The Measure of a Man

August 05, 2015

By Kevin Fong, Contributor, Elemental Partners

Our society holds certain standards that define the measure of a man. Courage, gravitas and swagger are characteristics of manliness exalted by the military, law enforcement, sports, Hollywood, and the corporate world. Such men:

  1. Forge their own path;
  2. Persist, especially in the face of adversity;
  3. Show courage to assert their rights; and
  4. Live in accordance with their principles, even if it means risking their own lives. 

Two such examples impressed me during a recent trip to Jackson, MS. I encountered the first at Dillards, a local department store. As I passed the Estee Lauder counter, I witnessed an older man in a John Deere cap waiting for his wife who was sampling hand lotions. Jasmine, the salesperson who was assisting the wife, wore an impeccable black dress, accessories, makeup and hair. It was clear to me, and to the couple, that Jasmine was a gender-assigned male at birth.
Later, at the hotel, I encountered Darryl at the front desk. The 6-foot, 200 pound former football player wore a dark suit and a crisp tie. He also sported burgundy nail polish and long false eyelashes.
Imagine the courage, gravitas and swagger it takes for Jasmine and Darryl to present themselves in such ways, especially in a place like Jackson, MS. While I don't know their stories and motivations, I am certain that they were not performing. They were being their brave and daring selves, living their lives and doing their jobs.
Gender-fluid and transgender men and boys are among the most vilified people in our society. They are harassed, harmed, and even killed because they dare to express themselves outside of the tight confines of  conventionally-identified, "cis-gender" male standards. 
These standards, while omnipresent, are being challenged more and more. Caitlyn Jenner recently came out as a transgender woman. Buzz Bissinger, author of  "Friday Night Lights," the bestselling book about high school football culture in Texas, revealed he is a longtime cross dresser. Alexander Skarsgard, who will be the next Tarzan, showed up at a movie premiere dressed as a woman. Brandon Cohen of BroBible spent an otherwise normal day wearing high heels and recording both his and others reactions.    

   Caitlyn Jenner            Alexander Skarsgard            Brandon Cohen

I am encouraged by this reframing definition of manhood. Throughout my life, have struggled with my gender identity and have wondered how I measured up. To this day, I can't throw a ball, hammer a nail, or change a flat tire. I have spent years questioning what kind of man I am, and why I don't, or have to, fit in.
Today, as a self-identified and proud gender-fluid male, I rarely step out of the house without my hair styled and face made up. I am blending my clothes - pairing men's slacks and shirts with women's jackets and shoes - to form my own unique look. I am a more authentic person and am able to contribute my gifts and skills more effectively in the world. I am blessed that my family, friends, colleagues, and clients support and celebrate me for who I am.
How do we measure the qualities of manhood, or perhaps humanhood? If we use these measurements -

  1. Forge their own path;
  2. Persist, especially in the face of adversity;
  3. Show courage to assert their rights; and
  4. Live in accordance with their principles, even if it means risking their own lives,

Jasmine, Darryl, Caitlyn, Buzz, Brandon, Alexander and even I measure up well. In spite of, or perhaps because of our feminine identity and appearance, we possess the gravitas, courage and swagger that rivals that of these conventional heroes.

We are living proof that society can create a space for all types of genders to manifest without threatening the measure of a man.
Questions for reflection and discussion -

  1. Why is our society so obsessed with gender roles and stereotypes? What do we gain from maintaining them?
  2. What is so threatening, to you personally or to society in general, if gender-assigned males identify, behave or express themselves with more feminine characteristics or as female?
  3. If you identify as a cis-gender male, would you ever consider adopting a more feminine expression (e.g. wearing eyeliner, lip gloss, or nail polish) for a day? Why or why not?
  4. What can you do to make your community a safer place for gender fluid and transgender men and boys? What will you do?

ACLU-MS Comment on Jail Death of Rexdale Henry in Neshoba County

July 30, 2015


CONTACT: Charles Irvin, 601.354.3408,; Jennifer Riley-Collins, 601.354.3408,

JACKSON, Miss – The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi legal director, Charles Irvin, on the death of Choctaw activist Rexdale Henry in the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi on July 14, 2015:

“The ACLU of Mississippi would like to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Rexdale Henry. Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many citizens die every year in police encounters and many more are seriously injured. People of color are disproportionately affected at the hands of law enforcement and the increase in suspicious deaths has to stop.

“We support the Henry family and call for complete police transparency and a thorough independent investigation into the death of Rexdale Henry. We will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation. We encourage law enforcement to respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peacefully protest and assemble in response to this tragedy.”

ACLU of Mississippi Receives $1 Million from W.K. Kellogg Foundation

July 28, 2015


CONTACT: Morgan Miller, 601-354-3408,
Dana Terry, 769.230.2841,

JACKSON, Miss – The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Foundation (ACLU-MS) received a two-year one million dollar grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address excessive discipline in schools and disparate punishment of young men of color by assessing current practices and developing a statewide model of fair school discipline practices fostering conditions for success. This project aims to dismantle the systems of structural and institutional racism and bias by identifying the structures that perpetuate the current practice of disparate implementation of discipline and engage these systems to create positive and supportive institutions and pathways for young men of color.

