw “privately organized prom”. Privatization in these instances is pretty synonymous with segregation.

  2. LalaReina
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    …It’s Mississippi. There is a reason why the place has the reputation it does. Are they evil or just damn dumb?

  3. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    That is beyond fucked up!

  4. Comrade Kevin
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, this degree of subterfuge is all too common. For example, the country club located in the small southern town where my mother grew up took down all of its signs and directional guides to prevent African-Americans for finding it and joining.
    But I doubt this is just a southern issue.

  5. Ellen Marie-Frances
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    This is just fucking sick and wrong. What kind of message does this send to the kids who went to the “real” prom? That they’re better than those who are different from them? That they don’t have to treat others with respect and dignity? Way to fucking go parents, you’ve just set those kids back about, oh I don’t know, a hundred years!

  6. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    “Embrace the power of ‘and’.”

  7. izzy
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Well, we’re not all so bad.
    My name is Izzy Pellegrine and I’m a founding member of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, a group that has been working for two years to promote LGBT student rights in MS. MSSC has been working with Constance for months to help organize her fellow students and educate members of her community. We’re hosting our annual Second Chance Prom in her city and opening it up to all young people in the state. (And this is no seven person event!!) Check us out at http://www.mssafeschools.org

  8. s mandisa
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if its possible to make sound critiques of this town’s homophobia with out being showing off your own ignorance and geographism. i beleive you can do that.
    yes, Mississippi does have a long reputation for being intolerant of many things, but so does the rest of the US!!!! Im from the Deep, Deep South (New Orleans, Louisiana, to be exact)and it breaks my heart to see what happened to Constance. The town should definitely feel some sort of repercussions for their hurtful actions, but your comment is just ridiculous. Why is it that when homophobia or sexism or racism happens in the South it is hyper-visibilized, yet when these same blatant incidents happen throughout the rest of the country it’s not put through the same ultra-scrunity nor are generalizations made about the entire state?
    LalaReina: Im feeling your anger, but could you please come again minus the generalizations and misconceptions?

  9. mags
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Those evil, evil people…this really hurts to read.
    I am continually amazed, though, by Constance’s maturity and resilience. She will win in the end.

  10. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like both evil and dumb to me, LalaReina. I mean, really? Parent-organized, really? And they deceptively excluded open LGBT people and people with disabilities… wow. Really christian of these grown folks. I kind of remember there being something about bearing false witness in “the good book,” but then I’ve never been good at accurately recalling details from works of fiction. Oh, Bible Belt, we loves you.

  11. tooimpurenangel
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I find it problematic that you’re decrying bigotry, yet committing it against an entire state.

  12. that girl
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Again, I agree with the first half of your post, but please try to refrain from the overgeneralizations and attacks on religion. Calling the bible a work of fiction is unnecessary, even if you believe it to be so. I am a reasonably religious Jew, and I also think what happened to Constance is ridiculous, horrible, evil, and dumb. However, I’m more inclined to see it as the result of usual teenage cattiness (she asked one of the STUDENTS organizing) and bullying of homosexuals. Bible Belt has nothing to do with it.

  13. kat
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just a Southern issue. I’ve lived in both the South and North, and I’ve seen ugliness everywhere. If anything, it’s more insidious in the North, because people aren’t as upfront about it.
    But on a positive note, I’ve also seen open-minded progressives everywhere. :)

  14. metabonbon
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    If the faculty and administrators were at the seven-person prom, then they likely knew about the big unofficial prom, and were colluding with parents to pull the wool over the eyes of the handful of students who showed up that night. Unbelievable.
    But of course, let’s not paint the staff as completely evil, when we don’t know the whole story. It could be that the entire faculty of the school had no idea that parents were organizing a prom under their noses, and every single student managed to keep it secret the whole time, in a small town where everybody knows everybody’s business, including preparations for the tent, DJ, venue rental, caterer, security, etc. Nope, I’m pretty sure the school had no idea.

  15. Kensuke Nakamura
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Is there any interest in helping her have her own prom or dance? If there are people in the feministing community who would like to help organize and contribute I would be up for that. This is of course if Constance would be interested in it. I live about 4 hours away but I could make a trip down and contribute financially. It would be great to show her and the school that there’s a lot more love and support for her than hate.

  16. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    that girl,
    I appreciate your genuine concern with what I said and I’ll give you that my “works of fiction” comment was unnecessarily snarky. I do have a great respect for many of the actually lessons contained in that book and the ones which preceded and succeeded it.
    However, please do not take my reference to the Bible Belt or what is “christian” as an “overgeneralization [or an attack] on religion.” The Bible Belt is a place with a certain cultural context and one that is particularly homophobic at that; it is not a religion. There have been similar situations in other parts of the country where same-sex couples have met with less or no resistance to attending proms and similar functions.
    Further, I hope you realized that, despite my snarkiness about the veracity of the Bible, I brought it up to point out one the many very positive values taught in it – namely, honesty. I find it particularly ironic that the values behind canceling the initial event and obfuscating the private one are ostensibly “christian” while the word itself is roughly synonymous with “compassionate” and the religion preaches honesty, humility and generosity.
    Finally, the article starts off by pointing out that the event “at a secret location … [was] organized by parents.” I find it hard to believe that the location of this event was hidden from McMillen, her partner and five other students without the willing complicity of these parents.

