Female Catholic School Student Erased from Yearbook for Wearing a Tuxedo

Monday, May 19, 2014
Jessica Urbina and her prom date (photo: Jessica's Facebook page)

Women have been wearing tuxedos in pictures at least since Marlene Dietrich gave Adolphe Menjou and Gary Cooper a thrill singing “Give Me the Man Who Does Things” in the 1930 movie “Morocco.”

It took the audience in the film a few minutes to warm up to the idea before Dietrich won their hearts. It might take the administration at San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School a while longer to approve of women dressed that way.

Jessica Urbina, an 18-year-old senior, was informed last week that the photo she submitted won’t be in the school’s annual yearbook because she is clad in a natty black tuxedo in violation of the Catholic archdiocese rule that girls must appear in dresses.

Urbina’s brother, Michael, mounted an online campaign (#JessicasTux) to get the decision reversed and it has extracted a few concessions, although it remains to be seen if the original photo will appear. The school announced it would use an alternative picture this year and revise its policy in some fashion for the future.

“As we prepare to pass out yearbooks it is always regretful when a student portrait is omitted for any reason,” the school announced in a press release. “As a community we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all students are included in the future.”

But not now.

On Friday, Urbina’s classmates made a show of solidarity with her when they came to school wearing ties. Urbina’s girlfriend, Katie Emanuel, told reporters, “I support my girlfriend. I love my school, and I want to make it as good as it can be for people like us.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has not yet gotten involved in the situation, took on Sultana High School in San Bernardino County in March last year on behalf of gay students who were told they must wear gender-specific clothes to the prom. In that case, there were also allegations that the school was giving students a hard time after they formed a Gay Straight Alliance on campus.

ACLU attorney Melissa Goodman said at the time, “California law makes it crystal clear schools cannot discriminate against LGBTQ students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression.” Sultana reversed its mandatory prom-dress-for-girls rule.

That is still not crystal clear in San Francisco. School principal Gary Cannon said, “Straight, gay, bi, transgender, all that. They’re all welcome at Sacred Heart Cathedral.”

As long as they dress properly and know their place.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

S.F. Girl Booted From Yearbook for Wearing Tux (by Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)

Students Wear Ties for Girl Who Wore Tux for Yearbook Photo (by Lisa Fernandez, Christie Smith and Jodi Hernandez, NBC Bay Area)

High School Student’s Photo Scrubbed From Yearbook Because She Was Wearing A Tux (by Aviva Shen, Think Progress)

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