Constance is now a household name for those active in LGBTQ cultures. We look to her as part of a larger movement, we look to her as a bearer of LGBTQ rights in the next generation, we look to her as a girl who has been wronged for just being herself. We are all trying to do the right thing for her, as she has done the right thing for herself and the LGBTQ rights movement.
She has been wronged. She was wronged by small minded people who belittled her views, her beliefs, her sense of being. She was wronged by a bunch of whinging teenagers who are ego-centric and wanted their special night. Those whinging teenagers did what they felt was justified. The kids didn't say that Constance couldn't bring a date of the same sex, those were the school officials. Those same officials canceled the prom for everyone, devastating the teenagers who were raised to believe Prom is the best night of one's high school days. So the kids threw their own prom, and felt justified in doing so. I can understand that, from a psychological perspective.
I honestly think that except for a select few, the kids didn't invite Constance because she was the reason their prom was canceled, not because she was gay. Call me idealistic or naive, but these kids have gone to school with Constance for years, and I'm sure most know her well enough to look past her sexuality and regard her as a person. And Constance is, above all, one of the most loving, tolerant teenagers that I have ever heard of.
This is why, when I heard about the "Constance quit yer cryin'" Facebook page, I was shocked and appalled. I decided to head over there and check it out. Instead of posts from the kids of the school, I found a huge backlash from the LGBTQ community. There were countless posts saying "You homophobic, bible thumpin', rednecks, with IQs of 98, don't have the right to judge anyone!" among the few and far between posts of "Don't stoop to their level and call them names because that won't do anyone any good."
This was horrifying for me. The amount of hate spewed onto the wall of that Facebook page overwhelmed me. I could see the blood oozing from the old battle wounds of LGBTQ people, which had been ripped open and gouged anew by the hateful act done to Constance. It became clear that this hate crime (because really, that's what it is) was a personal assault against everyone in the queer community.
However, I was upset with the way people jumped in the fray to backlash against these teenagers. Hate begets hate; tolerance begets tolerance. By flaming those teenagers, we are reaffirming the belief that LGBTQ people are hateful, sinful, mean, and angry. We are doing nothing to change the views of the people who do not accept us. Constance's own quote about this was taken up as a battle cry. She wrote:
"ok i think that if people that are supporting what i am doing really support me they need to stop sending messages to people at my school because some of them are mature and stay out of it some of them support me and then there are the other people who are against me but since you dont know who is who please stop doing that because its not their fault. thanks."
"thanks everyone and you know i dont agree with what the school did obviously but i never wanted my classmates to have to suffer from it and many of them dont get that and want to blame me for everything and think i am doing this all for a faulty reason but i just want the negativity to stop because i try to be respectful and positive i find it to be more effective. please tell all your friends so as to get the word out."
This was immediately followed by posts saying that Constance was afraid that the students would take it out on her, and that caused for, wouldn't you know it, more hate towards the students. Well, Constance is a teenager in high school, dealing with peer pressure and being accepted. If you look at everything she says, every action she takes, you will realize that she is the type of person who wants everyone to like her. On top of that, she wants everyone to accept diverse sexualities. A good view of LGBTQ sexualities starts with the queer community taking the high road, not cussing out some 14 year old who didn't have anything to do with the original decision not to let Constance take her date to prom.
"Kill them with Kindness" was the phrase I grew up with. If someone didn't like me, I made them like me. I baked them cookies, I shared my lunch, I drew them pictures in my sloppy 5 year old way. In high school I was nice to everyone, helped everyone. As a community, if we want to change minds, we need to (figuratively) help little old ladies cross the road.
We have had names thrown at us like daggers, names which summed up who we were into a disparaging phrase or hateful word. Aren't we proving just how small minded we are to blame their bigotry on Christianity (which has a huge queer tolerant following) or "redneck towns" (my brother is a 'hick' and he has no problem with LGBTQ people) or any other generalization?
The fabulous Jesse James wrote something that struck me to the bone:
"Every day I get up and for some reason or another, in some moment or a few, I have to fight a little, stand up a bit at least, JUST TO BE ME.I’ll call Violet sweetie in the grocery store and when that guy stares at me, well, I’ve spent years now practicing how to be brave enough to stare back and not to let myself look away until after he does...We wake up, we brush our teeth and then we put on some combination and specific variety of armor that let’s us walk out the front door without dying, so that we can take the blows if and when they come. "
I fight every day by letting all those disparaging comments slide off of me, and I pull myself together, put on a bright smile, and charm that person like crazy. I am the girl who brings tulips to the lady on the corner that thinks I'm going to hell, I am the girl who brings a crying child back to its mother in the store. Every day I fight in my own way, and it is just as draining as fighting a full blown war. However, everyone I know says, "Oh, isn't she a darling girl? She's so thoughtful and compassionate." Occasionally there is a "It's such a shame that she's...that way," tacked on at the end. But everyone likes me, and I believe that's the first step.
Maybe the way people jump to violence, name calling, and cussing upsets me so much because I feel like it undoes the daily progress I make. I am trying to change minds, one at a time, until I can change my neighborhood, my town, my state, my world; every time there is a blurb on the news about a violent LGBTQ response to something, I have to start all over again.
If you want to make a real difference (I took this information from the wonderful Dorothy) write a letter or sign the petition:
Itawamba County Schools Superintendent Teresa McNeece:
662-862-2159 ext. 14
Itawamba Agricultural High School principal Trae Wiygul
One more way to speak out. Sign the HRC petition to say "I stand with Constance McMillen.”