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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dalton Maldonado - Or, Be Nice to Kids, Damn it!

Greetings, Darlings. I know: long time, no Unicorn. I'm neglecting this blog shamefully, and I apologize to those of you who keep reading when I do eventually show up and open my mouth. (It always happens sooner or later.)

There has been a lot happening in our LGBTQAI-alphabet-soup world. Lots of it good, some of it less good. I've thought many times, "Oh, the Unicorn should babble about this or that," but other commitments drew me away. However, sometimes something strikes just the right note, and I can't help but open my mouth and let the words fall out.

This is one of those times.

Have you seen this face?

This is Dalton Maldonado, a student at Betsy Layne High School in Rural Kentucky. Now, Kentucky is not known to be a hotbed of liberal pro-gay folks on the best of days, but for some reason this one really, really got to me.

(And I promise it's not because he looks just the tiniest bit like Noah Puckerman from Glee!, and I've been reading far too many fanfics lately. Honestly, it's not. But that might have happened, though it has nothing to do with this post...)

Here's the article.

For those of you who don't have the time or inclination to read it, Dalton is a Senior, and a member of his school's basketball team. He's also openly gay. The school's yearbook allotted a two-page spread to all the senior boys on the team. Oh, wait - all of them  but Dalton.

Oh, Unicorn, I hear you sigh. With everything anti-gay that goes on in the world, you're upset about a kid who didn't get his photo in the yearbook? Priorities!

Well, in short, yeah. I am upset about this. And I do think it should be a priority. Just because he's not beaten (that we know of), or killed, or whitewashed out of a movie supposedly about a historic moment from LGBT history (::ahemSTONEWALLahem::) doesn't mean this doesn't matter.

Dalton is a kid. He's a senior, and nearly-an-adult, yes, but when it comes right down to it, he's a vulnerable young person on the cusp of the rest of his life. (As so many other kids are, too.) Dalton is a symbol of all the other LGBT kids in the world today, whose safety and well-being we entrust every day to their schools - and his school let him down. Big time.

Is his world going to end because he's not in the yearbook photo with the rest of his basketball team? No, of course not. (Well, we certainly hope not, anyhow.)

Is he physically wounded, hospitalized, or left for dead? No, obviously not. This type of bullying - which is exactly what this is, institutionalized bullying, sanctioned and committed by those who are supposed to protect our kids from this type of thing - leaves scars that linger longer than physical ones.

These kinds of blows hurt where we can't see them, and who knows what lasting damage that school has done to this boy by telling him they are ashamed of him, that he's something dirty and shameful and bad that must be hidden from the eyes of the world?

Dalton, dude, this is what I want to say to you:

Your school is wrong.

You're not bad, and you're not something disgusting that your school should feel ashamed of or hide.

You're just a kid, doing what any other kid does - trying to live your life, get by, and be as happy as you can be.

I don't know what can be done about this yearbook fiasco, and I don't know how your school should be made to make it up to you. They can't, really, and everyone knows it. But you don't need them. You're going to (hopefully) graduate, and get on with your life, and leave them far behind you, covered with dust in your rear-view.

But I want you to know that people all over the country - even the world, maybe - have got your back. We think what your school did stinks, and we know you deserve better. And you'll have it. Just hang in there, all right?

Also, here's the letter I emailed to your principal, Ms Akers, this afternoon when I read about what happened.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Akers. As you may or not be aware, this story of the non-inclusion of Dalton Maldonado in his senior yearbook is going viral. That a school in the United States of America in 2015 could be so backwards is greatly concerning. It is the place of schools to educate and nurture students - all students, not just those whose lifestyle is approved by the administration.
No matter your opinion of the lifestyle or sexual identity of Mr. Maldonado, he is still a student of your school, as well as a member of the basketball team and, as such, he should not have been omitted from the basketball spread for the team. To do otherwise not only is an insult, and extremely hurtful to the self-esteem of this student whose well-being should have been a priority of the school, but also reflects extremely poorly on the entire school in the eyes of the world.

Times have changed. This is not the 1950s, when people were required to hide their true feelings or sexual identities from everyone in order to avoid persecution. Now, most civilized societies recognize that ALL people are entitled to respect, dignity and to equal treatment. To fly against this, as your school has done in choosing to deny Mr. Maldonado his place in the yearbook with the rest of his basketball team, shouts that ignorance and bigotry are alive and well at Betsy Lane High School. Shame on you.

This type of intolerance and yes, bullying (which is what this is - institutionally sanctioned bullying, performed by those whose job it is to protect students from that type of hate) has no place in our world, especially in our schools.

Perhaps the people who made the decision to treat Mr. Maldonado so spitefully are the ones who should be 'omitted' from future contact with students in the school.

Respectfully hoping your eyes and heart are opened ~ "

In the big scheme of things, it probably won't accomplish anything, but I hope it at least makes her think.

And if not, to heck with them anyhow. You're better than they are. Shine on.

Note: If anyone else wants to voice their opinion to Ms Akers or the school, her email address is cassandra.akers@floyd.kyschools,us. (Please keep it constructive if you do - there is enough bad feeling in the world without adding more to it.)

Ok, Darlings. Do what you will with it, take it and run, run, run...

Until next time ~

Your faithful Babbling Unicorn

P.S. Feel free to comment. Unicorns LOVE comments!

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~ The Unicorn