A teen boy in Tennessee drew unwanted attention Saturday, April 24 for wearing a dress to his high school prom. Dalton Stevens wanted to make a big impression on his big night, but not everyone liked his formal attire. Now a CEO is in hot water as footage of his interaction with Stevens goes viral.
“I very much view clothes as genderless,” Stevens told press following the incident. When the senior at Franklin High School decided to ask his boyfriend, Jacob Geittman, to prom, he already knew what he wanted to wear.
“He did his big ‘prom-posal’ and asked me to prom,” said Geittman. “And he decided he was going to wear a dress, and I’m like, ‘OK! You’re going to look good in it!'”
On the night of the dance, Stevens arrived with Geittman at the Harpeth Hotel ready to take pictures in a floor-length red dress.
“I was very confident,” he said. “I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great.”
It wasn’t long, however, before a man unknown to the couple approached them.
Homophobic POS in Tennessee harasses a teenager for wearing a dress to prom pic.twitter.com/Ftt2a184jX— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) April 26, 2021
Stevens later described “slander terms thrown towards me of like, ‘You look bad, you’ve got hair or your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress, you’re not a man,’ blah, blah, blah.”
“I genuinely did not think that somebody in 2021 would come up to a person and say that,” Stevens told WSMV.
Geittman started recording the encounter, capturing footage that has since gone viral. At one point, the man appears to try to hit the phone from Geittman’s hand.
“He hit my phone out of my hand,” Geittman later said. “It hit concrete. He obviously didn’t want me recording him because he knew what he was doing was wrong.”
Geittman also said the man was intoxicated, and denied harassing the pair when confronted my hotel staff.
“He pretends like he has absolutely no clue what’s going on, he’s standing there, he’s like, ‘I’ve just been standing here the whole time, I don’t know what’s going on, I didn’t try to talk to them, I didn’t hit them, I didn’t try to smack the phone out of his hand,” Geittman told Newsweek, adding that the man was eventually expelled from the hotel.
Geittman’s video quickly went viral. Before long, the man in the clip was identified as Sam Johnson, CEO of telemedicine company VisuWell. In a statement to Newsweek, Johnson claimed he encountered the couple not over Stevens’ dress, but their rowdy behavior.
“We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant that we frequent, and I was returning from the restroom when I was presented with their loud cursing,” Johnson said. “Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange.”
Geittman later said Johnson’s account “simply isn’t true.”
If this is Sam Johnson in Nashville, Tennessee, the CEO of @VisuWell, healthcare-tech-growth strategist, married to Jill Johnson where they may reside in Franklin, Tennessee, it seems like he’s dying to be online famous. 🤷♀️🏳️🌈🤷♀️ https://t.co/GPYOYBQywv— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) April 26, 2021
“We were taking prom photos,” he said. “I’m sure we were a little loud. There was a group of 15 of us. None of us were cursing or screaming vulgarities.”
On Monday, April 26, VisuWell announced that they would terminate Johnson from his position as CEO of the company.
“We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media,” the company said in a follow-up tweet.
“VisuWell’s culture emphasizes respect, kindness, and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized communities, and we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind,” the tweet continued. “Mr. Johnson’s actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform.”
Official Statement pic.twitter.com/cMYoAEbI9d— Visuwell (@VisuWell) April 27, 2021
Meanwhile, Stevens hopes that word of his experience will help to spread tolerance and empower those who wish to break free of gender norms.
“If me doing this helps somebody else to wear a dress to prom or be more confident in anything they want to wear then that’s amazing. And if that’s what comes of this video, that would be a dream come true,” he said.