Mississippi Misery

There are good people living in Mississippi, I just don’t know how they can bear it.

At least this first story can’t be blamed on Mississippi. Fred Phelps is planning to picket Constance McMillen’s graduation. This will be very interesting … how will the town and her fellow students respond? Will they be cheering the Phelpsians on, or will they finally get a good look in the mirror?

Residents of the state can be blamed for this one: another lesbian student, Ceara Sturgis, had her photo expunged from her high school yearbook. Her crime was dressing up in a formal tuxedo while being female.

These are just the travails of the lesbian women of Mississippi. Somehow, I expect the life of a heterosexual woman probably isn’t much better.


  1. Doug Meyer says

    Fortunately for me I live at the other end of the Mississippi river, where the heavy metals, organophosphates and other nasty stuff hasn’t had time to settle. But those poor folk down south are definitely afflicted by something, and maybe it’s not chemical.

  2. RamblinDude says

    This will be very interesting … how will the town and her fellow students respond? Will they be cheering the Phelpsians on, or will they finally get a good look in the mirror?

    I don’t know, but somehow it’s all Obama’s fault!

  3. Alex says

    The second link that pz posted contains the email, fax and phone of the school that removed the girl from the yearbook and the graduating seniors list. The blog that it was originally posted on doesn’t get nearly as much traffic as pharyngula. That school is in for some shit.
    Which makes me wonder if they really are just bigoted asses or if they are only fishing for publicity after the media frenzy constance caused.

  4. makyui says

    Has anyone blamed the recent tornado on Teh Gays and/or Constance yet? I’ll be surprised if no one does.

  5. JohnS says

    I’m one of the good people (well hell I try) in Mississippi. This case is what finally made me feel ashamed for putting off joining the ACLU. I’m now a card-carrying member. There are many great things about Mississippi, but damn we love to show how backward we can be.

    I have nothing but huge respect for Constance. This girl has a level of courage and confidence far beyond her years to have stood athwart the tide of intolerance as well as she has. I wish her all the best as she faces yet more asshattery.

  6. aratina cage says

    I know, I can’t believe they actually erased Ceara from the yearbook in total. Towleroad reports that the fucking Wesson Attendance Center where she went to school all 12 years went further than just nixing her photo but actually never mentioned her name at all even though she had been there the whole time and was a top student. THE FUCKERS!!!

  7. Kome says

    Can the rest of the United States please secede from Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, and Florida (just wait until I move out of Orlando first)? It seem the only way that the US is going to progress as a nation is to simply leave behind those unwilling to grow up.

  8. Kaessa says

    Every time I start to regain some faith in humanity, shit like this happens. I don’t understand how people can be so deliberately cruel.

  9. James F says


    aratina cage, have you ever seen the movie Election? Reminds me of Tracy Flick editing the yearbook.

  10. iDodd says

    Having just found out this past weekend that I am the parent of a gay teenager, I was particularly outraged at this story. You can believe I fired off an angry e-mail to that principal. If I believed in God I would thank him I don’t live in Mississippi. If I believed in Hell I would hope those bigoted assholes would burn in it forever. For once, I’m sorry I don’t believe those things.

  11. jcmartz.myopenid.com says

    If there are any sensible Mississippians in this particular place, organize your own counter-protest.

  12. J. Church says

    Hello, PZ. Thanks for posting this. We appreciate the attention. While Ms. McMillen has received lots of positive media attention, she’s still very much alone locally. The PFLAG groups in Mississippi are doing their best to support her.

    You can read about one local PFLAG group efforts here:


    -James Church,
    Oxford, MS

  13. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    The next person who asks me why:

    1. “New Atheists” are so “hostile”
    2. “Why can’t you take a more cordial tone, you know, so people won’t hate you as much”
    3. “Why can’t you just let people follow their own religious/spiritual/Oprah/made-up-out-of-whole-cloth-but-why-is-that-bad path,” (and no that’s not any less brain dead, even if it doesn’t lead as directly to discrimination)
    4. Why I want to smack the shit out of ignorant provincial fucks. . .

