by Genevieve Berrick
High school senior Claudetteia Love, an openly gay honors student at Carroll High School in Monroe, Louisiana, thought that wearing a tuxedo to prom would be a non-issue.
She was wrong.
Love’s mother, Geraldine Jackson, said in an interview with The News Star that school principal Patrick Taylor informed Love and her family, “Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that’s the way it is.”
Further, if Love appeared at the event in a tuxedo, the formalwear she feels suits her best, the school staff would refuse to work, shutting the prom down altogether.
“I told my mom, ‘They’re using me,’” Love told the Star. “They put me in all these honors and advanced placement classes so I can take all of these tests and get good grades and better the school, but when it’s time for me to celebrate the fact that I’ve accomplished what I need to accomplish and I’m about to graduate, they don’t want to let me do it the way I want to.”
Unhappy about the decision, she turned to the media to tell her story. When it hit the news, members of the Monroe County Board of Education got involved—and so did the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
Together, they got the principal’s decision overturned, meaning she will be allowed to wear that tuxedo after all.
Love said in a statement released by the NCLR, “The outpouring of support has been incredible and inspiring; it is a source of strength that I will keep with me as I move on the next phase of my education and life beyond high school.”
As for the prom itself, she will attend it wearing a suit even nicer than the one she planned.
Love is being gifted an outfit hand-picked just for her, thanks to key members of the LGBT fashion community. The organizing force behind the plan is Kayce Brown, part of Greyscale Goods‘ launch team. The mail-order personalized clothing service is intended for people who want a flattering but androgynous look, putting Brown in the perfect place to pull together an outfit for Love.
Brown told press, “Feeling good about yourself is important. Community and giving back are equally important. Working with Claudetteia to outfit her for the prom in her dream tux gives us the opportunity to have these important conversations on a larger scale.
“I applaud her bravery and willingness to stand up for herself and everyone out there that may feel the same. Everyone should be able to feel and be their authentic self inside and out.”
The first step was to get on board with Nik Kacy, of the eponymous footwear line whose own Kickstarter campaign completed successfully in March 2015. Their company is no stranger to community outreach; they donated shoes to the Los Angeles LGBT Youth Center even while fundraising. Now, they will be outfitting Love with some kicks.
Sharpe Suiting, a generous supporter of the LGBT community, was not to be left behind: they’re committing to supplying the whole tuxedo for Love’s prom. Founder and CEO Leon Wu said that he was “overjoyed to hear that Claudetteia is now able to wear what she feels confident and comfortable in during a most memorable night celebrating with her friends and school staff.
“We hope this local resolution sets a precedence to all high schools nationally on the positive impact of allowing freedom of style and expression amongst young adults.”
Love added, “Right now I’m feeling great and I am excited about prom. My family was a big support for me during this whole thing.
“I really didn’t expect a story to get as big as it got but I’m glad it did. So many people have supported me and it is just a great feeling. It has really shown me the true power of speaking out and standing up for what is right.”