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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gay Kiss Blacked Out

posted by on June 23 at 12:45 PM

Andre Jackson, a high school student in New Jersey, paid $150 a special “tributes page” in his high school yearbook. When school administrators saw one of the photos he chose for his page—a picture of Andre kissing his boyfriendthey seized all the copies of East Side High’s yearbook and blacked out the photo.

Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden called the photograph “illicit” and ordered it blacked out of the $85 yearbook before it was distributed to students at a banquet for graduating seniors Thursday.

“It looked provocative,” she said. “If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out.”

Well I guess that’s alright—I mean, if East Side High has a policy against yearbook photos of students kissing, be they gay or straight, and this one photo of Andre kissing his boyfriend somehow slipped past the yearbooks editors, then I guess this isn’t a big deal. I mean, so long as everyone is being treated equally, right?

There are several photos of heterosexual couples kissing in the yearbook, but the superintendent said she didn’t review the entire yearbook and was presented only with Jackson’s page….

“I don’t understand,” said Jackson, 18. “There is no rule about no gay pictures, no guys kissing. Guys and girls kissing made it in.”

Oh man! I did not see that coming! Okay, let’s sue the bastards—hey, Andre? Need money for college? Get yourself a lawyer.

Here’s the offending image…


I don’t see any tongue, do you? So what’s so provocative about that picture? It’s not the kiss—there are other couples shown kissing in the yearbook—it’s the gays. Some people regard the mere existence of gays and lesbians as a provocation. The school administers in New Jersey were worried that the picture would be “upsetting to parents,” which seems a bit broad. Only a minority of parents would have been offended—a loud, bigoted minority of parents, the kind of parents who like to pretend that there’s no such thing as gays and lesbians. Gays on TV, gays on the news, gays in their kids’ high school yearbook—that sets ‘em off the bigots, so the school erred on the side of censorship and discrimination.

The school opted to accommodate the bigots—potentially imaginary bigots! What are the odds that no one would have complained? School officials are so terrified of anti-gay bigots that they don’t even wait for a complaint. And that’s the world the anti-gay bigots want to live in—a world in which public officials are so terrified of the loud, bigoted minority that public officials proactively discriminate against gays and lesbians in order to placate the bigots.

Let’s end with the heartening bit of the story. Someone at East Side High gets it:

Rules for publication of the [tribute] pages prohibited shots of gang signs, rude gestures and graphic photos, said Benilde Barroqueiro, an East Side senior graduating with Jackson.

“You know, it couldn’t be too provocative. No making out, no tongue,” she said.

Students were surprised when they opened their books and found Jackson’s picture had been covered with marker, Barroqueiro said. “He purchased the page and fell under the rules,” she said. “If they want to kiss, that’s their page. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.”

UPDATE: Gay rights group makes some noise:

The gay-rights advocacy group Garden State Equality is demanding an apology from Newark School Superintendent Marion Bolden for ordering her staff to black out a picture of a gay couple kissing before distributing yearbooks to students at East Side High School.

Calling the directive both homophobic and unlawful, Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein said the school should also redistribute a new batch on uncensored yearbooks at the district’s expense.

“This action by the school district will have an unspeakably vile chilling effect on other gay and lesbian students coming out,” Goldstein said. “Her trying to erase a student and his boyfriend is a metaphor of her trying to erase the gay and lesbian community out of Newark and its school system. It’s wrong and it’s ridiculous.”

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Oh good gracious won't somebody think of the children. Tender young minds exposed to the idea of love and love between two men. The horror, oh the humanity.

To have this idea thrust upon them in such a way. I mean to avoid it they might have to turn a page or and oh goodness if they don't why they might be turned gay by the allure of it all.

Those dang gays and their seductive lifestyle corrupting all the good wholesome straight youth.

Posted by Giffy | June 23, 2007 1:02 PM


Posted by Matt | June 23, 2007 1:11 PM

Added, sorry.

Posted by Dan Savage | June 23, 2007 1:13 PM

When are people going to figure out that by banning or censoring something frivolously in the age of the internet, it's only going to become famous instantly and get circulated worldwide? Nobody outside of this high school would have seen this image if the administrators hadn't decided it was inappropriate- now millions of our impressionable teenagers will be further tempted by the 'mo's agenda.

Posted by Tom | June 23, 2007 1:20 PM

This is a teachable moment. Sue the bastards - that'll get their attention.

Posted by What Exit | June 23, 2007 2:03 PM

There's a new generation in high school right now that views gay people very, very differently from their parents. In a few years they're going to start changing things in this country. As soon as they start getting married in large numbers they're going to demand marriage equality for all. The far right knows gay issues have no legs, that's why they're fighting so hard now.