  17. metabonbon
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Anybody else reminded of “The L word” where they throw an ’80s Trans Prom to raise money for one of their friends’ transition surgeries, and the episode ends with everybody dressed in their finest retro-duds, dancing, happy and carefree?
    I wish that for McMillan.
    http://www.afterellen.com/archive/ellen/TV/thelword/recaps3/9/1.html

  18. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Check out izzy’s response to LalaReina above. She works with an organization that is doing just that and, apparently, you can donate money earmarked for the “Second Chance Prom” which will be help in McMillen’s city. Fresh…
    http://www.mssafeschools.org/

  19. Jessica1286
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I think that sweeping overgeneralizations is just as much of a problem as implying that religion isnt a huge playing factor in this series of events. While I do agree that not ALL Christians, Jews, and Muslims are against homosexuality do you really think The Bible Belt has nothing to do with this? Practitioners of the Book have nothing to do with this? Oh, you mean, practitioners of the books that are used as the strongest tool of oppression against homosexuals and women? Those books? Calling the bible ‘a work of fiction’ is alot less harmful then using it as an excuse for hate.

  20. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Fresh, izzy, super-fresh…
    Folks should know that we can donate to MSSC and help support the Second Chance Prom and your other great work there through that website.

  21. lklouise.wordpress.com
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    What kind of idiotic parents?!?! They knew Constance had a voice with the press and still decided to play such a ridiculous stunt. Talk about narcissism. Although that adds to how scary this is, that really no threat (or reality) of condemnation will let them see a GLBT student as that, a peer of their own children. That’s a sign they don’t have many limits in expressing condemnation.
    It makes me sad, for Constance, for the school district, For the judge who hoped to be acting in justice and still denied, and for the students at the “other prom” who may not have realized who they excluded. Saying that, I find it rather difficult to have any grace for those parents. They showed their children a level of pettiness that harms everybody.

  22. Brianna G
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    What most disturbed me was that apparently the mentally disabled students were sent to the “fake” prom. I can see bigoted adults saying “I don’t want my kids to interact with homosexuals” due to upbringing or religion. But that they would ALSO choose to exclude the disabled reveals their true colors– they care less about her actions that they religiously object to and more that she does not fit their view of what a “good, normal” high school teenager is.
    They cannot even argue she would cause a scene by bringing a female date, or that it opposes their religion to include her at this point. By also excluding the mentally disabled they lost any shred of credibility ANY person, however bigoted, could give them– not even the most fundamentalist Christians believe that it is a sin or a bad influence to be mentally disabled.
    I would expect this bigotry of teens. But their parents?

  23. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Does “I’ll give you…” sounds kind of full of it? I hope not… I think you’re right, that girl… there’s too much division going on between well-meaning folks and snidely referring to a sacred text as fiction doesn’t do much to push forward dialog. I get it and I hope that comes across (and that I act with more consciousness in the future).

  24. tooimpurenangel
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    That’s wonderful!

  25. Mikaela
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Let’s all have big dance party/promish fundraisers, invite everyone to attend and donate the money somewhere really great (I’m thinking off the cuff so “really great” is all I can come up with right now, lol), call it something like “Dancing for Constance” or if she doesn’t want to be involved like that “Proms for Equality”. I mean, everyone loves dancing, right?

  26. Kensuke Nakamura
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    thanks

  27. davenj
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    This tends to show that bigotry is really just exclusionary, and it’s less to do with religion and more to do with fear and hate. There’s no sound reason to send those with disabilities to the “fake prom” except out and out awfulness, and what this tends to demonstrate to me is that these people are less motivated by religion than they are by fear with a good dose of spite and hate thrown in.
    As was stated above there are plenty of religious folks (myself included) who would have no problem with Constance going to prom. This other kind of segregation thrown into the “alterna-prom” suggests that all of this segregation is much more like out and out tribalism. Humans fear and exclude others, some more than most, and Itawamba County’s putting on an absolute clinic in exclusion.

  28. kay.bax
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like the kind of stunt that would take place in a crappy made-for-TV teen movie. Only this time, the PARENTS are also involved.
    For shame.

