Erased from the yearbook

This is probably the most egregious case of revisionism and exclusion I’ve seen in recent memory. Not surprisingly, it’s another homosexual student at a high school in the South.

A post on The Stranger (warning: linked story contains profanity) details the story of Ceara Sturgis and her senior yearbook of Wesson Attendance Center, and links to the original story at the Jackson Free Press. What the yearbook staff and/or school officials did (it’s not clear exactly who did what) is one of the worst things that can be done to a high-school student, particularly an honor student like Ceara: all references to her were deleted from the yearbook. From the Jackson Free Press story:

“They didn’t even put her name in it,” Sturgis’ mother Veronica Rodriguez said. “I was so furious when she told me about it. Ceara started crying and I told her to suck it up. Is that not pathetic for them to do that? Yet again, they have crapped on her and made her feel alienated.”

And further down in the article is perhaps the most damning evidence of all (quoting Veronica Rodriguez, Ceara’s mother, again):

“They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she’s one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They’ve got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There’s even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school.

“I don’t get it. Ceara is a top student. Why would they do this to her?”

There is no mention of her academic honors. Her name isn’t in the list of graduating seniors. And of course, no picture of her wearing a tux at the prom. See, Ceara’s a lesbian, and that is apparently just too much for the folks at Wesson. This not only reeks of community exclusion, but of revisionist history as well.

I don’t know if there’s any way the school can even make things right at this point. They can’t. The yearbooks have been printed, and Ceara’s been left out. The truly insidious part of this is the damage that has yet to happen, years from now at reunion time when it is doubted that Ceara is a legitimate alumnus of the school. That’s the part that really makes my skin crawl and my stomach churn. I’d like to think most of the students will notice Ceara’s consipicuous absence from the yearbook, and note it now while it’s still fresh in their minds.

This does hit rather close to home for me, so I can’t just post this without relaying a personal experience of mine, which is intentionally going to be a little light on details. It somewhat parallels Ceara’s.

On at least one occasion, I feel I was cropped out (either in post editing, or intentionally out-of-framed at exposure time) of audience/attendee shots at a local event, which were later posted to Facebook. While arguably, what an amateur photographer does with his/her camera is his/her own decision, there is no question in my mind based on the identity of the photographer and certain people that were at this event that this was an intentional effort to leave my image out of the documentation of the event. Of course, the person in question is a tech community leader widely known as “an \*\*\*hole” and is probably less known for his photography than his attitude.

Still, for anyone to think I and others would not notice smacks of naivete. To realistically expect I’d just sit there and be happy-go-lucky about it? To quote Bob Barker in the “cheaters prosper” playing of Shell Game on The Price is Right, “that’s dumb.” (I linked the clip because it makes great comic relief if you need it right now, and I suspect many of you might.)

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that what happened to me was relatively ephemeral, all things considered. It’s possible it’s not even going to be an issue weeks, months, even years from now, or it’s acknowledged with “yeah I remember having to zoom in to crop Shawn out of the shot” and I laugh with everyone else as we all take sips out of our drinks.

Since this is somewhat relevant, I’ll go ahead and mention this little detail about me: I had to switch schools prior to my senior year, so yes, I am missing from the senior yearbook of the school where I spent the majority of my time in high school. I’m not bitter about it, as my exclusion is legitimate, and I’m in the three yearbooks where I should be.