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Gay Florida High School Student Sent Home for Drag Activism


Justin Reynolds, a junior at Dunnellon High School in Dunnellon, Florida, wanted to raise awareness about gender identity, gay students, and freedom of expression, so he told his teacher he would be wearing drag to class the next day. He did, and was sent home by 11 am.

However, his demonstration has had its intended effect, inspiring a debate on First Amendment rights.

Reynolds2 reports: "The 16-year-old student, who is gay, said he first ran the idea by his teacher a day beforehand. She discouraged it but gave him the opportunity to address his classmates that morning. 'A lot of people responded to it well. I didn't think I was causing that much of a disruption,' Reynolds said, recalling the cheers and high-fives that greeted him, especially after he spoke in tribute to Gwen Araujo, a transgender California teen brutally murdered in October 2002. In a brief conference held with the school's principal and assistant principal shortly thereafter, Reynolds was asked to leave school for the day...'He and I had a conversation about what reaction he would get from peers,' said Principal Michelle Lewis. 'A decision was made that it would be best for him to go home. This was a group decision after healthy conversation. There was no kind of animosity. Discipline wasn't the tone of the conversation.' Reynolds recalls how school officials seemed especially uncomfortable with his wearing a bra stuffed with padding underneath his shirt. He remembers how one administrator could barely look him in the eye. And he waives any notion that his attire was a mere stunt to get kicked out of school. 'I was ready to stay the entire day. I was prepared to stay the whole day,' he said."

Reynolds has in the past tried to start a Gay-Straight alliance at the school but says it was "shot down" by a teacher during his freshman year.

DHS sends boy home for dressing as a girl []

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  1. So, a 16 year old in Florida wears drag to class and the reaction from his peers is positive? He speaks out about transgender activism and the students respond with cheers and high-fives? This is truly a new world. If I had tried that when I was 16, I wouldn't have survived homeroom. No wonder the religious right is scared, they have lost the young generation. Within a few years, these kids are going to change everything.

    Posted by: sam | Mar 31, 2009 9:57:29 AM

  2. What a great kid! Very courageous and inspiring action on his part. I tell you, the activism of a lot of today's youth are putting the more mature members of the population to shame...

    Posted by: ichabod | Mar 31, 2009 10:02:45 AM

  3. So impressed by him doing this. Brave kid.

    Posted by: Scott | Mar 31, 2009 10:06:21 AM

  4. "... sent home by 11am."

    And so he should be!

    If the student identified as transgender then there should be no issue with the attire. But this guy did nothing more than dress up! and I expect that is against most school's dress policy.

    Posted by: nudel | Mar 31, 2009 10:09:08 AM

  5. ...but he didn't dress up. He wore exactly what he's wearing in that picture, and unless the school has banned V-necks, he shouldn't have been sent home.

    Posted by: Bryant | Mar 31, 2009 10:22:22 AM

  6. Without knowing this guy, I don't know if he is truly courageous or just craving attention (negative or positive).

    What really concerns me is that a school full of kids now equate being gay with putting on a dress and bad makeup. This is not good for all of us in the long run.

    I have the same reservations about Gay Pride Parades that show more drag queens, almost naked muscle boys, leather dykes and bears - all stereotypes that we have to deal with everyday - than average gay men and women. The minority has become the public face of the majority and it makes our progress more difficult.

    It's time we stop promoting any stereotypes and insist that a balanced view of gay men and women be presented by our organizations. There isn't much that can be done to prevent individuals from promoting their individual views but, at least, we can try to have other views available.

    Posted by: MB | Mar 31, 2009 10:23:04 AM

  7. haha, i read the headline too fast. thought it said they were sent home for drug activism. i thought "well, DUH!"


    anyways, good for him. thats great that his classmates weren't bothered by it.

    Posted by: liz templin | Mar 31, 2009 10:26:34 AM

  8. He dissrupted class and made lots of straight kids equate gay with wearing dresses and acting girly..and now of course he's famous instead of being mediocre like before....sounds more like a "famewhore" than an activist....

    Posted by: alan brickma | Mar 31, 2009 10:31:24 AM

  9. It doesn't sound like he was doing it for any reason other than to raise awareness. We should be very proud of anyone who can put themselves out there when it's difficult - it's hard enough to be out and proud as an adult, let alone when you're a teen at school.