“This generous grant will allow us to develop and establish a community based model systems approach to address school discipline and criminalization of young men of color,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

Kimberly Merchant, Director of Educational Opportunities of the Mississippi Center for Justice stated “We are excited about our partnership with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD) and the SCCSD P-16 Parental Engagement Council. Together we will connect YMOC to systems, institutions and pathways designed to help young men succeed.” 

The partnership aims to develop a statewide uniform disciplinary policy that will reduce disciplinary rates; increase the capacity of the SCCSD staff to provide additional support for positive behavior intervention and monitoring of discipline data and implementation of district policy; and increase the knowledge base and capacity of the SCCSD P-16 community engagement council.

Extreme and destructive approaches to school discipline have devastated the students and families of Mississippi, harmed its teachers, members of law enforcement, and community members, and caused profound damage to the economic health and well-being of the State at large. Mississippi’s Black students are hit the hardest by harsh discipline practices. Statewide, they are three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their White peers, with an even greater disparity in some school districts. There are no successful schools that suspend, expel, and refer large numbers of students to law enforcement. Yet, there are no statewide prescribed standards for school discipline that ensure that the codes of student conduct in Mississippi’s school districts meet basic standards of fairness and common sense. Such harsh and extreme punishment works at cross-purposes with the State’s school improvement efforts and educators’ efforts to promote teaching and learning in healthy and productive ways.

This system change approach will engage the key stakeholders in the educational, law enforcement, judicial, community and media systems.  It will provide a model for Mississippi to promote policies that create effective schools, stronger communities, and fiscal health.


About the ACLU of Mississippi

The ACLU of Mississippi is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization founded in 1969 that defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Mississippians guaranteed under the United States and Mississippi Constitutions, through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. It is an affiliate of the national ACLU.

About the Mississippi Center for Justice

The Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and volunteers, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit


July 16, 2015


CONTACT:    Charles Irvin, ACLU of Mississippi, 601.354.3408,; Jennifer Riley-Collins, ACLU of Mississippi, 601.354.3408.

JACKSON, Miss - The ACLU-MS would like to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Jonathan Sanders. Unfortunately this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many Black men die every year in police encounters, and many more are seriously injured. People of color are disproportionately affected by excessive use of force at the hands of the police.

At this time we join the community in Stonewall, Mississippi  in noting the importance of increased training for police on excessive use of force and transparency in police practices, especially in regards to interactions with communities of color.

We support the Sanders family and call for complete police transparency and a thorough independent investigation into the death of Johnathan Sanders.  We expect that in the aftermath of this horrible injustice, local law enforcement will fully respect the rights of the community to engage in peaceful assembly, prayer, and protest as they mourn this loss.

5th Circuit Lifts Stay on Mississippi Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

July 01, 2015

On Wednesday, July 1st, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay of U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruling in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, clearing the path for same-sex marriage in Mississippi. Read the ruling.

For more on marriage equality in Mississippi, visit our Love Wins page.

Mississippi Attorney General Issues New Marriage Equality Guidance to Circuit Clerks

June 29, 2015


Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 769-447-6678; 

JACKSON, Miss – Today, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued new guidance to Circuit Clerks in Mississippi regarding marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The following is a response from American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins:

“We are pleased with today’s guidance to the Circuit Clerks issued by Attorney General Hood. Clerks across the state have started allowing same-sex couples to marry without waiting for further order from the courts. We hope that couples across the state will encounter no more roadblocks to equality. Circuit Clerks and all other governmental officials who have sworn an oath to follow the Constitution should move swiftly to comply with the law of the land. If there are any issues the ACLU of Mississippi remains committed to standing in defense of marriage equality across the state. 

“If any couple encounters an issue please contact our office at 601-354-3408.”

Visit our Love Wins page more information on the Supreme Court decision, FAQ's on getting married in Mississippi and our hotline. 

ACLU-MS Responds to Attorney General’s Guidance to Circuit Clerks

June 26, 2015


Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 769-447-6678; 

JACKSON, Miss – The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins in response to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s guidance to Circuit Clerks about the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges:

“Everyone has a duty to follow the Constitution whether or not there is a specific injunction ordering them to do so on pain of contempt. Common sense should rule. A court order should not be needed to have the State of Mississippi follow the Constitution. 

“The Supreme Court has spoken and everyone should be complying with the Constitution. The right question isn’t about timing around lifting the stay on the injunction. The question is whether states and their officers have to comply with the Constitution now. The answer is yes. States and government officials cannot drag their heels when it comes to their constitutional obligations. 

“The ACLU of Mississippi remains prepared to ensure and defend the freedom of marriage to all. While we hope the Clerks will begin to issue the licenses soon, all necessary legal actions remain an option.”

