Sunday, April 20, 2008


To be fair, I was asked to post about this, but I was planning on it anyways. I just thought I'd give a heads up so that I remain, as much as Fox News, fair and balanced.

A few years ago, I read a great article -- back when they had good articles -- in OUT magazine about gay kids going to prom with their same-sex date. (This is not the article, but I think it's fairly well done and it originally appeared in OUT's sister magazine, Advocate.) It made me kind of sad because this was one place I never really "acted out" in high school. I came out at the age of 12 as bisexual, and then again at 14 as homosexual to my entire school. Both attempts were supposed to be on the small scale... however, I ended up rocking my high school and being the out gay kid that everyone knew.

When I was a sophomore, I made a half-assed attempt at starting a GSA with me and a few friends. Approaching the principal, who was on his way out, he refused it, saying he was concerned about the community reaction. Knowing what I know now, this was illegal and I could have challenged it and won, which left me with a great deal of guilt in the coming years. Regardless, except for being the out kid and a few minor explosions here and there (my newest readers from my high school will remember a few), my high school activism ended there. I think, to this day, I wish I had done more, but there were moments I was glad for what I did. I have gotten called over and hugged at Charleston's one gay bar... a few mumbled thank you's or notes have been passed to me. I've taken them with a grain of salt as people would have come out anyways, but I know the feeling. Welcome to the life, I tell most of them.

My high school prom experiences were disasters -- my junior prom was spent at someone else's school, and my senior prom was coming off a disastrous social explosion that ended many many long term relationships but began many many more (it was probably for the better, in the end) and I ended up going with this gal who ditched me. But I didn't really date in high school -- in fact, the entire four years, despite being heavily involved in theatre, were only marked by a handful of quasi-relationships with inappropriate partners and a boat load of inappropriate sexual relationships with otherwise appropriate partners (this, of course, is prelude to a lot of what has happened in the rest of my life).

Fast forward to senior prom, as there is an interesting story there. I asked a boy out... he would, btw, eventually come out as gay later in life, and he later followed me around the 2000 SC pride festival like a puppy. He refused at the time, but his girlfriend (then) would later take my mother's history class at Trident Tech and tell her that I had asked him out. This marks my mother's final acceptance of who I was (and it's only been uphill since then -- even though we disagree on when I came out).

There is not a lot for gay kids in Charleston, SC. At least, there weren't at the time. It was small community and the one outlet I had -- We Are Family Foundation, though still running, struggled at best, though I would later get back involved and find myself amongst friends I never knew I had -- was really really weak and far away and in a bad neighborhood to boot. I wished there was something like gay prom or some sort of young gay outlet where we could learn to be gay together. Where we could learn the social coding and the dating and the cultural contexts that are so important in growing up to be a health human being; these things, I believe, straight people take for granted but are missing in so many young gay people's lives.

Cincinnati has offered a great wide open world for me. I know, many local disparage our home town, but I have to say this: what we have here is heads and shoulders above where I was. More gay bars than I know what to do with, more openly gay people everywhere, so many social outlets. It really is amazing here, and I don't think we give it enough credit.

But a lot of our local organizations and events are being ignored because they are so commonplace here. It's an interesting trend -- and there is a sociological theory behind all this -- where, in its infancy, movements and events start small because people are afraid to join. They grow and they grow and they grow every year, until they start to make an impact, and then they start dwindling off again. Few movements or events die suddenly -- the suffragette movement, for example, did die suddenly, but the overarching feminist movement, I think, is in this very decline and has been for at least two generations.

Cincinnati has a gay prom. No, really. And, from my brief experience with it, I believed that it was in this very decline, but I will hand it to the current organizers that they are breathing life back into it. The current leadership of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) here in Cincinnati has done very smart things to bring back the life to this amazing event that has benefited so many and could continue to do so, so long as it changes with the time. What did they do? Open it up to adults. It becomes not only an activism/fundraising event for a great organization, but they have been able to separate out space for adults so that there can be that safety, and so that the "kids" can have their own special prom and the rest of us can have a great deal of fun in a health environment. They've also been intelligent enough to not only put in social networking sites like Facebook (but not Myspace, though Myspace events are not paid attention to as much, I think), and they've tagged people to make sure others are coming. I'm 100% supportive of the event, but I have to say this: getting a phone call from a friend (and from someone I dearly respect) and asking why I haven't bought my ticket is far more effective than a generic invite on Facebook. I mean, the only thing I'm really unhappy with about the whole approach and advertising thing is that it's referred to as an alternative prom, but I can understand where it comes from (and I'm not really upset about it, I am always amused about how the LGBTSQI community refers to itself, and how seriously we take referring to ourselves as if being queer isn't campy enough, we have to fight over how campy we get to be when talking about ourself).

And now? I'm really excited about going -- which, I'm sure, has nothing to do with having a date :-). I mean, really excited.

I have been before, but only as an exhibitor. I've never been as a participant, so I am a little nervous, but I'm finding myself thinking of all the little things I get to do that are going to make it a great prom for someone else -- where do I buy a boutinierre (sp?), should I rent a limo, and will anyone spike the punch. Of course, this time around, we can drink alcohol (being over 21 is nice), but I've given that up, so that will still be an experience I'll miss. I'm reverting to my 17 year old self and wondering if I should rent a tux, as well, and my roommate is asking if we get to do the whole pre-prom picture thing in someone's back yard.

I've narrowed the reason I'm so giddy down to one thing: this time, it's on my terms. I'm choosing to go -- the last times, I felt like I was being forced to because that's something you do. I'm choosing my own date -- the last times, I was the gay kid that would be ditched at the chance a girl got an actual date. And, it's going to be a real date... not the silly "these are the conventions, now follow them." I've done a lot of growing since the last time around and though I appreciate the prom conventions we are expected to follow and understand they are the basis for a heterosexist dating community, they aren't me.

So, as an adult, I get to go to prom and really enjoy myself. Yea, yea, it's a little pricy -- $50 a ticket for us old people over 21 -- but it's going to a good group. And I'm encouraging all of you to join me, too. We'll dance, we'll listen to bad music, we'll take goofy pictures, and we'll have a whole lot of fun.

And, btw, we don't have to hang out with the kids all night long. We get our own dance floor. :-)

Who: Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN Cincinnati)
What: Spring Fever -- 2008 Prom
Where: Contemporary Arts Center /
When: Saturday, April 26th, 7p-Midnight
Why: To shake a tail feather and have a GREAT time.

Oh, and I promise I'll bring the camera and we'll post something fabulous about it the day or so after :-).

A quick story about GLSEN that ties into all of this: Once upon a time, I had a volunteer who was in high school and was trying to start a GSA at Boone County High School. He asked me if I could, possibly, get a couple of people at one of the school admin's meeting to support him after a few months of being stonewalled. I put in a lot of phone calls, as Nick had done so much for me and for AVOC, but there were two organizations that turned out people like you wouldn't believe. One was the, at the time, nascent Kentucky Equality Federation run by the fabulous Jordan -- whose blog, you'll note, has now been added to my blogroll -- and the other organization was GLSEN. In a city where the usefulness of certain organizations can be called into question many many times, GLSEN is admirable in their dedication to purpose. Check out some news reels on that event two years ago here and here and here. Personally, I had said that this was my opportunity to right the wrong for not fighting the lack of a GSA in my high school so many years ago.

And this also should be noted, a list of how to take your same-sex date to your prom. It's short and to the point, but it's a good survival guy.


Anonymous said...

i love ky equality federation. they rock.

Barry Floore said...

I think so too. I miss those crazy kids.