As much of the gay community celebrated Pride over the weekend, one New Jersey graduating high school senior received a crude lesson in the hostility that often accompanies being out and proud. Eighteen year old Andre Jackson, a senior at East Side High School in Newark, wants an apology and a new yearbook after school officials blacked out a photo of him kissing his boyfriend.
The Newark Star-Ledger: "Jackson said he showed up at the banquet, excited to collect his yearbook. He'd paid an additional $150 for the special tribute page filled with shots of boyfriend David Escobales, 19, of Allentown, Pa., and others. Jackson learned what happened to his page moments before the books were distributed. While the students waited, staff members in another room blacked out the 4 1/2-by-5-inch picture from approximately 230 books."
“I didn’t intend to say, ‘Oh hey, look at me, I’m gay,’ ” Jackson tearfully told reporters. “It was just a picture showing my emotion, saying that I’m happy, you know, whatever. It was to look back on as a memory...I was upset. I was hurt. I felt embarrassed and abused.”
The crude censorship—reminiscent of the Soviet Union's former treatment of political non-desirables—was the decision of Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden who "called the photograph 'illicit'. "It looked provocative," she said. "If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture."
However, as The New York Times notes, the yearbook features many "heterosexual couples embracing and kissing. On the page immediately opposite Mr. Jackson’s, a young man and a young woman kiss on a couch, his hand on her leg as she sits on his lap."
Some more info on the young couple: Andre Jackson says he came out when he was 16 and that he and David Escobales have been together since October. Best of luck to them and both should be commended. Few adult gay men are willing to kiss their boyfriends in public, much less in a high school yearbook.