Prom is one of the pinnacle times of your high school career. It is a time that everyone looks forward to. You rent a Limo, after finding a date first of course. You choose a tux, or gown… depending. You pick out the colors to make sure you match the one you are going with. You pick out the flowers… for him, her, or him and him or her and her. You wear your best jewelry. You splash on a few extra dabs of cologne or perfume. You ready yourself to be paraded in front of the world… but first your parents. It's also the time where you play "dress up" and have a trial run as to what your wedding day may be like. In the case of a lot of GLBT kids… this may not happen. Depending on whether they (the parents) are accepting or not can change or alter the course of your high school prom experience.
In the time of its ok to be gay (now), sometimes deciding whether or not to come out to your parents is a no-brainer… you just do it. Also, depending on the community you live in, the era your parents were raised in, and their religion, it may be the hardest thing in the world to do because you are sure of certain rejection. No matter whether you do or don’t (come out) it is going to be a difficult journey anyways.
Some school systems will allow students to go stag (single) to the school prom. Some school systems only allow couples to come to the prom. Many require that you register your date ahead of time as sometimes the person you are coming with may not attend the same school, be part of the same class, or be in high school still at the time the prom takes place. This registration system is to “protect” the students and the event, but it can also be a down-hill slope to the GLBT student. Depending on the attitude of their administration, registering to bring a date of the same sex might be a near impossibility.
Take for instance Billy (not his real name) who attended a school in the central part of the state of Illinois. His school may be large (1000+ students) and in a large city (250K+ populous), the attitudes of his administration were that there would be no stag tickets sold, nor were you allowed to go with a group of friends. Billy thought that everything would be fine since he did not meet any of these non-allowed groups since he would be attending with his long-time boyfriend Steve (not his real name). When he attempted to buy the tickets, he was asked who his date would be, if they attended this school, and if they were barred from attending any school function (ie, trouble makers). He answered each of the questions asked and when he informed them the name of his date, he was promptly given his money back and was told he would not be able to attend the prom without beinging a “proper” date. While this is a common happening (the denial of tickets to a dance for a same-sex couple), it isn’t the same everywhere in the country.
Just across the border from Illinois is Iowa. Typical farm country with conservative attitudes and very Red according to political trackers and registrations. James (not his real name) wanted to attend his prom just like Billy. Also, just like Billy, there were restrictions on who could and could not attend the prom. James was asked the same questions as Billy, but when James informed them (the administration) that he would be taking Jose (not his real name), his boyfriend at the time, he was given the tickets and allowed to attend. The expected response did not happen and James was able to enjoy his prom with the person he “loved” just like any other typical high school sweetheart experience.
Depending on where you live, you might not and might be able to attend your prom. It is a personal decision to be out and proud at prom and one that should not be taken lightly. One must think of the ramifications of this decision and be prepared for any consequence that may arise from deciding to or not to go to the prom as an out and gay couple.
Personally, I went about it differntly. I asked a female friend of mine to the prom. Teryn and I went, enjoyed ourselves (I HOPE) and did the prom thing. I wasn’t brave enough at the time (1996) to be out and gay at prom, but it was a decision I do not regret. I don’t think, now that I look back and have the knowledge I have, that I would have been ready and willing to suffer the consequences of being out and gay at the prom. I still went. I still had fun. I still got to see my boyfriend enjoy himself. The only thing that didn’t happen is for me and my boyfriend to be able to dance the slow dances or show our affection like the other couples.
Prom is a scary time. High school is a scary time. My advice, whether you decide to go to prom with your partner, go stag, go with friends, or go with an opposite-sex date, is this… enjoy yourself and GO!
Jason P. Ruel
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbiand and HIV/AIDS Editor