    The naysayers complaining about gay pride and school rules should remember that it often takes outrageous or unusual acts on the parts of strong people to open up opportunities for others. There are probably many closet gays in his school who will now realise that a guy can dress in drag and get a positive response. Maybe there are trans kids in the school who will now feel a little better about themselves. I bet before this happened the closeted and trans kids would have expected ridicule, suspension and maybe even violence for something like this. His bravery has likely given them some hope.

    Posted by: argyle | Mar 31, 2009 10:54:28 AM

  10. Jeez, such shpilkes over a v-neck t-shirt and a shoulder-length hairstyle.

    I think the commentary here is underestimating the next generation. Whether this student is really trans or just making a statement, the fact remains that the only people who had a problem with it were the teachers. Honey, I grew up in Oklahoma in the 80s. If I had shown up at Stillwater High School with that getup on, I'd have been killed by lunchtime. The fact that he wasn't harrassed (in the south, no less) really says something about the young people in America. No one's equating all gays with wearing a dress and acting girly... but let's face it, some folks like wearing dresses and acting girly. If that's their authentic self, then more power to them. Same to the bears, and the fierce drag queens, and the muscle marys, and the topless dykes, and the leather daddies... they're as much a part of our community as the guys who look more conservative like me. Besides, not so very long ago it was these "freaks" who were the only ones who had the balls to live openly and honestly, so let's not get too uppity about the more flamboyantly inclined among us. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and besides... lots of times they're just a ton of fun.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Mar 31, 2009 10:57:18 AM

  11. @ Scott: "...this guy did nothing more than dress up!"

    WTF? He's 16 what did you expect? A GLAAD assembly meetng and a parade. He saw an injustice, felt there was a fun and safe way to bring light to the subject and acted.

    At best, it could be asked of him to wear a more seasonable outfit next time! But really, whatelse is 16yo supposed to do!

    Posted by: MammaRice | Mar 31, 2009 11:03:13 AM

  12. if, in deed, he gained acceptance by the other kids, where does the derision on this thread come from? look within bitches.

    Posted by: nic | Mar 31, 2009 11:43:05 AM

  13. Oh, those kids know the difference between all our terms, they're not going to think that gay = man in a dress. I'm also sure that our young friend here would correct and inform them if they did have that confusion.
    But anyway, way to go Justin(e), you look fabulous in drag, and your bravery is to be commended. It really is a different world.

    Posted by: clint | Mar 31, 2009 11:49:32 AM

  14. A lot of transphobic comments here. The reality is that there is discrimination against LGB and T people. I happen to be a gay male who is not transgendered. It amazes me that people on here are making comments like, "now all the kids at school equate being gay with being transgendered." So what? Is there something wrong with transgendered people? Does it threaten you that people might lump you in with them? Shame on you.

    This kid is doing exactly what he needs to do. I don't care whether he just wants attention or not. As one commenter said, the fact that his peers support him speaks volumes, and it's because of him and predecessors like him that we've come so far. We've got a long way to go, but every little bit helps.

    My only disappointment comes from the fact that he said he would not press the school on it. The school has an illegal and unconstitutional policy explicitly written in its dress code, namely that students have to dress "in keeping with their gender," or something like that. As another commenter said, he is wearing attire that would be absolutely appropriate on a female, but he is barred from wearing it because he is a male. That is the epitome of unconstitutional gender discrimination, and the school would lose in court if challenged, which it absolutely should be.

    Posted by: John K. | Mar 31, 2009 11:49:38 AM

  15. next up, teh gays gotta do something about the school that looks like a big box store.

    Posted by: alguien | Mar 31, 2009 11:53:43 AM

  16. Uh, MB and Alan Brickma, y'all did see the "gender identity" part, right?

    This kid wasn't saying, "I'm gay! Let gay people crossdress!" He was trying to raise awareness both about being gay, and about gender identity - if one kid can present as another gender for a day, then others who are more timid might be willing to give it a try. Or, at the very least, feel not so alone.

    Posted by: echoecho | Mar 31, 2009 11:56:55 AM

  17. MB, stereotypes exist for a reason. For many, a stereotype may be their personal truth, and it's not your place (or anyone else's) to knock that.

    It was a drag queen that kicked off the Stonewall Riots (if you recall your LGBT activism history). It's always the minority that fights for change within the majority of a minority (if that makes sense). Why? Because often we feel we have less to lose. We can scream louder, so we do.

    If more "average" gays and lesbians would speak out, show up and MARCH in Gay Pride Parades, march in other protests, speak out to news organizations, etc., maybe the face of the LGBT community would be portrayed as diversely as it actually is.