Love Should Not Wait

June 26, 2015

By Jennifer Riley-Collins

As many of you know I am a proud Mississippian. I am also very proud to be the Executive Director of the ACLU of MS. I hope that today the two align like never before. Today, SCOTUS ruled that all people have a right to equality. Once before, when that was the ruling of the high court the State of MS was purposefully slow and put barriers in place to prevent equality from being recognized. 

This morning the MS Atty General issued guidance to Circuit Clerks that they were not allowed to issues licenses to couples until the 5th Circuit lifted its stay. Even though the SCOTUS decision came down several hours ago, we are waiting on the Court to lift its stay. We are hopeful that the Court will see as Judge Reeves did that no person should be treated as a second class citizen and will lift the stay of his order recognizing the right to marry. We are hopeful that Mississippi's officials will embrace everyone and will not attempt to set up barriers to this momentous decision.

I pray that the State of Mississippi is on the right side of history this time. Aren't we tired of being last?

FAQ: Getting Married in Mississippi

June 26, 2015

Before going to the courthouse it is a good idea to verify this information with your local County Clerk’s office as requirements may change! Their phone numbers are listed at the bottom of this page.

Generally, here’s what you need to know.

What to bring:

  • Both parties must be preset to apply for a license.
  • Full name and address of both people applying for a license
  •  Names and address of parents of both parties
  •   Drivers license and social security card for both parties.
  •  $21 Cash
  • For previously married applicants please bring

○     Date last marriage ended (divorce, death, etc)

○     Number of previous marriages

○     If divorced within the last 6 months bring divorce decree.

Please note:

  •  There is no waiting period. You may marry right away.
  •  There is no blood test required.
  •  If you are already legally married in another state or country then your marriage is automatically recognized by the state of Mississippi. You do not need to record any documents or apply for a Mississippi marriage license.

If you encounter any problems while applying for a marriage license please call the Mississippi ACLU at 601-354-3408. 

Mississippi County Clerk's Offices

Adams County

Natchey, MS



Alcorn County

Corinth, MS



Amite County

Liberty, MS



Attala County

Kosciusko, MS



Benton County

Ashland, MS



Bolivar County

Cleveland, MS



Calhoun County

Pittsboro, MS



Carroll County

Carrollton, MS



Chickasay County

Houston, MS



Claiborne County

Port Gibson, MS



Clay County

West Point, MS



Coahoma County

Clarksdale, MS



Copiah County

Hazlehurst, MS



Covington County

Collins, MS



De Soto County

Hernando, MS



Forrest County

Hattiesburg, MS



Franklin County

Meadville, MS



George County

Lucedale, MS



Greene County

Leakesville, MS



Grenada County

Grenada, MS



Hancock County

Bay St. Louis, MS



Harrison County

Gulfport, MS



Hinds County

Raymond, MS



Holmes County

Lexington, MS



Itawamba County

Fulton, MS



Jackson County

Pascagoula, MS



Jefferson Davis County

Prentiss, MS



Jones County

Laurel, MS



Lafayette County

Oxford, MS



Lamar County

Purvis, MS



Lauderdale County

Meridian, MS



Leake County

Carthage, MS



Lee County

Tupelo, MS



Leflore County

Greenwood, MS



Lincoln County

Brookhaven, MS



Lowndes County

Columbus, MS



Madison County

Canton, MS



Marion County

Columbia, MS



Marshall County

Holly Springs, MS



Monroe County

Aberdeen, MS



Montgomery County

Winona, MS



Neshoba County

Philadelphia, MS



Newton County

Decatur, MS



Noxubee County

Macon, MS



Oktibbeha County

Starkville, MS



Panola County

Batesville, MS



Pearl River County

Polarville, MS



Pike County

Magnolia, MS



Prentiss County

Booneville, MS



Quitman County

Marks, MS



Rankin County

Brandon, MS



Scott County

Forest, MS



Simpson County

Mendenhall, MS



Stone County

Wiggins, MS



Sunflower County

Indianola, MS



Tate County

Senatobia, MS



Tishomingo County

Iuka, MS



Union County

New Albany, MS



Warren County

Vicksburg, MS



Washington County

Greenville, MS



Winston County

Louisville, MS



Yalobusha County

Water Valley, MS



Yazoo County

Yazoo City, MS


Category: Op-eds

ACLU-MS Responds to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

June 26, 2015


Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 601-354-3408; 

JACKSON, Miss – The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins on the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling inObergefell v. Hodges:

“Today’s historic Supreme Court ruling means same-sex couples will soon have the freedom to marry and equal respect for their marriages across America. This ruling will bring joy to families, and final nationwide victory to the decades-long freedom to marry movement. This is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. We can celebrate that ours is a country that keeps its promise of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all.

“Same-sex couples and their families have waited long enough. We hope state officials move swiftly to implement the Constitution’s command. 

“Our movement must harness the momentum from the marriage conversation to the work of securing additional advances towards equality, especially nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. LGBT people in Mississippi can still be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are.”

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