Anna Watson is a 17-year-old junior at Itawamba County Agricultural High School, the same institution that recently canceled its own prom because 18-year-old Constance McMillen wanted to bring—um, what words should I use?—another human? to the dance. The fact that the other human McMillen wanted to bring happened to have a vagina sparked rage amongst enough of Fulton, Mississippi’s townspeople so as to inspire the school district to eradicate prom altogether.
On March 10, The Huffington Post and others nabbed a few quotes from Miss Watson to show that while generally disappointed with the cancellation, some students actually sided with the school district.
“I am a little bummed out about it,” Watson said. “I guess it’s a decision that had to be made. Either way someone was going to get disappointed – either Constance was or we were.”
She could have stopped there. At that point, everything she had said, while utterly foul from a civil rights perspective—she’d really be “disappointed” if another human being got to take whom she wanted to prom?—it was at least logical from a basic, inhuman, stereotypical perspective. It was at least coherent and grammatically correct. It at least made sense, to her, in her world, as well as to us when we read her comments: either the lesbian would be upset if not allowed to attend, or everyone else would be upset if they canceled prom when said lesbian forced the issue to the courts. The world where the lesbian goes to prom with her lesbian date, Anna goes to prom with her perfectly straight, penis-clad carbon-based life form, and everyone is happy…apparently this world does not, cannot exist.
But Miss Watson went further.
“I don’t agree with homosexuality,” said Watson, “but I can’t change what another person thinks or does.”
This sentence floored me.
Let’s deal with section A: “I don’t agree with homosexuality.”
We’ve heard these words before. Maybe it was a parent, a friend, a teacher, who was generally nice, overall pretty tolerant, and intelligent too, but someone who was just “old fashioned,” who was either homophobic or found homosexuality unnatural or immoral, or just so-much-not-for-them that they prefer it not exist, or would rather not talk about such things. Or maybe they’re basically sexual libertarians—not caring what people do in their bedrooms—but not wanting too much of a public display or government involvement. Plenty of these individuals inhabit our lives and our stories, and most of them are actually not Nazis hell-bent on infringing upon everyone’s civil rights.
“I don’t agree with homosexuality,” this generally well-meaning individual may have said.
The problem is that the sentence is meaningless.
Look it up in a dictionary, Anna: homosexuality is not a position with which one might agree or disagree.
Elton John cannot agree with homosexuality. Carson from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cannot agree with homosexuality. Ellen DeGeneres cannot agree with homosexuality.
It’s literally—literally literally—impossible.
What you maybe meant to say, Anna, was something like this: “I don’t agree that homosexuals should be able to attend prom like normal straight kids.” Or: “I don’t agree with the position that homosexuals have the same rights as straight people.” Or: “I agree with the school district’s decision to cancel prom and keep the lesbians out.”
Aside from some isms and ists, it’s grammatically, logically, linguistically impossible to agree or disagree with most nouns: with persons, places, or things you just don’t like. You cannot “disagree” them out of existence.
If I could do that, then God help me I disagree the fuck out of mayonnaise on my hamburger. I disagree with Cleveland. I disagree with Pokemon. I disagree with paper cuts. I disagree with small blankets that fail to cover me entirely. I disagree with too much snow. I disagree with most poetry.
And I really, really agree with nice legs.
On to section B: “I can’t change what another person thinks or does.”
I argue that this shocking utterance implies that if she could, she would.
If she could change Constance’s sexuality, Anna might do it. If she could control what her schoolmates thought or did, she would. And since she can’t, she supports the school that blocks those thoughts and actions from taking place. If she felt otherwise, if she really respected the fundamental right of one human to hold thoughts, desires, and beliefs somewhat different from hers, why lament the inability to change hearts and minds in a public forum?
You see, Anna is different from that generally nice old-fashioned person who just doesn’t like talking about gays.
She’s actually a seventeen year old fascist.
Anna—and everyone who thinks they “agreed” with her “disagreement” with homosexuality—is committing a small semantic crime to cover up a big intolerant one. How ironic that the sons and daughters of Mississippi’s social conservatives use a twisted political correctness to parse their bigotry. They can’t come out and say they don’t want fags at their dance. So they refer you to their archaic rule book, cancel prom, and say they don’t agree with homosexuality, as if A) one could disagree with a thing, a sexuality, and B) as if disagreeing with something can wipe it from the face of the Earth.
Anna’s parents and grandparents in the South—and others who lauded the school district’s decision—shouldn’t need reminding that the United States in the 1940’s entered a conflict largely because we didn’t agree with the positions of a fascist, imperialist government in Germany.
Hitler didn’t “agree” with a lot of folks, and his armies successfully eliminated millions.
I’m not saying Anna wants to start a revolution of some kind; I’m asking, how many of our youth “agree” with her? How many good, Christian homes—many of them with veterans in their families who fought hard against much smarter fascists—have sons and daughters who would want to change what people think and what people do, how people dress and who people love, and would support a school system that clearly infringes upon the civil rights of students?
I’m asking if we’ve come all that far since The Little Rock Nine.
In Charleston, Mississippi, the high school held its first racially integrated prom just two years ago. Two years ago. Two-thousand and eight. Before that, there was a white prom and a black prom. And they only had the desegregated prom in 2008 because the actor, Morgan Freeman, from Charleston, offered to pay for the prom on the condition that both whites and blacks attend. And still, after the dance, some whites reportedly had a “white’s only” prom.
I’m asking: what if Constance wanted to take a black guy to the dance? Good God, what if she wanted to take a black girl?
I’m asking: is it okay to take a Jewish person to a dance in Fulton, Mississippi?
Is there a more expansive list of undanceables?
I’m asking: what would the school do if its white, straight, All-State, All-American hotshot jock quarterback wanted to take two chicks to prom? That’s right, two chicks. That means pics with two chicks. Limo with two chicks. Spiked punch with two chicks. Dancing with two chicks. Hotel room with two chicks. Clearly, the Bible does not support ménage à trois. But would they stop the prick? Would they cancel prom? Would there be a big enough ruckus to make the papers?
I goddamned–pun intended–doubt it.