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Let me introduce you to Ceara Sturgis, a 17-year-old student at a Wesson Attendance high school. She’s an honors student, member of the school marching band, and member of SADD.

However, Ceara Sturgis has done something so offensive by her school administration’s standards that she will not be allowed to have her picture in the school 2009-2010 yearbook. 

She wore a tuxedo in her school yearbook photo shoot.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Ceara identifies as a lesbian, and chooses to wear boys’ clothing, and has done so since her freshman year?

So what’s the deal here? Apparently, her school requires males to wear tuxedos and females to wear drapes. But Ceara, who has consistently worn boys’ clothing, decided to stay consistent and wore a suit, just like her male peers.

The school officials say they are clear in their requirements over what males and females are allowed to wear in their photos, and since Ceara has not complied, she does not get to have her photo in the yearbook. After further prying by media sources, it was revealed that Ceara is also openly gay.

At this point, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken over Ceara’s case, approaching it from a freedom-of-expression point of view. The school officials are still standing their ground.

There are a lot of opinions on this case. There are those that feel this is a GLBTQ issue, and that the school’s exclusion of her photo shows intolerance towards GLBTQ students. Then there are those who feel she should not get the option to wear a suit instead of a drape regardless of her sexual orientation: she is a female, and females wear drapes; this is not an issue about sexuality.

Here is some history on how similar cases have turned out, taken from USA Today’s article on this case, Girl in tuxedo denied a place in school yearbook:

In Waldorf, Md., a Westlake High senior was denied the option of wearing a tuxedo for her yearbook photo. Her mother complained, and the school reversed the decision after discovering other schools had allowed it, schools spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said.

In Dunnellon, Fla., a 16-year-old boy was sent home in March for violating Marion County School District dress code by wearing makeup, high-heeled boots and a bra. The policy on the district website states that students must dress "in keeping with their gender." Kathy Richardson, of the school district, said the boy’s cross-dressing was an isolated event.

In Lebanon, Ind., school officials in March reversed a ban on cross-dressing when a female senior decided to wear a tux to the prom. The girl sued the district, but the issue was settled when a "gender-neutral" policy was adopted. "We were OK with making that switch," Lebanon High Principal Kevin O’Rourke said.

What are your opinions? I think Ceara is incredibly brave, and if you check out the articles on this subject on Google News you’ll see that she has an incredibly supportive mother. 

I also hope the school overturns their decision. Do they think this is not going to happen in the future? People in this country have been separated into either ‘masculine and male’ or ‘feminine and female’ categories for centuries, even though people who were outside or in-between these groups have always existed. We live in exciting times, where those of us who do not fit into either of those groups are demanding to be recognized and respected. And what better place than school, especially the formative years of high school,  to rienforce the practice of respecting and understanding those who are different? 

Kudos to Ceara and her mother! Honestly, how many of us can say we let who we really are stand out in high school.

By the way, great picture! 

Show your support for Ceara Sturgis on her Facebook Fan Page here.

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