A gay teenager came out to his fellow pupils for the first time by wearing a stunning dress and make-up for his end of year school prom.
Justin Sedgwick, 16, looked sensational in an off-the-shoulder classical black ball gown inspired by Hollywood red carpet glamour.
Autistic Justin had spent a year building up to his reveal at his school Fareham Academy’s prom at the Solent Hotel and Spa, Hampshire, on Thursday 22nd July, and despite some understandable nerves Justin was greeted with overwhelming support from pupils and teachers.
Proud mum Jade Scotney, 34, took to social media to post pictures of her son in his prom dress and share her delight for his big night.
Expecting the same reaction as from pupils and teachers, Jade was stunned when the next morning on LinkedIn her post had been removed and her profile blocked, after a handful of users apparently objected to the photo.
LinkedIn has since apologised for the ‘error’ and the account and post have been reinstated.
Justin Sedgwick, 16, looked sensational in an off-the-shoulder classical black ball gown inspired by Hollywood red carpet glamour for his prom at the Solent Hotel and Spa, Hampshire, on Thursday July 22
But Jade said it was disappointing a small minority of supposedly professional adults on the site had reported her for expressing joy at her son’s decision to wear a dress, when children at his own school had been so accepting.
She said: ‘It’s disappointing really, it’s crazy to think you’ve got all these kids who have just been so welcoming and accepting, and not batted an eyelid.
‘And then adults online are getting offended by it and reporting the post and getting it shut down.
‘I posted that evening before we went and by the next morning, I noticed it had been removed and my profile had been blocked.
Jade Scotney (right) and her son Justin Sedgwick, aged 16. The proud mother said she was ‘really scared’ about her son wearing a dress to prom, but he was full of confidence
‘They (LinkedIn) have apologised now, but they have not said why they took the post down.
‘But what was nice was a couple of other users on there went to look for the post and realised I’d been banned and a whole group of around 20 of them all rallied around to post about it and contact LinkedIn directly to raise the fact that this was not acceptable.
‘So that was really lovely and highlights there are some really nice people out there who offered their support, and who counteracted the removal of the post.’
Justin, who came out as gay to his own family last year, said it was baffling to find out his mum’s post online had been removed.
Jade was stunned when the next morning on LinkedIn her post had been removed and her profile blocked, after a handful of users apparently objected to the photo she posted. The site has since apologised for the error and reinstated her post
He said: ‘I was disappointed when I heard it was taken down, just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that no one should see it.
‘People need to accept it, whether they like it or not.’
Despite the social media shut down, Justin said it was an amazing night and he was glad he was able to be himself for the first time in front of classmates.
He said: ‘It was around about this time last year that I started getting into cross-dressing because I thought it was fun.
‘And when it came to my prom, I thought, I’m just going to wear a dress.
Justin Sedgwick, aged 16, wearing a dress for the first time in public to his end of year prom on for his school Fareham Academy, Hants, on Thursday July 22, with his friend and classmate Alek
‘I thought it would be great to show everyone that I can do that and show that I’m not afraid of being myself.
‘I wanted to go for something that looked very nice, nothing too flashy, contemporary and classic. I wanted something that I would feel would really suit me.
‘I’m not too skilled at doing my make-up so one of my mum’s friends Hope McKeller did my make-up for me and she’s absolutely brilliant at what she does.
‘I was definitely nervous about it, in the weeks leading up to the whole event, I kept thinking ‘what if someone says something?’, I thought that some people were going to be quite negative about it or be weirded out by it.
Justin said that he wanted to show everyone he’s not afraid to be himself by wearing a dress and make-up to prom, and received an outpouring of support from friends and teachers
‘But that wasn’t the case, it was overwhelmingly positive, the staff and pupils were really complimentary, and it made me feel really welcome.
‘I was a bit surprised, but it was absolutely wonderful to see that people were accepting me.
‘I think I absolutely would do it again if I could, like at a wedding or a party or something like that.’
Justin lives with mum Jade and siblings Daisy, 14, and eight-year-old Finley in Fareham, Hants.
Jade, who runs her own company Rebellion Marketing, said she was massively proud of Justin.
She said: ‘I was really scared, but he was full of confidence.
‘He did say a few times he was nervous, but he was ready to be himself and just do it and show the world who he is.
Autistic teenager Justin came out as gay to his family around a year ago. He likes to wear make-up, but still uses the ‘he’ pronoun while he’s ‘figuring himself out’
‘Everyone on the night was really complimentary and really friendly towards him and asking him if they needed to call him by a different name, or what his preferred pronouns were.
‘He is still a “he” for pronouns, he’s still kind of working himself out.
‘Justin pretty much knew what his outfit would be, we did a bit of shopping around taking inspiration from red carpet events, but he had his own ideas of what he wanted to wear and how he wanted to present himself.
‘He’s got better taste than me to be honest.
‘Angelina Jolie was one celebrity that he quite liked, with the black dress on the red carpet, that more sophisticated look was what he was going for.
‘His best friend Alek, was so, so supportive. They arrived together on the night.
‘On the way there in the car Justin said, ‘I hope everyone is receptive and nobody says anything to me’ and Alek said, ‘if they do, they’ll have me to contend with’, he’s a lovely young man.’
Proud mother Jade took to LinkedIn to share a photo of Hustin heading off to prom in a dress and make-up, and expected the same positive reaction they’d had from teachers and pupils at his school
Jade said as a family they were all very relaxed with one another about who they wanted to be.
She said: ‘It’s about a year ago when Justin first mentioned it and he came out as gay at the time, so that was the first time really.
‘Prior to that as a family, we’re quite open anyway, we’re just people, so there was no kind of big announcement or anything like that.
‘We were just sat down at the dinner table one night and he was like ‘by the way, this is how I feel’, and we were like ‘ok, fair enough’.’
Justin’s friend and schoolmate Alek stepped in to accompany his pal to the prom on the night.
He said: ‘Justin is my best friend and has been since junior school.
LinkedIn has apologised for removing the photo of Justin and said that it had been done in error
‘Everyone has the right to dress how they feel comfortable, and we had a great time at the prom.
‘The fact he wore a dress doesn’t affect our friendship at all, his courage is honourable.’
Fareham Academy Headteacher Chris Prankerd said as a school they encouraged values of resilience, aspiration and kindness in their students.
He said: ‘We had no idea that Justin was going to come in a dress to prom.
‘For me that’s an indication that he knew the pupils would reflect the values of the school.
‘He’s obviously felt comfortable that his friends will support him, that the other students would be happy with him being himself and that the staff would be proud of him, as we always are.
‘You’d almost have expected someone to have made a big fuss of it but there was just a normal acceptance of a student enjoying their prom, which was lovely to see.
‘I think Justin’s brave decision and the reaction he received on the night goes to show what a good role model he is.’
A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: ‘We absolutely agree that diversity and inclusion should be embraced and encouraged, and we continue to work each day to make LinkedIn an inclusive and safe platform for everyone.’
In a reply to Jade directly when she questioned the removal of her post the company responded: ‘This was our mistake – your post shouldn’t have been taken down and your post shouldn’t have been restricted.
‘We’re very sorry for these mistakes and are happy to see you celebrating Justin at prom. We are so glad he had a great night.’