Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The "Tuxedo Girl" is Baaaack!

I noticed in this week’s Clarion Ledger that “Tuxedo Girl” is back. If you remember last Spring, a high school senior in South Mississippi demanded to have her picture included in the yearbook – a reasonable expectation. She was a honor student, active in school organizations and apparently well-liked and well behaved. So what’s the problem? She only wanted her picture included if she could wear a tuxedo not the traditional gown that was expected and accepted by all other female students.

And her reasoning?

The young lady said she should get to decide how she looks in the senior photo. The school should have no right to enforce their stereotypical views of gender upon her. The student indicates that she doesn’t wear feminine clothing while attending school and that she shouldn’t be obligated to wear them in the yearbook. It is here that it should be noted that it is doubtful that she wore a tuxedo to class either.

The school policy (unwritten but certainly understood by all the other students at the school) is that male students wear a tux and female students wear a gown for inclusion in the yearbook. This student doesn’t claim to be male or suffer from gender confusion, so why is she determined to wear a tux?

Here’s a quote:

"I feel like I'm not important, that the school is dismissing who I am as a gay student and that they don't even care about me. All I want is to be able to be me, and to be included in the yearbook."

So it wasn’t a dress issue after all or even a policy issue – it’s a gay issue – a publicity stunt - designed to draw attention to herself.

Her treatment in the press at that time and by advocacy groups was decidely “pro-tuxedo.” NOW and the ACLU vowed support and threatened the school district with legal action if they didn’t capitulate. To their credit, the school district didn’t and “Tuxedo Girl’ didn’t appear in the yearbook.

Now, after the fame and publicity enjoyed by the gay teenager in North Mississippi who halted a school prom because of her threats against a school district, “Tuxedo Girl” has decided to file her own lawsuit against her school. She seeks unspecified damages and legal costs.

This is what her attorney from the ACLU said, “It’s unlawful to force students to conform to outdated notions about what boys and girls should look like without any regard to who they actually are as people.”

It really comes down to - who sets the standards? Do you accept my standards – Do I accept yours? Maybe Obama can set them for us or Pat Roberson. The ACLU is certainly trying to set some kind of standard for us but I’m not sure what gives them that right other than their deep pockets. Or maybe we should acknowledge that given these choices, there is a place in our culture for tradition, authority and historical precedent because that’s the best option we have.

I can’t help but believe that “Tuxedo Girl” is perpetuating a fraud upon the public by claiming discrimination due to sexual orientation when the issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation – all to obtain publicity.

“Tuxedo Girl’s” claim of discrimination is without a doubt – false. The school system did not single out this young woman and force her to dress differently or treat her differently from other students. She chose to single her self out – her choice.

The school system did not make an issue of her sexual orientation – only her gender. A policy that apparently sits well with all the other students. I’m sure there are some female students that are more masculine than others and some male students that exhibit feminine characteristics from time to time. These students didn’t deem it necessary to draw attention to themselves by dressing in the garb of the opposite sex for their yearbook photo – why not? – Because they didn’t have an agenda – they weren’t seeking attention.

Tuxedo Girl says she had a right to decide how she wishes to appear in the yearbook and that a gown did not represent how she dresses in her daily life. I doubt very seriously that a tuxedo is an accurate representation of her daily wear either. This young woman had a right to choose – whether to be included in her high school yearbook or not but she didn’t have the right (at the expense of others) to use a tradition and a right of passage to adulthood as a means of drawing attention to herself or her sexual orientation – no more than a student who demands to flash a gang symbol or wear an Atlanta Braves jersey or hold their deer rifle in their photo because in their mind it symbolizes who they are.

I have to say to Tuxedo Girl: “ Grow up a little and get on with your life. If you believe that your clothes define who you are, then you are going to have much bigger problems in life than a simple yearbook photo – and if you don’t want people to base their impressions of you upon your sexual orientation then I suggest that you not define your life that way.

As for NOW & the ACLU, I can’t help but wonder how solid their support would be if Tuxedo Girl had decided to add a little something else to her attire – like a ball cap with the slogan “Jesus Saves”.

W. McCully

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