Hopefully I’ve caught at least some of you before you’ve headed out the door, because after reading this letter posted by the Southern Poverty Law Center from a brave straight ally in Savannah, Tennessee, you’re probably going to want to dress a little bit differently today.
Isabella Nuzzo is a senior at Hardin County High School. Earlier this year, one of her friends wore a T-shirt on the Day of Silence that read, “Lesbian and Proud.” School officials made the woman reverse her shirt, claiming that it violated the school’s dress code because its message “promoted sex.” When Nuzzo and other students organized a Week of Pride to stand up for free speech, administrators tried to shut it down, even threatening them with suspension. The SPLC intervened and threatened to sue to protect the students’ rights, and the administration backed down.
Unsurprisingly, a local church group jumped into action, distorting the debate and flooding the school with anti-gay messages. From Nuzzo’s letter:
This group placed an ad in the local newspaper offering free T-shirts for students in my school district. The T-shirts were emblazoned with messages including, “PROUD TO BE PRO-MARRIAGE, GOD DEFINES MARRIAGE!” The back of the shirt proclaimed, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” Talk about promoting sex!
Other T-shirts distributed by the group declared, “I’m a CHRISTIAN AND PROUD of it!”
Equally unsurprisingly, Nuzzo notes that the discredited “ex-gay” myth has slithered its way into the controversy, with several of her peers “[banding] together to ‘pray away the gay.’”
So what does all of this have to do with you and your outfit this morning? Nuzzo, her fellow straight allies, the LGBT community in Hardin County, Tennessee, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are asking equality-minded folks all across the country to show support for LGBT students and their allies today by wearing T-shirts, slogans, and symbols in support of the LGBT community and the right to free speech:
Together we are building dialogue, raising awareness and creating a better world by dispelling the myth that some people are less worthy of love and acceptance because of their sexual orientation.
By showing support for those who remain misunderstood and oppressed, we can bring change to our schools and communities. We can create more supportive schools and communities where LGBT students can feel proud of themselves. And when we create more supportive schools and communities, we should all feel a sense of pride.
So if you haven’t already headed out the door this morning, consider wearing something rainbow-colored (or otherwise pro-LGBT) in solidarity with LGBTs and allies in Hardin County, Tennessee, and use the opportunity to talk with friends and co-workers about equality. You’ll be making a strong statement and helping to make your own community safer, more inclusive, and more welcoming.