Suspended For Nail Polish, Gay Texas Teen Speaks Out

Trevor Wilkinson (screen capture)

Texas high school senior Trevor Wilkinson was placed on in-school suspension (ISS) on November 30 after he showed up to school wearing nail polish.

Nail polish, it turns out, violates his school’s dress code – but only if you’re male.

According to Wilkinson, who attends Clyde High School in West Texas, he was told he would remain in suspension until he removed the nail polish.

Wilkinson took to Twitter that day to protest writing, “Imagine your school not allowing boys to paint their nails and giving boys iss for it. And the whole administration being okay with it, homophobic and sexist? Welcome to west Texas.”

Wilkinson’s story went national after he refused to remove the nail polish and instead launched a Change.org petition demanding that the school policy be changed.

At this writing, over 336,000 people have signed the petition.

“It is a complete double standard because girls are allowed to have any form of nails they want, and honestly they can express themselves in any way they want,” Wilkinson wrote on Change.org. “I am a gay male and I’m beyond proud. This is unjust and not okay.”

Monday night, Wilkinson addressed the school board again asking them to amend the dress code. And yes, he was wearing his nail polish.

He began by noting that the ACLU had sent letters to nearly 400 schools in September about school rules that might be discriminatory. Clyde High School was among those who received a letter.

(image via Trevor Wilkinson)

“With all due respect, there have been two times this issue could have been resolved,” he told the board. “Although frustrating, I know everything is not going to go my way. But this isn’t about me anymore – it’s about a discriminatory, sexist policy that needs to be changed.”

“I got my education taken away from me for something as minor as painting my nails because it’s against the dress code,” he continued. “The question is why? Why is it against dress code for a man to be comfortable with his masculinity and defy the gender norms society has imposed on us?”

“If it’s not harmful for girls to wear it, why is it harmful for males?” he added.

Wilkinson also pointed out that making a rule about nail polish only applicable to male students was sexist. “Having a double standard like this only shows that Clyde doesn’t accept kids for who they are.”

He also threw down some equality speak saying, “I understand that you guys have traditional values and I respect that, but to get respect you also have to give it.”

“There’s a certain beauty in uniqueness and nobody should have that taken away. Diversity is what makes this country so beautiful.”

He closed his remarks asking the school board to be “open-minded enough to accept and respect others for who they are.”

Wilkinson addresses the school board at the 2:45 mark in the video footage from local ABC News affiliate KTXS.

But it appears the school district will not be changing its dress code any time soon.

Superintendent Kenny Berry issued a statement which read, in part, “The District will conduct a thorough review of its dress code when it performs its annual review of the Student Handbook.”

There was no mention of when that annual review might take place.

Berry went on to note that, until that time, “the District will assure that no student is treated in a discriminatory or inequitable manner.”

Music Video: Matt Zarley & Jeb Havens Honor Class Of 2020 ‘Stronger’

Award-winning singer/songwriter/producer Matt Zarley teams up with critically acclaimed indie artist Jeb Havens to honor the educators and students of the class of 2020 with a reimagined rendition of the Kelly Clarkson hit, “Stronger.”

The GLEE-tastic music video, featuring a cast of 50+ students and parents from Canoga Park High School in California, was shot on location at the school two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

“If we had to delay shooting a week, we probably wouldn’t have been able to complete this,” says Zarley.

“I can’t imagine being a high school senior and not getting to experience those special end of school year moments that you’ve been looking forward to for the past 4 years,” he adds. “I feel so bad for these kids. This entire situation is just awful.”

As Havens and Zarley take on multiple roles as teachers, coaches, janitors, and cafeteria workers, the video tells the tale of a new student at school who finds his way to tryouts for the dance team.  In a short time, he goes from misunderstood (#QuackIsWhack) to ‘rad’ (#FunkADuck).

The duo’s soulful pop vocals are a perfect match for the soaring self-empowerment anthem.

I’ve shared music from both Zarley and Havens over the years, but just in case you missed it…

Zarley made his theatrical debut at 17-years-old in the national touring company of CATS, at that time the youngest to ever perform in the mega-blockbuster. His career continued with roles on Broadway in A Chorus Line, The Who’s Tommy, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as TV appearances in Disney’s Cinderella (w/ Whitney Houston), Geppetto (w/ Drew Carey) & Annie (w/ Kathy Bates), The Drew Carey Show, Fame, The Tonight Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and Smash, among others.

An award-winning, 4-time Billboard charting recording artist, his albums include Debut, Here I Am (2008 Billboard Critics Top Ten and American Idol Top 20 Songwriter), and Change Begins With Me (2012 OUTMusic Award for Album & Single Of The Year). He was also the first openly gay man featured in People Magazine’s ‘Hottest Bachelors’ annual issue.