  29. davenj
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Found it. March 12th, 2010:
    http://www.feministing.com/archives/020338.html
    “The “private solution” part of the article is even more disconcerting to me.
    The school cancelled prom, but they say they hope private citizens create basically an “alterna-prom”.
    This is historically a way for public institutions to outsource segregation by turning control over to a private sector with fewer protections. Think white flight from integrated schooling to private schools.
    Heck, they might even hold this “private function” in a church rec center.”
    I really hate that I was right.

  30. allegra
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    … I knew it would happen the minute I saw “privately organized prom”.
    Yep, me too. The moment I heard that the judge hadn’t required the school to hold the prom. I mean, since when have ‘private’ parties and gatherings been known for their equality and openness? The very meaning of “private” is that it’s not and doesn’t have to be open to everyone. Anything that’s done privately is subject to the whims of the people/corporation/entity running it.
    And piss on the judge for not requiring the school to hold it. It’s pretty much like telling the school, yes, you did wrong, but I’m gonna totally let you out of it by not requiring you to hold the very event that caused the whole problem in the first place. It sounds suspiciously like an all-clear for other schools that encounter this problem to just cancel the event altogether for whatever mysterious reason they can think of – and then the privileged kids will get to go hold their own prom somewhere else. It’s just bullshit to move events from the public (it’s a public school, at least) into the private sphere just in order to exclude someone.

  31. leeraloo
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    How big is her school? Because it blows my mind that ALL the parents of ALL those kids advocated something like this. I mean, maybe there were a few key players/funders and the rest of the parents were kept in the dark? It also blows my mind that all these kids went for it. If anything, I like to think that the younger generation is sometimes more understanding or aware of or accustomed to people of other sexual orientations (or they just don’t care enough to have an opinion). Clearly that’s not really the case here. And I worry that PROM of all things meant more to them than their classmates – Constance, her girlfriend, and those seven others (not to mention the whole concept of being accepting and progressive). Because, honestly, prom for me wasn’t even worth the $9 I paid for a big salad at dinner beforehand. I get why it was important to Constance, but when the price is hatred and exclusion, which is basically what these other kids paid to go to prom, then it’s baffling. And in 20 years, I doubt that the majority of them will remember the awesome time they had at prom because they’ll be too embarrassed for having acted like a bunch of snots.

  32. rebekah
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    excuse me but if you look into areas where this happens, teenagers tend to be the ones who are open to and care about their fellow students, and it is ALWAYS the parents who cause these problems. I’m getting really tired of seeing these ageism based comments on feministing. Note to the editors who see these comments, can you please remember who makes up the bulk of your readers and do something about the ageism that people like to post on here?

  33. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Izzy and thanks to you! Great idea to support alternative spaces for young people to feel welcome, free and supported.

  34. puckalish
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Check out Izzy’s comment above. Apparently, Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition is doing something along those lines – taking donations and throwing a dance party for kids like Constance – and you can donate to them through the ACLU (link on their website at : http://www.mssafeschools.org/)… let’s help to make it a blast!

  35. teacherwoman
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    My heart just broke reading that. This type of thing reminds me of every hateful thing I experienced or heard about during high school. How people can be so blatantly evil to gay people and people with disabilities is beyond me. I have a cousin who is mentally handicapped, and if she were at a separate prom, she wouldn’t know it, so it wouldn’t hurt her. However, just knowing that someone lied to those disabled kids and humiliated this young couple for such a stupid reason just makes my heart ache.

  36. LalaReina
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Don’t blame me for your state’s history.

  37. LalaReina
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on your good works.

  38. LalaReina
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I know folks who escaped ‘sippi. I was being kind.

  39. LalaReina
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry people but there is a reason why happened to this girl in Mississippi. The same is a reason why you need a voting rights act there. Let’s don’t get all naive.

  40. that girl
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I was actually very pleased with your response! I don’t know small town culture very well. Where I grew up, it would be possible for kids to do something like this without parental complicity. But maybe it’s different in Mississippi. Either way, the parents should have been making sure that Constance and the other 6 kids were included. I agree that fundamentalist religion definitely played a role, but I also think it’s snobbishness and privilege. Esp. because they excluded the disabled kids as well. That reeks of petty bullying, whether by the kids or the parents. Homosexuals are an ‘easy’ target, especially because people do often fall back on bible cherry-picking to justify it. I feel that this cherry-picking, not the bible itself, is the problem.

  41. that girl
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    “Oh, you mean, practitioners of the books that are used as the strongest tool of oppression against homosexuals and women? Those books? Calling the bible ‘a work of fiction’ is alot less harmful then using it as an excuse for hate.”
    I’m not sure about the strongest tool, but even so, this is a case where I say blame the practitioners, not the tool. And maybe calling the bible a work of fiction is less harmful than using it for hate, but really, there’s no need to do either! Not an either/or situation. And while I understand that abuse of religion plays a huge role in homophobia, I still think this could have happened anywhere where kids learn how to be cruel to one another (read, Anytown USA).