    Don't ask the drag queens to shut up. Don't ask the dykes on bikes to shut up. Don't ask the muscle boys to shut up. We need all of our voices to affect real change and promote acceptance (not simply tolerance) everywhere. And for many, that means starting with accepting those that differ from you (and me) within your (our) own community.

    I agree that the general population needs to see that we come in all shapes and forms, all income levels, all races, varied interests, etc. However, it goes back to what you said about promoting "individual views." The "average" (whatever that means) members of our community need to speak out and promote their own individiual views in order to show that there are other views available.

    Also, why must we be so cynical as to assume he only dressed up for attention? If you read the actual post, he also tried to get a gay-straight alliance started within his school (to no avail).

    ALAN BRICKMA, his generation is more than savvy enough to know that being gay is not equivalent with wearing dresses (he wore jeans, btw) and acting girly. (Meanwhile, some gays are more effeminate, and you should just come to terms with that.) Kids these days are far more aware than you're giving them credit for. They can discern between transgender, transexual, transvestite, and drag queen, while the older generations (particularly those older than I am) can't seem to wrap their heads around it all.

    Posted by: Jason | Mar 31, 2009 11:59:31 AM

  18. @Nudel -- what part of what he is wearing could really violate a dress code? There are no obscenities printed on his clothing, no spiked collars, no ass cracks showing. It's a t-shirt and jeans.

    I think he's fucking brave and the only thing he did wrong was actually getting students to think in a Florida school. He made the overpaid teachers look bad.

    Posted by: paul c | Mar 31, 2009 12:36:11 PM

  19. Always worth noting that gay men are MEN first and will resort to gender based bashing when threatened. Hence, diva arguments and trans hate. Sad.

    There is no normal. There is only you, me, him or her as created! Vive le difference!

    Posted by: Ben | Mar 31, 2009 12:45:57 PM

  20. "What really concerns me is that a school full of kids now equate being gay with putting on a dress and bad makeup. This is not good for all of us in the long run."

    He didn't put on a dress and bad makeup, but even if he did, how is that bad for us in the long run? As others have pointed out, kids today are more sophisticated than that. Since more and more students his age are out, they see a diverse group of gay people, some who are into drag, some who aren't. For each kid who might be turned off by his "dressing up," another kid might be given permission to be more himself by dressing up. We needn't all fit neatly into gender boxes--there is room for expression all along the gender spectrum. Celebrate the differences, don't lock them up.

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 31, 2009 1:03:46 PM

  21. Yay, Justin!

    All you homophobic and transphobic commenters, you should realize the drag queens and diesel dykes helped start the work towards equality. I'm not much for heroes and history, but I'm proud of the risks they took.

    And so what if this kid wanted attention--isn't that the point? If he didn't, he'd probably be sitting in his closet typing whiny comments about how only certain LGBT people deserve equality.

    Posted by: James | Mar 31, 2009 1:40:02 PM

  22. ok, here goes...

    1. He wore a stuffed bra. This wasn't just wearing a couple of pieces of female clothing to raise awareness, he went all the way. The school felt it was disruptive. It's their call until someone challenges the dress code...

    2. There is a legal argument to be made for said challenge. The USSCt has held that the school must prove that the behaviour in question is actually disruptive to the educational environment. The only thing I see the school effectively arguing is that this kid is gay and not a real transgendered person, and that this equates a publicity stunt. I'm not sure they win on that; I'm sorry he's not pushing it further.

    3. Note that not one national transgender group has stood up so far. Interesting to all of those crying about how we're not supporting him.

    4. Sexual orientation is on the cuff of rational basis and intermediate scrutiny when it comes to constitutional challenges. I don't even think gender identity is on the map, unless, as usual, we just want to lump in any non-hetero in the same alphabet soup. So, no, he is NOT exercizing any constitutional right.

    Posted by: DR | Mar 31, 2009 1:56:17 PM

  23. @DR,

    ok, here goes ...

    1. eat shit and die.

    2. maybe if you made sense instead of babbling gobblydegook, you might get a wider audience.

    3. please translate you statement #4 into real language. perhaps, then, we can talk.

    Posted by: nic | Mar 31, 2009 2:11:37 PM

  24. Uhm, yeah, whatever. Reading is fundamental. Learn to do it you PC Thug.

    Posted by: DR | Mar 31, 2009 2:13:57 PM

  25. DR,

    i'm still waiting for the translation....

    Posted by: nic | Mar 31, 2009 3:05:13 PM

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