He added filmmaker to his resume when he released hopefulROMANTIC, an award-winning musical short film he wrote, produced and starred in which played dozens of international film festivals including Cannes, Mumbai, Montreal, and as well as numerous stateside festivals.

L-R Matt Zarley, Jeb Havens

Jeb Havens is an international recording artist and songwriter whose music is a blend of catchy pop and raw emotional therapy.

He became a viral sensation when he began recording original and cover songs in his closet (good sound) and shared them on YouTube.

One of his earliest “Closet Covers” was his emotional, moving take of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views. As it spread across the internet, his performance grabbed the attention of mainstream entertainment media outlets like Buzzfeed which raved, “Seriously, someone get this guy a record deal already.”

His debut solo album “Home Base” was named one of the Top 5 in LGBT Music for 2016.

The woofy duo has collaborated several times over the years on projects ranging from music videos to live performances in the U.S. and abroad including their ‘Works of Heart’ concerts.

You can find my posts on Jeb Havens’s music here, and my previous coverage of Matt Zarley here.

Reddit: ‘High School Bullies Apologized To Me And I Told Them To F*ck Off’

(image via Depositphotos)

A thread on the AskGayBros Reddit raises some questions about being bullied in school and how to respond to an apology years later.

One Reddit user posted, “My former high school bullies apologized to me for being homophobic and I told them to f*ck off. Yet for some reason my friends told me I’m being an a**hole. Why?”

The post goes on to say the bullies “tormented” him through high school making his life “a living hell.” He adds that he landed in the hospital twice due to the bullies’ behavior, admitting one hospital visit was the result of a suicide attempt.

When asked how the apology occurred, the poster shares that it came “out of nowhere.”

According to the poster, the bullies “‘claim’ they’re no longer homophobic and they ‘claim’ to be incredibly sorry” for their behavior back in high school.

The posters’ friends said they understood his anger acknowledging he didn’t “have to forgive them” but also that he didn’t “have to be an a**hole about it.”

He concludes writing, “If you apologize with the expectation of forgiveness, you’re truly not sorry.”

Responses on the thread were split.

“You don’t have to accept their apology at all,” replied one commenter. “I do agree that grudges can hold people back. But are you thinking about this person all the time that it hinders your ability to function normally or grow? If not, then I don’t think it’s a problem.”

“If you want to forgive do it for you, not because people or society made you feel bad for not giving your bullies the peace of mind they stole from you.”

“You don’t owe it to anyone but yourself. If their apology made you feel better and if you would feel relieved forgiving then you do it. If you want them to f*ck off your life then you tell them, like you did.”

On the other side of the equation, some folks felt the original poster’s response was over the top.

“I agree with your friends,” shared one Redditor. “You do not need to forgive them, but you should’ve taken the high road in just telling them that what they did was wrong and you cannot forgive them for the pain they put you through.”

“I agree with your friends,” said another. “You do not need to forgive them, but you should’ve taken the high road in just telling them that what they did was wrong and you cannot forgive them for the pain they put you through.”

And this advice was offered: “You don’t want to be stuck in the past, or tormented by memories of the pain and humiliation you suffered. It is not good for you to hang onto grudges. By holding onto that pain and need for revenge, you are allowing them to continue bullying you. every time you revisit those memories, you are just injuring yourself over and over. You DO need to forgive them.”

While we don’t have all the details as to the extent of the bullying the original poster experienced (at one point it’s shared that the bullying occurred 8 years ago), it does raise questions about how people move past bullying some LGBTQ people encountered in their young lives.

Is it ‘holding a grudge’ to not accept an apology?

One commenter pointed out that several people called the original poster out for being a “toxic person,” but said that is missing the point – that the original poster’s anger is a product of being bullied.

Does hanging on to anger allow the bullying experienced years ago to continue to drag us down?

Readers, what do you think? Have you ever had someone from your past who hurt you reach out years later with an apology?

If so, how did you react? Let us know in the comments section.

(source: Reddit)

High School Football Season Canceled After Allegations Of Locker Room Assault

A California high school has canceled the remainder of its football season amid allegations of sexual battery between players in a locker room altercation after a practice last week.

Gilroy High School officials say a majority of players have chosen not to finish the season as a result of the alleged assault and subsequent investigation.

Mercury News reports that the incident “involved four students that assaulted a fellow student after school.”

The student who was allegedly attacked went to school officials on September 26, and after an investigation, juvenile citations for sexual battery were issued to four students.

“We investigated the allegations and determined there was evidence to support a criminal complaint.,” said Gilroy police Capt. Joseph Deras. “The aggravating circumstance was the number of suspects involved, and the use of force or fear played a role in our arresting decision.”

Deras added that the investigator’s reports have been forwarded to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for review to determine if the students will face prosecution.

Because all of the individuals involved are minors, few details – including the names of the students – have been revealed.

