Derrick Martin, the Cochran, Ga., gay teen who has made international headlines for planning to take his boyfriend to his high school prom, will be a guest of honor at tonight's concert by the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus.
Atlanta gay chorus hosts Ga. teen kicked out of home over prom
The chorus concludes its “Georgia on My Mind” tour of the state with one show tonight and two on Saturday at Virginia Highland Church. Tonight’s concert is at 8 p.m.
“They called me and asked me to be a guest,” Martin told the Georgia Voice Thursday night while lying on a trampoline with a group of friends. While in Atlanta, Martin said he may look for a tuxedo.
Martin said his principal at Bleckley High School first denied his request to bring his boyfriend to the prom in the small mid-Georgia town, then decided to approve it. The story continues to make headlines.
The teen said he never thought his story would receive so much attention — he’s been interviewed by Fox News, local TV stations, several radio stations, and is a hot topic in the blogosphere.
He said even got a call from Ellen Degeneres yesterday asking him to come on her show. He’s seriously considering going on her show, perhaps in about two weeks.
“It’s surprising,” he told GA Voice. “I expected a story in the [Macon] Telegraph and that would be it.”
But Martin’s choice to fight for his right to take his boyfriend to the April 17 prom has inspired numerous activists and supporters from across the country to donate money to help him cover costs for his prom; supporters have also launched two Facebook pages to back him.
Martin said being kicked out of his home by his parents on Tuesday because of the media attention this story has garnered hasn’t dissuaded from being who he is.
“I know they had the right because it’s their house. Now I just want to get an apartment and then go to college,” he said.
Martin has a scholarship to Georgia Southern where he will be major in pre-law.
Martin said Tuesday was an average day. He went to school and then to his job with a state tutoring program for at-risk third, fourth, fifth grade students and middle schools students to help them pass the CRCT. When he got home that evening his mother told him to pack his bags and leave.
“So I packed my stuff and left,” he said. “She said it was disrespectful of me” to interview with a local TV station.
Martin said he came out a year-and-a-half ago. He told his best friend first. Then his parents found text messages he’d exchanged with a boy he was dating at the time.
“They knew something was up. I told them. Then they took my car, my iPod, my phone, my laptop — every way they could think of to try to keep me from communicating with him,” he said.”It was really hard back then …. but everything I’ve gone though has made me stronger.”
About 20 students at his school gathered at Cochran City Hall on Thursday to hold a rally protesting the school’s decision to allow Martin to bring his same-sex date. Martin decided to go there himself to see what was happening.
“I just wanted to show my face and show them I wasn’t afraid. They were saying I was bringing a bad name to Cochran,” he said. “They said I was bringing Bleckley County into the gay era.”
One reason they gave for protesting was the claim that if Martin brought the county into the “gay era,” more gay people would move there.
“There were a lot of ignorant comments to be honest,” he said.
Martin explained he has been privately working on getting approval to bring his boyfriend, who lives in Tift County, to the prom since December. The principal at first told him it was not going to happen because it had never been done before and because the school “was not ready for it.”
“She gave several reasons but I wasn’t going to back down. I wasn’t confrontational, I was just telling the truth,” he said.
So the principal said she would take his request to the school board. The board met twice before following an attorney’s advice that there was no policy prohibiting Martin from bringing a same-sex date to his senior prom.
“It took them until the second Tuesday in March to approve but they said they were afraid for my safety,” he said.
And Martin said he does fear for his safety. He’s gotten one death threat from someone saying he better “watch his back.”
“What can you do? I don’t give them the satisfaction. I do walk with a friend always and even put keys between my knuckles.”
The story of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi lesbian whose prom was canceled by school administrators after she asked to bring her girlfriend as her date, made him continue to fight to bring his boyfriend to his prom.
“She was an inspiration for me,” he said. “And now my goal is to inspire others. I know what it’s like to be inspired.”
Offers of help
People from across the country and even the world want to help Martin with monetary donations. PFLAG Macon helped him set up a PayPal account.
Martin told the Georgia Voice he’s received several donations already.
“It’s more than I ever thought. It’s not a substantial amount, but definitely enough to make my prom amazing,” he said.
“I’ve never been one to ask for help, I’ve always done things on my own, and now I’m relying on others — it’s all so new to me,” he said.
Martin has promised 25 percent of the money he receives will go to Constance McMillen.
Locally, the Atlanta chapter of Sisters, which aspires to be a full house of the San Francisco-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, is also looking for ways to raise money for Martin and hopes to plan fundraisers in the near future.
“As soon as I read his story, it struck a chord with me,” said Rick Westbrook, aka Rapture Divine Cox. “I’m from Cumming, Ga. I’m old school and never could have done what Derrick is doing. It does my heart good to see young people stand up.”