Prom night is romanticized as the big night. It’s supposed to be a magical event for having fun and making memories. While that might be a reality for most straight students, it’s not the case for many LGBTQ+ identifying students. It certainly wasn’t for me.
My first prom night was spent stealing glances at my closeted date while straight people in cowboy boots stared at me.
I’ve known I was gay for as long as I can remember. I’m used to being treated differently and receiving confused and often disgusted stares. But I didn’t expect to experience my first real dose of unfiltered hatred from my date’s parents.
My date’s parents were okay with gay people until they found out their kid was gay. Up until I started dating their daughter, I’d been lucky. My parents have always supported who I am and ensured that homophobia was something I wouldn’t have to endure up close. My date didn’t have that kind of unconditional love from her parents.
Their hate led to our decision to date secretly and attend prom “as friends.” Instead of dancing together and being able to enjoy each other’s company, we spent the night worrying about what her mother would do if she found out we were together. We overthought our every move and prayed no one would suspect we were actually in a relationship, in case it could somehow get back to her parents.
Love shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of.
One of the most painful and frustrating things I’ve ever experienced is loving someone and having to hide it. Keeping our relationship a secret made me feel, for the first time in my life, like there was something wrong with me. Not being able to express my feelings for my date like every other high school kid at my prom made me feel like I didn’t belong there.
That night I kept thinking, “I am perpetuating a stereotype.” I was wearing the tuxedo I had chosen and instead of being happy, I felt bad about it. On a night where I was supposed to feel beautiful, I felt gross.
Attending prom uncovered a lot of hidden insecurities that I thought I had already worked through. Even if my date’s parents had been accepting of her sexuality, the homophobia among my classmates probably would have dissuaded me from openly bringing a girl as my date.
I can’t accurately convey the sheer anxiety I experienced every time I simply held hands with my girlfriend in the hallway. That anxiety was magnified when trying to dance with her in a room full of people who didn’t believe I have the right to get married to a woman.
It shouldn’t be an act of courage to take a date to prom.
How I felt that prom night isn’t something most teenagers ever have to worry about. Like so many things in our society, the high school prom experience reinforces gender roles and caters to the heterosexual couples, leaving little to no room for gay couples to be comfortable and feel accepted. Lesbian prom nights are a struggle. At least I got to attend my prom. Many gay kids don’t even get to have a prom experience because they are so terrified of being told they don’t belong.
After the night was over, it seemed like a wasted, anxiety-filled experience. I felt guilty that my mom had spent so much money for me to attend. My prom should have been the fairy tale it is made out to be—the prom most of my classmates got. I would like to think that for future generations it will be the magical night every student deserves.