Police say there is currently no evidence that the alleged assault was a “hate-motivated crime.”

The local CBS News affiliate KPIX reports that some students say they’d heard “several players were ‘roughhousing’ with one teammate and may have taken it too far.”

KPIX adds that the remaining football season was forfeited because “only nine players remain on the team after others quit in protest.”

Watching these and other news reports, the Gilroy High School students are apparently divided over the issue.

In some interviews, there are students that seem to blame the alleged victim for the scandal…?

Here’s an earlier report from KBCW:

(lead photo via Depositphotos)

Mississippi High School Bans Same-Sex Dates At Prom

Students at a Mississippi high school were given required attendance paperwork in order to attend prom that included language that clearly banned same-sex dates.

Students at a Mississippi high school were given required attendance paperwork in order to attend prom that included language that clearly banned same-sex dates.

Via Yahoo News:

Students at Tremont Attendance Center in Mississippi were told to sign paperwork that included language stating that guests attending the Apr. 26th prom must be “of the opposite sex.” The rule was emphasized twice — in capitalized, bold letters — on the two-page form, and under a safety waiver that required student and parent signatures.

High school prom organizers that excluded same-sex couples from the upcoming dance deny the rule was homophobic.

“Guests must be 10th-grade–21 years old and of the opposite sex,” read the rule.

The form was shared on Facebook by Jack McCrory, a Tremont graduate whose niece is a current student. “From the open-minded and tolerant folks of the Tremont prom committee,” he wrote on Monday.

Trae Wiygul, the superintendent of Itawamba County Schools, did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

He told WTVA, “The Itawamba County School District does not sponsor or endorse proms. If prom is being held, it is a private affair hosted by parents. Since this matter allegedly concerns a parent, who is also a teacher, any activity that person may have done during school hours concerning a prom was outside the scope of employment and is being investigated.”

Wiygul said a teacher who passed out the forms is being investigated.

According to WTVA, a parent involved with prom said the rule was an attempt at “crowd control,” so students could not purchase tickets for unofficial dates. “That’s not relevant to a person’s sex,” McCrory tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

A Facebook post, allegedly written by a Tremont student and sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, says the paperwork was passed out by “multiple teachers” prefacing an intercom announcement from the principal, which warned that students could not bring same-sex dates.

Joshua Tom, the legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Preventing same-sex couples from attending prom is discriminatory and unconstitutional. We’d advise that the county doesn’t repeat its discriminating actions from nine years ago or face legal jeopardy.”

High School Officials Break Into Bathroom Stall Being Used By Transgender Student

(screen capture)

A video posted to social media appears to show school officials breaking into a bathroom stall as a transgender high school student is using the bathroom.

According to The Daily Dot, the student originally posted the video to their social media but it has since gone viral. Her name isn’t being used as she’s apparently a minor.

The one-minute video, shot from the student’s perspective inside the stall, shows a crowbar or broomstick being used to reach over the door of the stall and unlatch it.

As this is happening the student says, “I’m using the bathroom, and look at them; I’m using the bathroom and they just violated me!”

“I am so scared and violated right now. They just walked in the bathroom while I was using the bathroom for no reason.”

The video was shared on Twitter by activist Kenidra Woods. Watch below.

You know, most of the people who oppose trans folks using a bathroom say their concern is about being harassed in a stall. And here are folks doing exactly that to a trans student…?

“I’m not personally in touch with the student, but in her video, she asked for people to share it far and wide,” Woods told the Daily Dot. “So, I made it my priority to share it because it infuriated me to my core. No one should be treated in the manner she was treated.”

While it’s possible there’s more to the story, it is difficult to believe that prying open a bathroom stall door on a student is the best possible approach to this situation. The officials or hall monitors couldn’t wait until the student exited the stall?

The issue of bathroom use by transgender students has been in the news frequently in recent years, especially since the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policies that recommended transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity.

The student apparently posted follow-up videos to Facebook which appeared to identify the school as Osseo Senior High School in Osseo, Minnesota.

According to The Daily Dot, school officials have not commented on the video.

The story becomes more complicated as LGBTQNation reports someone who claims to be the sister of the student took to her Facebook to criticize the trans student’s actions.

In the sister’s post, misgendering the trans student throughout, the sister says the trans student has “a bathroom of [their] own to use whenever [they] wants to use it because [they] doesn’t feel comfortable using a men’s bathroom[…] because other girls won’t feel comfortable.” She also says her sibling had been in the bathroom for “like, an hour.”

The sister later posted a message from their mother consistently referring to the trans student with male pronouns while claiming to fully support the student being transgender.

The mother goes on to write that the trans student “doesn’t realize is that [she’s] not the only one who has been effected by all [she] has done in the last 24hrs and the rollercoaster [she] brought us on.”

