A high school prom should be one of the most memorable nights for students about to graduate, but for some it's a reminder that challenging gender norms won't be celebrated.
That's nearly what happened for Monroe, Louisiana honor student Claudetteia Love, who was willing to skip the event altogether rather than conform to the school's gendered dress code. Love, who identifies as a lesbian, planned to wear a tuxedo to the Carroll High School prom on April 24, but administrators announced a dress code that would have required all girls to wear dresses and all boys to wear tuxedos.
But following public scrutiny, KARD reports that school officials have changed course. Students like Love can now attend prom free of an antiquated dress code like this one:
It's about more than fashion. As the News Star reported, Love said the school's decision was more about sexual orientation than fashion choices. Her mother, Geraldine Jackson, said she talked to principal Patrick Taylor, who said faculty members wouldn't work the prom if girls wore tuxes. Love then decided that she'd rather not attend the event, but made clear that her challenge to the school was about something much bigger.
Love told the News Star she didn't want girls in younger grades to have the same experience when they got to their senior year. "I don't want them to feel like they are less of a person because people don't accept them," she said.
Thankfully, Love found an ally in Monroe school board president Rodney McFarland, who told the News Star last week that he would take action after her story made headlines: "As far as I know there is no Monroe City School Board policy saying what someone has to wear to attend the prom. You can't just go making up policies."
After McFarland met with the school's principal and superintendent, the dress code was withdrawn on Tuesday, affirming the students' right to wear the formal attire they feel best suits them, KNOE reported.
A win for the students. Students have been fighting strictly gendered dress codes for years, Louisiana ACLU executive director Marjorie Esman told KNOE. Even further, these dress codes typically single out students who identify as queer, trans and gender-nonconforming.
But it's not just LGBTQ kids who want to buck gender norms without a hassle. "You don't have to be gay to want to wear a tux," Love said to KARD. "It is just what you are comfortable in. I don't want someone to be discriminated against for what they are comfortable in or what they are used to."
Hopefully, this win for Love and other Carroll High School students sends a strong message to other high school administrators: Instead of harping on a student's gender expression or style of dress, focus on developing and educating young people to become their best selves.