A New York high school student said she’s not going to fight her Christian school’s decision to bar her from taking her transgender boyfriend to prom — instead, the couple plans to have its own celebration.
Anais Celini, a senior at Martin Luther High School in Queens, claims administrators at the private school told her she could not attend prom with her transgender boyfriend, Nathaniel Baez, because the school views his transition as “unconventional.” The couple, who came forward with their story last week, has since decided to have its own prom, instead of challenging the school or showing up at the event in protest.
“I don’t plan on asking them again,” Celini, 18, told BuzzFeed. “I’m not going to fight them, that wasn’t the point. It’s a big night for everybody and I don’t want to cause a scene.”
Baez, 19, is saving money to put on their own small celebration, and Celini said that a transitional housing center has already come forward and offered to host a special prom for the couple. “It’s a really big deal, because he needs that money and he’s trying to put that together for me,” Celini said. “Nathaniel is helping.”
Celini said both she and Baez were kicked out of their families’ homes after coming out last year. “Last year was hectic and we wanted to end the year with some peace” by celebrating prom, she said. They have been together for almost two years.
When asked about the specifics of the policy that forbids Celini and Baez attending prom together, school administrators did not respond to a request for comment. Celini said it’s because the school doesn’t allow same-sex couples to go together and views them as a same-sex couple even though Baez is transitioning.
“We are no longer a same-sex couple,” she said. “They need to see him as male and respect that. We didn’t want to sneak ourselves into prom, we wanted to be upfront and be respectful about it.”
Some teachers at the school expressed support for Celini in school after the couple came forward, but she said those staffers couldn’t express that support publicly for fear of getting in trouble with administrators. “They were proud of me but they couldn’t voice that,” she said, especially because of the bad publicity the school has received for its decision.
On top of that, Celini said she and Baez have received support from unlikely places. During a visit to Coney Island last weekend, they both received free spray-on tattoos after a vendor recognized them from a local TV news report.
And in an exclusive statement to BuzzFeed on Tuesday, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network said it is fully behind the couple and has launched an online campaign to send them messages of support.
“Prom is a highlight of the school year for many students, and no one should have that opportunity taken away,” said Daryl Presgraves, GLSEN’s director of communications. “Excluding a student from such a memorable part of the school experience simply for being who they are is not only wrong – it’s humiliating. We wish Anais and Nathaniel the best and want them to know they have our full support.”