"They're too many gay kids at the prom"

Chris Peterson

This was a comment I overheard from one parent to another at a high school event I was attending. What was even sadder than hearing the original comment was that the other parent agreed with them.

This is not a theatre related post, unless whoever is reading it happens to be involved in theatre. 

Every year, there comes a story on the news of a high school somewhere in America that is banning gay couples from attending prom. Thankfully, we're seeing less and less of them. But that doesn't help the students in these individual towns that are unable to attend prom with the person they want, because of what gender they might be. 

What I find ever more ludicrous is that the origin of prom had nothing to do with young men bringing young women as dates. Early proms, which date back to the 1800's were times of firsts: the first adult social event for teenagers; the first time taking the family car out after dark; the first real dress-up affair; and so forth. Proms also served as a heavily-documented occasion, similar to a milestone event such as first communion, in which the participants were taking an important step into a new stage in their lives. Nowhere is that description does it say that only heterosexual couples would be allowed in. 

Michael Martin, left, and Logan Westrope - Photo by Jodi Brotman Westrope

Michael Martin, left, and Logan Westrope - Photo by Jodi Brotman Westrope

True story: I didn't meet an openly gay person until my first day of college. I grew up in a small town and went to an even smaller high school, total enrollment of just over 200. During my time there, no one was openly gay. But years later, I found out that two of my classmates, one of which was a good friend and the other was a teammate on the football team, had come out. 

While I was initially thrilled for them, I felt terrible that I didn't help create a culture in school where they could've felt safe to come out then, if they wanted to. I remembered conversations where as a group we talked about girls and pressured them to join in. And worst of all, as a stupid-closed minded 15 year old of the 1990's, even using some disgusting derogatory terms around them as well. 

And while I've grown up, matured and learned from my mistakes, many communities still haven't evolved which force gay teens to basically live in hiding and if they don't get to have the escape of college or moving away, they still might be living in hiding. 

So I ask communities like this, if prom was originally meant to simply be a rite of passage for teenagers, does it really matter who accompanies them through the passage? 

Like I said, thankfully we're seeing less and less of these stories. I hope someday we won't even have to write columns like this. Students deserve to have the times of the lives at prom and the only concern should be getting them home safely, not who they bring as a date. 

Too many gay kids at the prom? I say there should be a lot more. 

Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards