Ah, prom. Of all the extracurricular activities that schools put on for students, are any more fraught than a night of awkward pelvic bumping and slow hug-shuffling under a sky of cardboard Party City stars? It’s a rite of passage that comes with all that it implies: anxiety, excitement and a photo album full of memories that might have you cringing when you’ve got the benefit of hindsight.
The thing is, it’s tough to make those memories if you’re not actually allowed to go in to prom. Sometimes it happens. One too many F’s and a senior prank that turned out to be less funny than you thought it would be could get you banned. But more often it’s dress code violations that get kids girls sent home on prom night, and that’s exactly what happened to Pennsylvania high school student Aniya Wolfe.
The teen attends Bishop McDevitt Catholic school in Harrisburg, and now that you’ve read that, you probably think you know why she got the boot: a too-high slit, perhaps, or a hint of boob. It wouldn’t even have to be that bad — maybe just a bit of clavicle that flirts with scandal.
While we understand why you would think that — girls get sent home for doing gross things like having a body all the time, even in secular schools — you’re actually very wrong. Wolfe was impeccably dressed: covered from neck to ankles and even down to the wrists.
In a classic black tuxedo.
Wolfe looked amazing, by the way. She’s a lesbian who prefers to dress on the more masculine side of the gender spectrum, and she definitely would have turned heads at the prom if she’d been allowed to go inside:
She wasn’t allowed, though. While girls attending Bishop McDevitt are allowed to wear dress and khaki pants during school hours, the dress code for the high school’s prom specified that for girls, only dresses were to be worn.
Still, the teen is not comfortable in dresses and had no interest in suddenly toeing that particular line. She wore the tux, and she was kicked out. Wolfe says the school principal even threatened to phone the cops if she didn’t kick rocks.
And you know what? That sucks. It’s 2016, and formal wear should mean formal wear. A tuxedo is formal, and Wolfe was clearly not trying to be funny or rile people just to rile them. She just wanted to be comfortable and look good on a fancy night. And it’s probably also true that both she and her mother — who told a local news outlet that she thinks her daughter looks beautiful when she dons a dapper suit — almost certainly knew that the school would stick to its guns on this one. And that’s why we have to hand it to Carolyn Wolfe for sticking with her clearly very kick-ass kid on this one.
It’s no small act of bravery for a kid to be out and proud in a religious environment. That takes guts even if you do live in more liberal pockets of the country and even if that environment says it “practices love and acceptance for all students,” as the high school in question here says it does.
For that reason, all teens, but especially LGBT teens, need allies at home, and it’s clear that’s what Wolfe’s mom is and that she’s raising a principled kid. It is very easy to just go along to get along sometimes, and there are even situations where that’s what we want our kids to do. But then there are the biggies: sticking up for what you think is right even if you know you’ll be penalized for it.
As parents, there are times when it’s tempting to say to your kid, “Why can’t you just…?” or “Do you always have to be so stubborn?” or maybe even “It’s only one night — can’t you just wear a dress?”
But sometimes it’s not just a dress. Sometimes it’s a huge deal. And in those moments, if we want our kid to do what they know in their hearts is right even when there will be fallout from it, maybe we ought to ask Carolyn and Aniya Wolfe for a few pointers.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: