The Costume Too Scary for Halloween

Student, Readers Talks About Suspension for Vagina Costume

By Buck Wolf

Nov. 15, 2001 --   Some call high school a dress rehearsal for life. If that's true, Christian Silbereis will forever be remembered as the kid who showed up for the Halloween party in the vagina costume.

Two weeks ago, The Wolf Files reported that Community High School officials in Ann Arbor, Mich., suspended Silbereis for showing up at the school's midday costume party in a satin and lace rendering of female genitalia — but not before he won first prize from students for his costume.

This week, The Wolf Files checks back with Silbereis and his family, and readers offer their views of the situation. Did the school act too harshly? Should the boy's parents be faulted for letting him go to school like that? And what does this episode say about our society?

Silbereis is now back to attending classes after his brush with controversy.

"The other kids aren't really teasing me. I'm glad to be back in school," he says.

"Maybe some of the teachers now regard me as a troublemaker. They don't come out and say it. But that's the way it feels. Maybe they look at me differently now."

As a senior, Silbereis hopes to start taking some college classes at the University of Michigan next spring. He wants to major in film or massage therapy.

His story has been in his high school paper, and on TV and radio shows across the country.

"I never expected to get this kind of attention, of course," Silbereis says. "I keep getting calls from friends saying they saw the story up in yada-yada press or wherever and I can hardly believe it."

Teen's Parents Support His Choice

School officials maintain that they didn't suspend the boy for his costume. Rather, Maggie Jewett, the school's assistant dean, went to his class — an elective on psychology and film — and told him to take it off or go home. Silbereis chose to take the costume off.

But when classes ended and students gathered for the party, Silbereis pulled it back on. His classmates were so thrilled that they voted him first prize for best costume.

"I've spoken to teachers and none of them say he was disrupting class," says his stepfather, Malcom Tulip, a writer and actor who runs a drama program at Community High. "Within a few days, some 200 people [in a school of about 450 students] had signed a petition on his behalf."

Tulip says there were calls from radio stations as far away as Alaska. "A lot of them just wanted to hear a youngster say 'vagina' on the air. It was rather silly."

Silbereis' first line of defense: The costume wasn't meant to offend. It was, he repeated to many reporters, anatomically correct. "It's just another body part," he said. "They teach us about it in school."

His mother, Rosalyn Tulip, a midwife, says her son had no intention of offending. "There's nothing inappropriate about what's given all of us life," she says. She says she warned him that some people might be shocked, but allowed him to wear it nevertheless.