Life a Little Better for Some Gay Teens this Prom Season

Filed under: In The News, Bullying

gay prom

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What if Barbie doesn't want to go to the prom with Ken? What if she would rather go with Midge?

And what about Ken? Maybe he wants to go with Blaine, now that Blaine and Barbie have ended their brief dalliance and Blaine has come to terms with certain "issues."

There was a time when you took your life in your hands if you took your same-sex prom date in your arms. It is still not advisable in towns where Toby Keith just played to sold-out crowds at the local armory.

However, the Chicago Sun-Times reports things are getting better for gay teenagers and their prom dates.

Take Jakes Rosko and Jackson Smith -- both juniors at Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Ill., a suburban community just west of Chicago.

A couple for four months, they're going to the prom together in a few weeks, and, despite all the stories about anti-gay bullying, they tell the Sun-Times they barely get a sideways glance at Kaneland High.

However, they did get a few such glances when they went together to pick out matching tuxedos the other day.

"As soon as we went into the dressing room, everyone started to whisper," Rosko tells the newspaper. "I think it's funny how people can be so closed-minded."

Kaneland High Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin tells the Sun-Times she's glad Rosko doesn't include the school community among such people. Administrators, teachers and students work to promote tolerance and acceptance, she tells the newspaper.

It was a different story when she came to the school just six years ago, she adds, whenh Rosko and Smith would have needed medical insurance more than matching tuxedos. Anti-gay hostility was rampant, she tells the Sun-Times.

Administrators created a Gay/Straight Alliance group at the school and began promoting diversity.

"Students learned what it truly means to accept and be tolerant of people they may not understand," she tells the newspaper. "It's like any civil rights movement. The issue starts pretty radically. Ten years ago, it was radical to have same-sex couples go to prom. Today, there are absolutely no limitations."

So, it's easy to be a gay teenager in 2011? Not quite.

The Sun-Times reports not all area schools are like Kaneland High. At Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Ill., students tell the newspaper, you still don't want to show up at the prom with a same-sex date.

There are no rules against it -- not formally, anyway. But gay students just know it's not a good idea.

A Waubonsie junior tells the Sun-Times she knows a lot of gay students, but none of them are going to the prom together.

"They probably don't want to get made fun of," Martyna Bobek tells the newspaper. "If they did go, they'd probably go in a big group."

And gay youths generally don't congregate in gangs -- no matter what "West Side Story" suggests.

So, the prom and high school life in general remain a mixed bag for gay teenagers. However, Rosko says, the world is a definitely getting better.

He admits he is practically a walking target for bullies: He fits many gay stereotypes, loves to act, dance and sing and thinks Lady Gaga is fabulous. He is also a fashion fanatic in his own right, but the people at Kaneland High are apparently comfortable with who he is. As a result, so is he.

"I don't mind," he tells the Sun-Times of his assorted affectations. "I like to express myself in every way possible."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.