Gay Florida High School Student Sent Home for Drag Activism

Justinreynolds

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
Ocala.com 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 [ocala.com]

Comments

  1. says

    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.

  2. ichabod says

    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…

  3. nudel says

    “… 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.

  4. Bryant says

    …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.

  5. MB says

    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.

  6. liz templin says

    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.

  7. says

    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….

  8. argyle says

    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.

  9. says

    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.

  10. MammaRice says

    @ 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!

  11. nic says

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

  12. clint says

    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.

  13. John K. says

    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.

  14. echoecho says

    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.

  15. says

    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.

  16. paul c says

    @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.

  17. Ben says

    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!

  18. says

    “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.

  19. James says

    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.

  20. DR says

    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.

  21. nic says

    @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.

  22. DR says

    Then sadly, you’ll need an interpreter. I don’t respond more than once to comments like “eat shit and die”. You’ll have to get someone else to talk to you.

  23. crispy says

    >>>It was a drag queen that kicked off the Stonewall Riots

    Oh, dear. That comment’s been posted for nearly 4 hours, and still no lecture from Leland? Somebody better send a nurse to make sure Miss Francis is still breathing.

  24. TANK says

    I see that Nic is winning friends and influencing people yet again with his inane comments. PC thug…I think it’s the new excuse to be a bigot.

  25. says

    DR,

    Okay, here goes. . .

    1) He is well within his right to challenge the dresscode. Gainesville, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, and other cities in Florida have recently made strides towards protecting transgendered persons. And, for your information, that includes not only gender identity, but also gender expression. In other words, Justin has a very strong case. Additionally, courts in other states have ruled that schools must accomodate the trans community (i.e. Massachusetts). Again, Justin has a very strong case if he wishes to pursue it. Any lawyer worth his weight could draw those parrallels and make a case.

    2. Again, gender expression could be pulled into play here. Furthermore, he could argue that his outerwear (v-neck tee and jeans) complied with the dresscode and that it’s not the school’s business as to what his underwear is comprised of. Public schools don’t typically make rulings about underwear except that it not be seen. Furthermore, if they complain about the wig, they’re opening up a huge can of worms. (The black girls wouldn’t be too happy.) 😉 Also, most public schools don’t dictate gender-specific hair lengths anymore, so the fact that the hair is long (though a wig) is also a non-issue.

    3) It’s relatively early to say no transgendered groups are standing up for him. Are you the trans group watchdog? Also, why make a deal of those of us who do stand up for him and his rights?

    4) Sexual orientation is on the brink of something big (I’ll speak in layman’s terms), but you’re wrong in assuming that gender identity is not. First of all, for every state that agrees to gay marriage, rights are extended to transgendered individuals who do not identify as transexuals and choose not to legally (or surgically) change their sex. Why is it a bad thing to lump us together? We’re stronger in numbers. Did you know that science is pretty damn sure that what makes a lesbian a lesbian is not remotely related to what makes a gay man a gay man? Of course, that opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, but still. . .we fight together because we’re stronger in numbers. We fight together because discrimination anywhere is a vote for discrimination everywhere.

    He’s not exercising any constitutional right? That’s your conclusion. Well, it wasn’t a logical conclusion to the argument you were making in your fourth point. Nonetheless, whether or not he is or isn’t exercising a constitutional right would be for a court to decide, not you.

  26. says

    Oh look, a rational Jason!

    And Crispy’s right, where IS miss Frances? The very idea of associating drag queens with rights!

  27. Jim says

    He wasn’t being outrageous, he was making a point. He went about it the correct way. This is where our future Harvey Milk’s are coming from. The younger generation must take the lead that people like Harvey handed them. Movies are fine, but real action in the schools, businesses and governments is what is needed. My time here is almost at an end. My generation was beaten, arrested, put in prison for serving in the military or locked up in asylums. We broke loose with Stonewall and things have been changing every since. Keep it up Justin Reynolds, you are making the world better for someone else. Thanks from an old timer.

  28. DR says

    @Jason:

    Actually, on points #1 and #2, I could not find a case that would go as far as you suggest. There was one in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee), Smith v City of Salem, but it’s not really been expanded beyond that circuit as far as I can tell, and it’s not binding precedent on any other Appeals circuit.

    Only one case I found took anything resembling this issue to the USSCt, Price Waterhouse v Hopkins, but circuit courts appear to be divided on the difference between “gender stereotyping” versus “gender identity”.

    By the way, I did actually say in my point two that I agreed with the interpretation of the 6th Circuit and am disappointed that he’s not pursuing this.

    As for our point three, I do wish that some transgendered groups would say something. They NEED to say something IMO.

    And no, there is no constitutional right to be transgendered. I cannot find a case interpreting the 14th Amendment as it applies to those who identify as transgendered. I’ve seen some Title VII cases, but not 14th A. Since it’s not recognized under the 14th A, we have a problem crying “Constitutional Right”. Now, if you happen to have a case decided on 14th Amendment grounds which I may have missed, please, tell me, and I’ll be more than happy to read it. But so far, haven’t found one. But hey, if you can prove me wrong on this issue, great, I’d rather it be that way.

