Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pleasant Surprise Edition: New allies? A Male Homecoming Queen Candidate in the Tri-Cities

Where I went to college, we called the major "government," and not political science. Politics is not a science, despite the fact that certain aspects of it admit of probability and predictability. We are often faced with unpleasant surprises, but sometimes we get the pleasant kind and that's what I want to talk about today.

New Allies?: On Wednesday we held the Nashville Victory Toast to celebrate the first anniversary of the passage of the Metro non-discrimination ordinance. We had a great crowd of elected officials and candidates, some of whom have not been supportive of our community in the past. So ethically, strategically, what do you do when a hand that has in the past pressed a button against you suddenly is extended in outreach? In Tennessee you grab it and welcome the gesture. We don't have the luxury that some coastal states have of huge support in their legislative bodies (with the exception of Metro Council). So we have to seize opportunities of outreach. But my word of caution is that the outstretched hand only marks a turning point; it is not the full transformation in itself. Following that initial moment there must be genuine, consistent efforts from both sides to build the relationship. So I am hopeful that Wednesday marked part of a long-term transformation in the case of a couple of elected officials. We'll see.

Long live the Queen: has the story of a Washington County male student who ran for homecoming queen. Some students are protesting, but school officials seem to have been careful in upholding the male student's rights:

"There is a male student who put his name on the ballot for homecoming queen," Washington County Assistant Director of Schools for Attendance and Discipline James Murphy said. "As far as this young man being on the ballot, there's nothing we can do about that at this point."

Although Murphy would not release the name of the high school junior or why he wanted to run, he said the teen also had a constitutional right. Plus, Murphy added the school's policy did not define the position of homecoming queen as one held by a woman.

"There was an opening in that policy that did not indicate who could run or who couldn't run," Murphy said. "We want to recognize everybody's rights. We certainly want to stay inside the law."

Yep, I'm pleasantly surprised that the administration is taking this position, although I understand they may have learned their lesson the hard way from past foibles with student rights. But the point is they learned it and this time around they should be praised for their handling of the matter so far. Civil liberties advocates should continue to monitor the situation.

The students who are protesting have a lot to learn, though:

"Junior and senior girls dream about this and can't wait to become juniors or seniors to become the queen or the princesses," David Crockett High School senior protestor Akita Cilley said. "The definition of homecoming queen is only for a female position. I just think it's wrong."

Maybe it's time for a new dream, Akita.

-Chris Sanders

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