Credit to Young, Black and Fabulous for this article.
The latest print issue of VIBE magazine contains a provocative article called “The Mean Girls Of Morehouse” which looks into the lives of four current and former Morehouse students who dress as “women” and represent a small segment of the openly gay community at Morehouse. And it raised hell on the internet streets.
We have highlights from the article, plus the college President’s response for you inside….
The article, written by Aliya S. King, profiles four students (two current, two former) who choose to dress as women, meaning they “…rock makeup, Marc Jacobs tote bags, sky-high heels and Beyonce – style hair weaves.”
The story itself developed from the controversial dress code policy issued by Morehouse recently stating that studentswere not allowed to wear caps, do-rags, sunglasses or sagging pants on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events. But what had folks up in arms at the male-only school was the line that students couldn’t wear women’s clothing: dresses, tops, tunics, purses or pumps. So, who wears high heels at Morehouse you ask?
The first student profiled goes by the name of Diamond:
“Morehouse wasn’t ready for me,” says Diamond. “I’m about freedom of expression. I’m about being whomever you truly are inside. I came to Morehouse because of all the historical leaders that attended and impacted the world so heavily. You know, I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. I don’t think Morehouse believes that someone like me—someone who wears heels and dresses—can uphold that reputation. But they’re wrong.”
Diamond is a part of a crew, “The Plastics,” made up of seven or eight former and current Morehouse students, some of whom share a townhouse in Atlanta. He tells VIBE that he and his crew took their name from the 2004 Lindsay Lohan flick, Mean Girls, a nod to the A-list crowd. The Plastics all assume that the recent dress code policy was aimed directly at their personal freedom of expression, which sometimes includes foundation, cross-dressing, and even taking female hormones.
But Kevin Rome, the former vice president for Student Services for the College, says that people like Diamond are a small minority of the students at the College, and shouldn’t make up such a large percentage of the press the school has received about the appropriate attire policy. He says, “There are nearly 3,000 students at Morehouse, and maybe three that [the ban on women’s attire] applies to. We’re giving such a large influence on a minute population. It’s not representative of the school.”
And it’s also not representative of the school’s gay community. One of the most interesting pieces of the article talks about homophobia within the gay community itself. The Plastic’s say their relationship with the gay community can be downright hostile. “It’s because we have a certain aura,” says Michael, one of the Plastics. We don’t care what people think about us when it comes to how we dress and carry ourselves. Some people are uncomfortable with it.”
Kevin Webb, who runs Safe Space, an organization that supports the gay community at Morehouse puts it this way: “In some ways, it’s like it’s okay to be gay. But not that gay. Or it’s okay to be queer. But not that queer,” he says. “There is homophobia even within the gay community—which is something we have to deal with if Morehouse is going to progress.”
And if you’re wondering about the stance the administration takes on the issue, here’s the response from the college’s President that was sent out to Morehouse alum:
Dear Morehouse Community:
Next week, Vibe magazine, a hip-hop music and culture monthly, will publish in their October/November issue an article on Morehouse. I strongly disagree with the likely substance of this article and wanted to write to you directly to share my views.
The article, entitled, “The Mean Girls at Morehouse,” purports to examine the lives of some of our gay brothers as it relates to the enforcement of our appropriate attire policy we enacted a year and a half ago. It seems clear from the headline alone that the Vibe editorial team’s intent is to sensationalize and distort reality for the purpose of driving readership. The title of the article speaks volumes about a perspective that is very narrow and one that is, in all likelihood, offensive to our students whether gay or straight.
As president of this institution, as a Morehouse graduate and as a father, I am insulted by what is to be published. Addressing our young men as “girls” is deeply disturbing to me, no matter what the remainder of the article may say. Morehouse has for 140 years developed men—men who are equipped to live and contribute to an increasingly diverse, global and complex world.
Let me be clear. I believe in the freedom of the press and its critical role in examining all facets of our society to foster reasoned discourse and to promote understanding of topics both popular and unpopular. We will not always agree with what is written. I disagree, however, in journalism that attempts to malign and distort, rather than inform and enlighten.
I need not tell you that the black male is already faced with challenges in nearly every aspect of his life. Injustices abound. Families are broken. And our young black boys are failing to reachtheir potential in grade school and middle school at pandemic rates. And while the world grapples with complicated issues related to economic disparity, racism, sustainability, and diversity and tolerance, Morehouse stands in the breach, seeking answers to the pressing issues facing our young men, encouraging dialogue and expecting excellence.
The world is complex, and it is diverse. Morehouse reflects that same complexity and that same diversity. It is unfortunate that the Vibe article will heighten misunderstandings and advance or inform little.
In the end, no media outlet can shape who we are or in any way diminish our mission. But together we can encourage media outlets like Vibe to provide fair, well-researched and balanced journalism.
Finally, Morehouse will stand by its values. We will continue to set high standards and focus on the development of our young men. Thank you for standing with us.
Robert M. Franklin