    . . .is going to get a fresh can of ass-whoopin’ opened.

  14. Freedonian says

    There are a few of us here and the short answer to why some rational people choose to live in the great state of Mississippi, it is cheap! I live in Jackson, which is fairly progressive, but it does still have its moments.

    To add what J. Church @ #13 wrote, there is a group planning a counter-protest: http://www.facebook.com/dignitycaravan

    We need all of the help that we can get!!!

  15. chaseacross says

    Outrageous. Things like this just make my blood boil. As much as I love living in Seattle (the least religious part of the country, and for some strange reason immune to the punitive effects of our large community), there is one problem: the big fights are so far away. I write the checks to PFLAG, LL, and the ACLU, and I sign the petitions, and I send mean-spirited (polite, but still mean), emails to these bigoted school administrators in Mississippi, but it doesn’t make the anger go away. What more can we do? If we let these states leave, wouldn’t we just be dooming the Cearas and the Constances to further vile indignities? If we let them stay, don’t they just end up sending more terrible bigots to Congress? What’s the answer here?

  16. mineralfellow says

    Not all parts of Mississippi are equally bad. I no longer live in the state, but I had a number of gay and lesbian friends in high school who were accepted (at least at school, not all were accepted at home). It is a peculiar state, but the towns with universities and the coasties seem to be more progressive than places like Itawamba or Hazelhurst.

  17. skeptical scientist says

    In all likelihood the town will just blame Constance for the Phelps’ presence, and hater her that much more because of it.

  18. phhht says

    Memphis, Tennessee butts up against the Mississippi line from the north.

    I don’t know how it is now. But in 1965, in Memphis, I understood that it could be worth my life to reveal my atheism. I was 18 years old.

  19. MadScientist says

    A woman in a tux is taboo? Some people are just fucking nuts. I remember seeing photos of women wearing a tux from the early 20th century. Come to think of it I think there have been a few movies from around the middle of the century featuring women wearing a tux. Next thing you know women will have to wear veils (again) and cover their faces to reveal only their eyes. Ah, for the good ol’ days when we burned witches and god-borne diseases frequently wiped out a large percentage of crowded cities.

  20. Citizen of the Cosmos says

    A girl wearing a tux can look really, really good. Actress Ellen Page is one good example. Not that whether she looks hot in it or not is the real issue in this discussion. But still.

  21. puzzledponderer says

    Sadly, what they will do about the picketing is blame McMillen for the fact that the whole graduation ceremony was interrupted and probably not the most pleasant of experiences. Regardless of what they’re shouting, you don’t want your graduation ceremony undermined by someone spreading their hatred or disturbing your celebration by being obnoxious.

  22. MadScientist says

    @Kome: Az has always been a bit strange – never quite like its neighboring territories/states, which was frequently a good thing. Even long before I left Az the place was sinking – while the politicians were claiming it was booming because everyone seemed to want to move there. Near Tucson you have a number of prestigious astronomical observatories such as the National Solar Observatory, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and so on (including, of all things, the Vatican Observatory within the Mt. Graham Observatory complex) – and yet the ASU which is involved in manufacturing the enormous mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope has also churned out its share of “psychics” and the University of Arizona has a serving professor who believes Sylvia Browne is a genuine psychic. Ding dong!

  23. Rorschach says

    “This generation has been raised to believe that they can live for the devil and still go to heaven, that God has no standards and the biggest lie of all – that God loves everyone.”

    I guess they missed the irony.

    (And I note the judge who ruled on Constance’s case was one Glen Davidson..)

  24. Archaneus says

    The worst part of all is that the women in the most regressive parts of the country and world delude themselves into a kind of contentedness with it so that when you confront how evil it all is, you often get the ones being oppressed defending their very oppression.

  25. Haley says

    My yearbook had someone dressed as a stormtrooper with the helmet off, and a guy dressed as captain hook. Come out of the 1950’s Mississippi.

  26. DLC says

    whoah. you mean the Ministry of Truth got to her yearbook ?
    What exactly is the issue with women wearing trousers that bothers people ? or was it the tuxedo jacket? waistcoat or cummerbund? I know! it was the bow tie! Ban the bow-tie! Throw all references to such neck-wear down the memory hole, immediately!

    As for Phelps protesting… they will just tell the young lady that she can still have her graduation ceremony. . . Alone.

  27. JustALurker says

    Hey! I have to get out of Phoenix first too. Though that might be awhile since I am completely broke…..

  28. Yoritomo says

    “WBC will picket the graduation of Itawamba Agricultural High School to remind the parents, teachers and students of this nation that God said ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination’”

    Fail. Constance McMillen doesn’t lie with mankind at all.

  29. Childermass says

    A woman wearing a tux? That does not even seem to be the slightest hint that she is lesbian to me.

    And to put it bluntly, a good chunk of the senior high school photos from my high school yearbooks from Michigan in the 1980s would offend them as well if they go by the same standard.
    /Oh wait, I am sure that they only offended if the person is a suspected homosexual.

  30. Carlie says

    iDodd – kudos to you for being the type of parent that you child felt comfortable coming out to. I hope the environment you both have to navigate through is an accepting one, unlike the one in the post.

  31. ehlsever says

    I’ve somehow survived almost 40 years in MS. It’s as bad as the worst you can imagine.

  32. Spiro Keat says

    What exactly is the issue with women wearing trousers that bothers people ? or was it the tuxedo jacket? waistcoat or cummerbund? I know! it was the bow tie! Ban the bow-tie! Throw all references to such neck-wear down the memory hole, immediately!

    She probably wore mixed cloth of wool and linen together, which as you know, is an abomination.

  33. ehlsever says

    psst… Fred Phelps was born in Meridian MS. Someone please nuke us for the good of the species.

  34. BigMKnows says

    I wonder if they will hold a counter protest to drown out the Phelps protesters the way they did in Charleston, WV, when the Phelps squad came to protest the dead miners http://j.mp/9hihJE

    Probably not.

  35. AvalonStorme says

    Being one of the few not-crazy people who live in Mississippi, I think this is despicable. I don’t know what Phelps intends on getting out of this (although, really, what has he gotten out of protesting anything?)

    Also, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t protest the Second Chance Prom that’s being held next month in Tupelo, MS for gay youth and their allies (which I’m attending!)

    Yes, I am definitely ready to graduate college and get out of this place.

  36. tdanielmidgley says

    iDodd: I second that. If I were a gay teenager, I’d be hoping like heck to have a parent like you.

  37. mxh says

    I’d love to see the local reaction to the Phelps idiots. Will they cheer on the group that even the KKK doesn’t want to support? I’m willing to bet that some will.

  38. calinthalus says

    I graduated from a public high school in Mississippi in 1991. In my annual there is a picture of a girl in a tux. I don’t know if she was a lesbian or not, we weren’t close.

    Much like adding the “Under God” to the Pledge of allegiance, I think quite a bit of this bullshit has gotten worse recently instead of better.

    My son has a gay friend that spends the weekend occasionally. His parents are so shocked that we’ll accept him and let him stay at our house, like he’s contagious or something. Kids aren’t near as bad as adults. But it seems to me that parents are much worse than grandparents. It’s my generation and my parents generation that are so fucked up. Hopefully my kids generation will be more like my grandparents generation than mine.

  39. AJ Milne OM says

    Re #5: to your health, sir. And to the other MS folk posting to say they’re for being part of the solution.

    Re Phelps: what an asshat. Same ole’ schtick, different day. You know he’s only doing this because there’s enough profile on this story, now, and he’s hoping there’ll be venomous outrage at his disgusting antics from somewhere, mebbe someone’ll do something stupid, mebbe even give ‘im a shot at a lawsuit…

    Ya gotta laugh at his kind. Laugh and point, the latter being most important. Remind people what a platter o’ toxic sludge such nutters become. Use ’em as an object lesson, seeing as he does make that so very easy.

