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July 17th, 2017

Having The Prom You Never Had

Wow…so many conflicting feelings about this…

At prom for gay adults, a second chance at a night worth remembering

Leland Gray, a 30-year-old manager at a local HVAC company, dreamed up the event and organized it in his spare time. So many of his gay friends had shared similar stories of regretting prom, just like he had. They’d been scared or confused or trying to be something they weren’t to please their parents.

“Doing it our way this time around.” That’s what Leland had written on the online page he created to promote the event a couple months ago.

He’d expected a few dozen people to come.

He had to cut off ticket sales at 250.

I’m not conflicted for the grownups still aching for their inner teenager to finally have their prom night. I’m happy for them. But who would I have asked…who would have gone with me…those are deep waters I might not want to disturb.

Had I lived in a time when gay kids could be open about it and figure out amongst ourselves who was a good match for whom, the dates we would have actually taken to a prom might surprise the adults we later became. But we did not grow up in that world, and my school was a small one. We had to hide, often even from ourselves because knowing could be fatal. It was survival. And that meant you couldn’t date, couldn’t even talk about it among your friends let alone your family, and couldn’t tell who was right for you, and who was not.

In a different world it might more likely have been some kid from another school that I met at the church Coffee Shop in Rockville, or elsewhere…maybe some gay teen social event organized by some caring supervising adults who just want to make sure that every kid gets a chance at that first magical romance. When you are few you have to network in ways others don’t. And it’s something else that grieves me to think about, so I try not to very much, that in that other imaginary better world I might have met that one special teenage heart that I never got a chance to meet in the world I that did grow up in, and now will never know.

There was no prom for me, and I don’t think there ever will be. But it’s good that some of us are reclaiming that ground now, while there is still time left. If you lucked out and settled in with The One, and the two of you didn’t have your prom, you should go organize one. It’s never too late to dance that one magical night.

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