OPINION: Clothes don’t make the man – or woman

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– e.e. cummings

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
– Dr. Seuss

Perhaps, by now, you’ve heard of Ceara Sturgis. Or perhaps not. Here are a few matters of some consequence: She’s 17, popular, a National Honor Society member, a player of the trumpet, a goalie on her soccer team, a senior at Wesson Attendance Center down in south Mississippi.
She’s come to terms at an early age with who she is – a young gay woman. To some, that may be a matter of great consequence; to some, sadly, it will define in totality who this young woman is.
In truth, it’s only a small piece of the person of Ceara Sturgis. Important to her, but that she happens to be gay should matter not one whit to others.
Anyone who knows her should be grateful she’s not one of the many human beings who struggle with their sexuality while witnessing the callousness of much of society and opt for suicide or the pain of living a lie.
Ceara Sturgis is comfortable in her own skin, and that’s a good thing.
And she decided she’d rather wear a tux in her senior portrait than the traditional drapes girls have long been forced to wear. She had her picture made during the summer. But the powers that be in the Copiah County School District have said Ceara’s head shot will not appear in the yearbook.
And because Ceara has an amazing amount of courage, she is questioning the fairness of the decision. Her mama supports her, her classmates support her and I’d be willing to bet, whether they have voiced it or not, some of her teachers support her.
Not so, officials of the school district.
So, now the ACLU is threatening legal action and Ceara’s story is being told by all manner of media – statewide and national.
As colleague Patsy Brumfield and I agreed in a Thursday morning conversation, those traditional drapes are actually sexist. But that’s another topic for another day.
In high school and in college, I, along with my female classmates, had to don the drape. But I’ve seen more modern composite and yearbook photos that have students dressed casually and sitting under trees.
Why in the world does it make one iota of a difference what one wears in a small square of a photo in a book that a decade from now will likely be in the back of a closet or the bottom of a drawer, taken out only when it’s time to play “remember him” or “remember her” before a reunion.
A public high school in a quiet town in south Mississippi has an opportunity to show understanding, acceptance and compassion. An opportunity to glory in the rich diversity of its students.
An opportunity to celebrate the courage of one young woman.
There’s still time to choose enlightenment.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@ djournal.com or (662) 678-1584.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal