Thursday, 15 April 2010

Prom: A Lesbian's Point of View

It’s Thursday evening, my friends and I are getting dolled-up; high heels, big dresses and excessive make-up. It’s prom night. There’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the room. Tonight will be remembered for the rest of our lives.

Sadly, American teenager Constance McMillen never got to experience prom. Why you ask? Because she wanted to dress in a tux and take her girlfriend as a date. On a similar note, Ceara Sturgis, a student from Mississippi had her yearbook picture removed after wearing a tuxedo in the photo.

This shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century where lesbians are ‘allowed’ to get married, have children and celebrate their rights at Pride festivals worldwide.

Although there hasn’t been a case like McMillen’s and Sturgis’s in the UK (hopefully there never will be!), It seems to me as though we’re going backwards.

I wasn’t out when I went to prom, however if I had dressed in a tux, a girl on my arm, I’m pretty sure I’d have got some funny looks from my classmates. Surely this shouldn’t be the case.

I know prom is an age-old tradition, treasured far more in the US than here, but so is marriage yet we’re ‘allowed’ to do that. So what steps can we take to ensure Constance’s situation isn’t repeated?

Channel 4 had a go with their programme ‘My Big Gay Prom’ highlighting the separation between straight and homosexual counterparts in the world of school dances. And in San Francisco there’s an annual ‘lesbian prom’ that Constance and Ceara have been invited to along with an expected 2,000 others.

However, unquestionably, there shouldn’t be a need for a ‘lesbian prom’ or a separation between gay and straight dances. I don’t mean to sound like a ‘why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along’ type but why can’t we?

Thinking ahead to a time when two girls going to an integrated school dance together would be normality, I have come up with some suggestions on how to enjoy your ‘gay’ prom.

1. Ask the right girl! Don’t get stuck with someone who doesn’t want to be seen with you.
2. Dress well. Dress it down with a tailored suit jacket and t-shirt or a classy LBD.
3. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about holding hands or kissing your date, everyone’s seen it before.
4. Steady on the alcohol. Don’t make a fool of yourself before the dancing’s started!

Were we to try these things now I’m not sure what would happen, hopefully in the UK not much – stares and giggles, maybe. But in America, especially the South, who’s to say?

Constance’s case was a big step in changing things, putting pressure on all learning centres to accept the sexuality of their students and incorporate their beliefs in to plans for proms and other events.

And media wise, lesbians are becoming more mainstream with big TV shows like Greys Anatomy and Skins running popular gay storylines, perhaps having a lasting effect on how the gay community is perceived.

So hopefully, the powers that be will get a grip and realise there’s nothing to be worried about and, fingers-crossed, those of you who want to take your girlfriend to prom will be able to, and be proud when you do.

Oh, and by the way, we want the real deal: limousines, corsages and tuxes. Who knows maybe we’ll even get a Prom Queen and Queen!

By Rosie Blackwell-Sutton

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