Wisconsin High School Students Throw Full-On ‘Sig Heil’ In Prom Photo

(Click image to enlarge)

Folks are kind of flummoxed by a photo taken at the junior prom of Wisconsin’s Baraboo High School showing the class’s male students doing a ‘sig heil.’

Law & Crime points out the event was last spring, but the photo just came to light when it was posted to the Twitter account @GoBaraboo that has since been been made private.

It was posted with the caption, “We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”

One guy in the front was clearly doing the sign for white power:

Vice contributor Jules Suzdaltsev asked Twitter to help him do a deep dive into the matter, and he began getting private messages from students at the school saying they had seen and heard a lot of racist language while attending the school.

One student who graduated from BHS this spring wrote Suzdaltsev saying he could “100% support the claims of racism at that school.”

“The use of the n-word was pretty common among a lot of white students, whether jokingly or not,” he added.

Another told Suzdaltsev that the day after Donald Trump was elected, students were yelling “White Power!” in the hallways.

Folks did note that one student, in the upper right hand corner of the photo, was clearly not having the moment.

Suzdaltsev spoke with the student, Jordan Blue, who said the photo was taken so quickly he couldn’t leave. But he also shared that he’d been bullied by his classmates for years.

“My name is Jordan Blue, I am the boy captured in the photo to the far right. The photo was taken during our Junior Prom Photos. I clearly am uncomfortable, with what was happening. I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken within 5 seconds. The photographer took the photos telling us to make the sign, I knew what my morals were and it not to salute something I firmly didn’t believe in. I attend BHS, these classmates have bullied me since entering middle school, I have struggled with it my entire life and nothing has changed. These are the boy of Class of 2019, nothing has been done and my question is… with anything ever be done. I truly & firmly believe we need to make a change to this horrible act, it need to stop. Bullying. Immaturity. And just taking things as a “joke”…”

According to Suzdaltsev, the photographer (identified as local motorcycle photographer Peter Gust) has taken the photo album down from his website and issued an odd message calling out “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” He seems to be blaming the scandal on folks taking issue with the idea of telling students to do a Nazi salute.

The photo has even received international attention as the Twitter account for the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted, “This is why every single day we work hard to educate.”

Baraboo School District Superintendent Dr. Lori Mueller issued this statement:

The Barabook School District sent the following letter to parents this morning in response to a photo on social media.

Dear Parents/Guardians of Baraboo School District Students:

Early this morning, a photo that was taken last spring of some Barabook School District students who appear to be making extremely inappropriate gestures began circulating on social media. The District has confirmed at this time that the photo was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event.

The school district is investigating this situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities. If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.

With that, we want to be very clear: the Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry, are respected and celebrated.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lori Mueller, Superintendent

Progress For Schools Becoming More LGBTQ Inclusive Is Slowing

GSA bus in Pride parade (image via Flickr/jglsongsCC License)

According to the 2017 National School Climate Survey from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), progress in making schools more inclusive and less hostile for LGBTQ students has slowed down after years of improvement.

The survey polled more than 23,000 students across the United States ages 13-21 between April and August of 2017.

The average age of participants was 15.6 years-old and four in ten of those surveyed identified as gay or lesbian.

The results of the survey showed that after years of declining harassment, the improving climate seems to have plateaued (see graphic below).

The data from the survey shows:

• Almost 60% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; 44% because of their gender expression

• Almost 35% of LGBTQ students say they missed a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe

• 4 in 10 avoided gender-segregated spaces like bathrooms or locker rooms due to safety concerns

• 98.5% of LGBTQ students have heard the term “gay” used in a negative way; 70% say they hear these remarks frequently

• 70.1% of LGBTQ students say they’ve experienced verbal harassment based on sexual orientation; almost 60% based on gender expression

• Almost 30% say they’ve been physically harassed (pushed, shoved) based on sexual orientation; 24.4% based on gender expression

• 12.4% of LGBTQ students say they’ve been physically assaulted (punched, kicked) based on sexual orientation; 11.2% based on gender expression

• 42.2% of LGBTQ students say they considered dropping out of school due to harassment

• 48.7% of LGBTQ students have experienced cyberbullying in the past year

• 57.3% of LGBTQ students reported being sexually harassed in the past year at school

The majority of LGBTQ students (55.3%) who were victimized in school did not report the incident believing no effective intervention would happen or the situation could become worse.

Of the students who did report an incident, 60.4% say school staff did nothing or told the student to ignore it.

One piece of good news: more students reported having a Gay/Straight Alliance (53.3%) at their school than ever before.

The data shows that when a school offers a GSA, LGBTQ students were less likely to hear homophobic or transphobic slurs; saw more intervention by school personnel; and were less likely to feel unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.

Head over to GLSEN to read the full report.