Posted by sam | June 23, 2007 2:05 PM

Employees of highschools are not the most computer literate people I know. The internet brings up fuzzy pictures of teenagers pirating music and posting pictures on Mybook or Facepage or some such tomfoolery.

Posted by Kerlyssa | June 23, 2007 2:14 PM

I read the title of this post wrong, I thought you were referring to the drunk antics of gay KISS cover band. :)

Posted by Suz | June 23, 2007 2:40 PM

It's a highly teachable moment:
Distributing a yearbook with your photo blanked over or blacked out is like telling the world "these dudes are disgusting and immoral."
Sue the school board for defamation! They'll cave in and settle then change their ways.

Posted by unPC | June 23, 2007 2:40 PM

Many argue Gay Pride is a relic from another age; it's lost its relevancy. And maybe it is true the GAY MOVEMENT is history. We can all hope for a time when it is no longer necessary.

But just as I begin to believe our work is done, a story like this emerges and I want to don my ACT UP t-shirt and Doc Marten's once again and go a-marchin'.

And kissing might be a little inappropriate for a yearbook. By the way, might this have anything to do with the formidable amount of homophobia in the African-American community?

Posted by Bauhaus | June 23, 2007 3:05 PM

Why hasn't anyone commented on how FREAKING ADORABLE that picture is? It melts your heart the way a bunny or a really stupid but happy dog would.

I'm glad I saw the picture, since usually I jump to the conclusion that gay rights groups are just being overly sensitive. Ah, naivety.

Posted by sniggles | June 23, 2007 4:41 PM

I'm with sniggles, it's a beautiful picture of a loving couple.

And there's the rub, LOVE. In the United States of Violence, love is a terrorist act.

Posted by orson | June 23, 2007 4:47 PM

I think the solution is clear: Somebody organize a way to print the photo for everyone who bought a yearbook. It's not that expensive, upload the photo to a digital photo processing website, pick the right size. I can think of multiple ways to then distribute it to the yearbooks owners, it's not hard. Find a sympathetic parent or group willing to pay for the printing costs. With a little bit of glue the photo is back where it belongs.

If I were a student at that school then I'd organize this myself. This is something the yearbook staff should be all over, they can easily make it happen.

And I agree with Sniggles, the photo is adorable. :)

Posted by Kristi in Kitsap | June 23, 2007 4:51 PM

I get the outrage. I get the inequality. The only thing I don't get is the Garden State equality's statement saying:

"This action by the school district will have an unspeakably vile chilling effect on other gay and lesbian students coming out"

In my book, that's victim talk. I have never felt "chilled" by inequality. I get pissed off by it. I get riled up and want to do something, and I felt that way in high school.

The example we - adults who know right from wrong - should be setting is that this is simply flat-out wrong. It's not about getting your feelings hurt, it's about doing what's right. After all, being gay ain't for sissies. ;-)

It's like the Air America station here in Seattle running a spot for some anti-war protest where they talk about feeling "distraught" about the war. I'm not distraught: I'm angry. I don't want to talk about my feelings, I want to work to end the war.

I guess I'm fed up with wimpy liberalism. It denies the beneficial benefits of good old-fashioned righteous (and reasonable) anger.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | June 23, 2007 5:09 PM

The picture that caused so much ire is so genuinely sweet and endearing. Really it is down-right depressing that people got their knickers in a twist and censored the image.

Posted by gfrancie | June 23, 2007 5:20 PM

I thought that New Jersey was the bluest of the Blue States. If this can happen there, what would have happened in, oh, I dunno, Midland TX or Savannah GA?

I agree that a new generation views orientation different (better) than ours or our parents, but it's not changing quickly enough.

The next President, if Democrat, is going to have to order the military fully integrated some time in his or her first term.

Posted by Big Sven | June 23, 2007 5:29 PM

I can't believe that ib this day and age The Man hasn't figured out that cencoring something only serves to give it a wider audience. They didn't want anyone to see it, now EVERYONE knows about it.

Whatta bunch of dumbshits...

Posted by Mike in MO | June 23, 2007 7:27 PM

Unfortunately, sensible gay and straight folks alike will have to deal with more of this small-minded, homophobic dumbfuckery before a critical mass of people develops such that schools are more interested in doing the right thing than appeasing the most bigoted among us. Until then, some well-placed lawsuits will have to do the job. Sue this stupid motherfucker and give her exactly what she deserves.

Posted by THobbes | June 23, 2007 8:00 PM

That picture wouldn't have been allowed in my high school's yearbook no matter who was doing the kissing. They were big on things being "appropriate." But yeah, in that case, they need to apply the policy evenly.

Since its obvious that at this school the picture only got censored because it was two guys, they should definitely do something about it. Printing the picture to paste into the yearbooks is a start, but that kid really ought to be threatening to sue the school district.

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