Holley Gerelds, 18, said that there was talk leading up to her graduation this year from Springville High in Alabama that her senior portrait was going to be cut from the school yearbook. Prior to taking her photo towards the end of her junior year, Gerelds asked if she could wear a tuxedo, instead of the V-neck, black-velvet drape traditionally worn by female graduates.
"I've worn suits for as long as I can remember. I wear them to school," Gerelds told BuzzFeed News. "I've always worn masculine clothing, it's just what I'm more comfortable in and I feel like it expresses me more." She was told at the time by the photographer that her choice of attire was acceptable. But after receiving her school yearbook last week, Holley realized she wasn't in it.
In addition to being listed as "not pictured," Holley's last name was misspelled. Gerelds told BuzzFeed News that it was the first time where she felt like discriminated against for being lesbian in her home state of Alabama.
"I know that’s kind of shocking to some people because I live in the Deep South in the Bible Belt, but other than a few dirty looks when I go out, I’ve never received any discrimination or hate from my school or my city or even the state of Alabama as a whole," she said.
In light of the public backlash over Gerelds' removal from her school yearbook, St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard promised to right the wrong, and add her portrait with the correct spelling. "I understand that the senior portraits taken at Springville High School during the last school year were taken in accordance with long-standing school guidelines," Howard said. "We are in the process of reevaluating those guidelines to consider what changes, if any, need to be made."
Her photo will also be included in the composite photograph of her entire class that hangs in the halls of Springville High. "I guess it’s enough for me personally because I just wanted to be in the yearbook with my classmates and to be on that wall, but it’s not enough if it happens to someone else," Gerelds said. "That’s why I’m happy to be speaking out about it — because I don’t want anyone else to go through this."