  40. Ing says

    “The worst part of all is that the women in the most regressive parts of the country and world delude themselves into a kind of contentedness with it so that when you confront how evil it all is, you often get the ones being oppressed defending their very oppression.”

    She threatens to bring color to Pleasentville /snark

  41. ButchKitties says

    The furor over a girl wearing a tuxedo is so baffling to me. As a kid, I participated in a sport where wearing a suit or tuxedo was the required attire. If Phelps thinks one girl in a tux is bad, I’d reeeeaaaallllly like to take him to a saddle seat horse show. He’d be surrounded by women wearing suits w/ bowler hats during the day, tuxedos w/ top hats if it’s after 6 pm. His head might explode.

  42. Ing says

    Well you have to take the whole story into context. it wasn’t just the tuxedo, the chair she was sitting on also had exposed legs.

  43. Zaphod says

    Let’s see here, the school canceled Prom rather than let a student take who she wanted to take to it (isn’t there an old cliche about the dad taking his unpopular daughter to the prom because she couldn’t get a date? are schools willing to support blatant incest but not homosexuality? anyway, I digress) and who does the student body blame for this action by the school?

    The girl.

    Then, when the bad press from around the nation comes down on the school for doing that, who does the student body blame for all this bad publicity?

    The girl.

    Then, when the school finally decides to have a prom, nobody wants to go to it now and instead a completely separate prom is organized at their own expense and who do they blame for having to go to such lengths?

    The girl.

    And who do they blame for the SECOND round of bad publicity when this last dick move is discovered?

    The girl.

    And now, a group of professional shit-stirrers are coming to town to wallow in the sea of crap this town has visited upon itself.

    Gee, I wonder who the student body will blame for this?

  44. truthspeaker says

    Posted by: skeptical scientist | April 28, 2010 2:21 AM

    In all likelihood the town will just blame Constance for the Phelps’ presence, and hate her that much more because of it.

    This. I predict exactly this will happen.

  45. alysonmiers says

    Are we quite sure the Phelps clan isn’t simply the world’s longest-running Poe?

  46. tutone21 says

    @ JustALurker #28

    No kidding! I have to get out of here too but am also broke! It must be all those illegals taking jobs from us good white follk (since I am white). Idea: Let’s make it legal to have cops walk over to them there brown skin folk and make them prove they should be here.

    Mississippi…you are really pushing the hate card these days. I am almost always for non-violent protest, but I do have a very strong urge to hold the principal by his feet and lower him into a porta-potti after a 3-day music festival.

  47. bart.mitchell says

    I have to agree with Nate Phelps.

    Fred Phelps and his loony clan are the best thing to happen to homosexuality since Richard Simmons. They are the single strongest force out there that brings acceptance of LGB&T people. They are so radically bigoted and ignorant (the anti-Americanism helps too) that the other bigots have to shut up and hide.

    I really hope he does picket the graduation. Phelps is really helping to shine a light on how ignorant homophobia really is.

  48. Kamaka says

    These two young women are kids.

    Here we have adults who are supposed to be looking out for the well being of children being mean and nasty to kids.

    God is love. Yah.

  49. Pete Moulton says

    ehlsever@34: “psst… Fred Phelps was born in Meridian MS. Someone please nuke us for the good of the species.”

    What? Wait! Steve Forbert’s from Meridian too. ‘Course he was smart enough to head outta there as soon as he sensibly could.

  50. dutchdoc says

    @#7: Didn’t you leave out a few states? (Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, .. and well… hm.. I see.. there are too many!)

  51. Isherwood says

    I hope the Patriot Guard show up. Despite the fact that they’re mostly right-wingers, they do good work with this type of thing.

  52. Sili, The Unknown Virgin says

    Iono how yearbooks work exactly, but I assume she can get her money back due to false advertising.

  53. verimius says

    Joan of Arc was executed for wearing male attire. I guess we’re improving. Slowly.