A year ago, Constance McMillen was just another Mississippi teenager looking forward to her senior year in high school. Then came the spring and prom season. And officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School told Constance she couldn’t take her girlfriend as her date to the prom.
Most teens — especially those in small towns and rural areas — would have just let it go. Hell, most LGBT teens in areas like that wouldn’t have even brought up the subject in the first place. I mean, small towns and rural areas — especially in Mississippi — tend not to be thought of as bastions of tolerance and acceptance, and it takes more courage than most grown people have to be willing to take a stand like that when you know you are making yourself a target.
But obviously, Constance McMillen is not most teens. And obviously, she has courage to spare. Because she refused to just sit there and take the discrimination and bigotry. She fought back. And she ended up winning the right to take her girlfriend to the prom and she won $35,000 from the school district, to boot — not to mention that she also became a national hero of the LGBT equality movement.
Constance has gotten a lot of awards and recognition and met a lot of celebrities in the months since she first garnered national attention with her fight. But next Monday, Nov. 8, she will find herself in some truly heady company when she heads to Carnegie Hall in New York City to accept a Glamour magazine Women of the Year Award. Just look at the folks with whom Constance is being honored: Grammy Award-winning pop star Fergie, Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, designer Donatella Versace, singer-actress-icon-goddess Cher (who will be honored with a lifetime achievement award), Queen Rania of Jordan and sports superstars Lindsey Vonn, Mia Hamm and Lisa Leslie.
Katie Spotz, the 22-year-old who rowed solo across the Atlantic to raise awareness for the global need for clean drinking water, OB-gyn Dr. Hawa Awi and her daughters who have faced down militants and threats to their lives to provide food and care for some 90,000 displaces Somali refugees on their property near Mogadishu, and worldwide female heads of states — including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, Prime Minister Iveta Radičovó of Slovakia, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor of Croatia — are also among the honorees.
Can you say, “Wow”?
Take a minute to think about the accomplishments of the women named in the list above. Then think about Constance McMillen and what she has accomplished. I think it is amazing — and fantastic — that Glamour magazine is putting an 18-year-old lesbian who stood up for her right to take her girlfriend to the prom in the company of these other outstanding women who have done their part to change the world and make it a better place.