  42. leeraloo
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Oh, and I also heard (in the comments section on Salon.com’s article about this “fake prom”) that Constance didn’t even get to go with her girlfriend to prom in the end. Her girlfriend’s parents wouldn’t allow her to go because of all the attention the whole ordeal was getting, so Constance just went with a female friend.
    Again, I heard it from some random someone who reads Salon, and I have yet to investigate further, but it’s all kind of disheartening.

  43. davenj
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about requiring schools to hold proms, though. Even if the school canceled it for such an awful reason the truth is that schools are not obligated and should not be obligated to hold proms if they do not want to.
    Unless you’re arguing that prom is a core part of public education (and I don’t think it is), schools should be free to hold proms or not as they see fit.
    The problem with privatization is that it is, and should remain for the most part, totally legal. These folks clearly have the right to hold a dance that they call prom privately, in the same way that you or I should be allowed to host private parties. The problem is the conditions they’re setting for entrance by making it available to the whole school except for Constance and the mentally disabled.
    This is an issue where attitudes need to change, and the parents who raised the funds for and hosted this prom ought to realize that what they did was unacceptable not because it was illegal, but rather because it was wrong.
    Schools can and do cancel proms or not hold them due to racial divisions, economic divisions, and in this case homophobia. However, this won’t be solved by mandating that schools host proms. Even if you could force schools to host them, you couldn’t force students to attend. And if students then chose to organize a private prom anyway and attend that one instead where would that leave you? With a school with less funds to devote to education and the exact same result.
    Privatizing is legal in many instances. We have the right to live our private lives. The trick is convincing people to exercise this right well.

  44. davenj
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    It’s a good point. People don’t learn bigotry from nowhere. It’s transmitted from generation to generation.

  45. davenj
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    We needed a Voting Rights act nationally. We. Not you. All of us. Mississippi wasn’t alone in its actions or hatreds then, and it isn’t now.
    Your geographic hatred is getting really petty and vile, and I don’t see how it even makes it past moderation on the site.

  46. Cactus Wren
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Per PZ, over at Pharyngula: Constance’s fellow students have created a Facebook group on this topic. It is titled, vilely, “Constance quit yer cryin”.
    As it stands right now, though, the group has been hijacked: early comments such as “JAlthough, she asked and they said no, she should have just stfu and dealt with it. The school did not need to cancel the prom to shift attention from here. That’s just gay.” and “i just wish she would shut up and quit makeing the freakin county stupid you say well its there fault but since when did the public do anything to you just shut the freak up already.” have lately been obscured by a perfect torrent of such comments as “So, you little bigots, why should Constance quit demanding equal rights?” and “Wow, I am always amazed to see the ignorance, bigotry, fuckery of some people. Makes me sick and angry. Whatever happened to kindness, respecting others? We should live in a world of peace, not hate.”

  47. Gordon
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 5:46-47 (NIV)
    If the people who did this to Constance McMillen are Christians, I am King of the Flying Aardvarks.

  48. MishaKitty
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    And do you remember something called Prop 8 in a little state known as California? Or is that also located in Mississippi now?
    Sorry for the snark but it’s comments like YOURS that are naive. Comments like yours don’t help because all they do as reinforce stereotypes when really this could’ve happened in any small town with horrible homophobic people anywhere. If we keep trying to say this only happens in these places then we’re ignoring the bigger problem. This shit is going on all over! Or have you not opened your eyes and realized that gay marriage or just gay people in general are really still not accepted in the United States? Not just the effing South. Not just Mississippi. Not just this one small town.

  49. Kurumi & Cheese
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s ageism to say that teens are dumb, Rebekah. No more than your saying that it’s “always parents” who cause these issues. When I was a teen, I was pretty sure that the vast majority of my peers were idiots. And I was right. (And some of them are still idiots, even now.)
    I would say you had a point if you were talking about little kids. Little kids can be very accepting and understanding. Teens, not so much. And where do teens learn their hate? From their parents, of course. Whether they like it or not, a lot of them are VERY influenced by their upbringings. This is why kids need to go to college and expand their minds, maaan. And THEN they usually become more accepting of stuff.

  50. birdofparadox
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    LalaReina: there are plenty of us in Mississippi who work hard every day to shine a light on injustice, bigotry, hatred and ignorance. Every time someone judges the state as a whole, they crap on all the work that’s been done here, the people who stuck around to fight for their beliefs, even the people who died while still not giving up on Mississippi.
    There are a lot of people and organizations in Mississippi who care deeply about and fight for the same issues you do, and it’s disheartening and crazy-making to hear people throw the entire state in the garbage, when you fight like hell.
    By all means, condemn the behavior. I certainly do. I’m not going to blame you for our state’s history, but I will call you out on for being fluent in the same kind of blind, one-sided, mean-spirited ignorance that perpetuates the actions of the folks at Itawamba.

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