  29. John K. says

    DC: I’m also sorry he’s not pushing it further. Your statement in number two seemed to mean you thought he had a good case, then in 4 you said he was not exercising a constitutional right. First of all, the constitutional right is equal protection. This is a restriction based on gender, which triggers intermediate scrutiny and means the school needs to show that the rule is substantially related to an important governmental interest. It also means that the school has the burden of proof. I believe you are also correct that they have to show actual disruption, but that might be just in free speech cases. In any event, the disruption cannot be just that the other students became disruptive; that would be a “heckler’s veto,” which by itself does not meet the disruption test. The school loses this one if it goes to court.

  30. John K. says

    DR: again, you’re misstating the constitutional right at issue here. We are talking about an equal protection claim about a rule that makes an explicit distinction based on gender itself.

  31. DR says

    @John K

    No, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment has not been interpreted to include “gender identity” as part of “gender”. Unless you have a case which states the contrary, the USSCt has not elevated “gender identity” to the same category as “gender” to the best of my legal research. There is no definitive USSCt ruling on this issue to the best of my knowledge.

    As I said, if you have a case, please cite it. Perhaps individual states have interpreted their own state constitutions in such a manner (my jurisdiction, PA, has not), but the United States Supreme Court has never done so.

    My own personal belief is that they would probably lump it in the “rational basis” test with “sexual orientation”; it’s just not that liberal.

    And yes, I checked on the disruption. It was the “Bong Hits for Jesus” case. It needs more than a heckler’s veto to qualify as disruption based on my reading of the cases; there needs to be a genuine disruption of the academic process or advcacy of illegal activity. This is neither.

  32. DR says

    @NIC

    Tough. You don’t get to rewrite Con Law because you throw a temper tantrum. If you can’t contribute anything intelligent, just go away and let the adults talk.

  33. Derrick from Philly says

    Transfolk are cool, Drag Queens are fab, Gay Men are image conscious–which is tired.

  34. Bear says

    I’m from Florida and I think this is just a silly stunt for attention.
    I’m aware of something that happened in our local rural community that should have been in the news. A straight boy went to school at our local Jr.Sr.Highschool wearing a dress. He did not do it only once but several times. His cause? He was protesting the way the girls (female students as well as some of the teachers) were dressing. He felt that they should dress properly as girls and not come to school wearing mens clothes. He told me that if girls could wear boys clothes then boys should be allowed to wear girls clothing. Each time he went to school wearing one of his mothers dresses he was sent home. No newspapers or media were called. Nothing was done except for him being sent home for the remainder of the day. Yet he had a reason and a cause.
    As for the gay boy wearing girls (?)clothing? When I looked at the picture it looked to me as a fat boy with long hair just standing there. I had to look at the picture several times before I even noticed the bra. To me this was a prepared stunt with media informed ahead of time. What he should have done was to wear a dress or at least a skirt. The way he looked he could have gone all day and not be noticed had the media not been informed ahead of time. His only reason to do this appears more to be for personal attention.

  35. nic says

    @DR,

    you said that i needed to find someone else to talk to, yet here you come again. you are pretty easy to seduce for a wannabe constitutional scholar, a failure following another failure (antonin scalia).

    while the constitution does not state that all freedoms of expression are acceptable, say half-sawing through the spokes of your neighbor’s carriage because he refuses to scoop up his horses poop in front of your path to town, or, translating to modern day, slashing your neighbor’s tires because his dog constantly barks when you are trying to get your 30 winks, it does not define what is unacceptable.

    you cannot be serious in entertaining the idea that the founding fathers would be browbeating each other over whose powdered wig was less powdered than the other. and if one of those guys, late from taking a whore bath (whatevere served as Fabreeze and English Leather and Aqua Velva back in those days) had forgotten to slap on his wig to cover up his shiney pate. would he have been sent home for causing a ruckus or disrupting the constitutional conventions?

    is not freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, all either inherent or implicit in the constitution? i don’t mean to be dismissive, but you are quibbling.

  36. charity tupa says

    dress codes are very gay.. why does it matter what we where at school.? as long as we are learning its not hurting anyone. most teachers are to busy sending students to the office than letting us stay in class and learn. Everyone says that this TAKS test is important but it seems like they are more worried about our clothes than the test. we should change the dress code and let us wear what we want so we can get back to our lives and worrie about that TAKS. thank you, Charity tupa

  37. says

    I’m a student at Dunnellon High school, and this happened this year at my school. I’m a sophmore, and so is my friend Ellie. Most of us students saw Justin and that didn’t bother us one bit. And when he got sent home, lot of the kids were really upset, because we couldn’t understand why some of the girls in my school could be openly gay, and choose to wear more manly apparel and not be asked to leave, but when Justin wore something girly he was. Ellie knows Justin, and the minute she got on the bus she was telling me all about how they asked him to leave. I was outraged. That is like telling people it was wrong, IT WASN’T. I think it was very unjust. If Justin had been making a specticle of himself, I could understand that, but he wasn’t, he was not trying to gain attention during class. It really bothers me that us students going to DHS are more accepting to a young man and showing more commen scence then the people who are suppose to be running the school, and teaching us how to act later on in life. I cannot wait until the older generation can put aside their beliefs on “right and wrong” and just let us do what is equal.