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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I fought back against discrimination

Desiree Shelton is an out lesbian and a senior at Champlin Park High School, in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District. She and her girlfriend, Sarah Lindstrom, were elected to the school's Snow Days royalty court for the winter formal dance. They sued their school district--with the help of lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Faegre & Benson LLP--after school officials said they couldn't walk together in the traditional couples' processional for the royalty court at the school-wide Snow Days Pep Fest assembly. The district settled the case and, on Jan. 31, the two girls walked in the procession hand in hand as their classmates cheered.

Note: In the photo above, Shelton is on the right. Her girlfriend, Sarah Lindstrom, is on the left.

Lately, everyone seems to have a strong opinion of this whole Snow Days controversy, and I feel like it's important for me to explain why we did what we did. This was more than a high school Pep Fest--it was about basic rights and the ongoing fight for equality that seems so hard to win, even in 2011.

In the beginning, after Sarah and I found out that we were both nominated as royalty, a couple of people suggested that we should walk together during the procession, matching tuxes and all. We thought this was a great idea, and we talked to two straight male friends, who were also on the royalty court, who agreed to walk together so that no one was left out. Sarah and I were really looking forward to being able to share this occasion together and also thought this would be a great opportunity to send a positive message to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and its allies (after all the bad media the school had been getting about the gay-related suicides) by showing other students that LGBT students can express ourselves, defy gender roles, and still be treated as equal to other students, and not feel ashamed or hide "in the closet" for fear of harassment. We felt that even something as small as having two lesbians walk in the procession together could have a big impact on other LGBT students.


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