FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — A CEO who publicly ridiculed a male high school senior who wore a dress to prom with his boyfriend has been fired by his Tennessee company.
Cell phone video taken Saturday and posted to several social media platforms shows Dalton Stevens, a senior at Franklin High School, being ridiculed by a man later identified as Sam Johnson, the then-CEO of a local telemedicine company, VisuWell.
“I very much view clothes as genderless,” Stevens said.
Stevens wanted to make a statement for his senior year, so he decided on bold formal attire.
“He did his big ‘prom-posal’ and asked me to prom,” Jacob Geittman, Stevens’ boyfriend, said. “And he decided he was going to wear a dress, and I’m like, ‘Okay! You’re going to look good in it!'”
Stevens wore a floor-length red dress.
“I was very confident,” Stevens said. “I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great.”
While Stevens and Geittman were at the Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin taking pictures, Johnson walked up to Stevens and ridiculed him for his attire.
“Slander terms thrown towards me of like ‘You look bad,’ ‘You’ve got hair on your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress,’ ‘You’re not a man,’ blah, blah, blah,” Stevens said. “The fact that he thought he had the audacity to come tell me what I was supposed to wear and what I was supposed to do because of his standards.”
On Monday evening, VisuWell terminated Johnson.
“You can have your thoughts and opinions, [but] keep them to yourself,” Geittman said. “You don’t need to go up to a teenager in public on their prom night and publicly shame and harass them for what they decided to wear.”
Stevens now wants to raise awareness and challenge gender norms when it comes to clothing.
“I think clothing should just be taken as a piece of cloth and nothing more,” said Stevens. “Everybody should just wear what they want and shouldn’t be ashamed to wear anything because of societal standards.”
VisuWell released a statement on Twitter on Monday night condemning Johnson and his remarks, saying in part, “We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.”