Mark Segal

My 1969 High School Prom

Filed By Mark Segal | May 10, 2012 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay prom, growing up queer, high school prom, senior prom

My 1969 high school prom came 43 years late -- last week, actually. Like many people of my generation who knew they were gay in high school bigstock-Tuxedo-Tie-on-Prom-Night-864375.jpg-- unlike heterosexuals who looked forward to that night -- I looked at the prom as a night of dread and oppression. For LGBT people, if we participated, we may have acted a part with a friend of the opposite sex, who might or might not have known who we really were. Or we simply skipped the event. Yes, no matter what your feelings on the prom, it is still a major part of the high-school experience.

As a high school senior, I knew exactly who I was - not that I was shouting it in the school halls, but it was something I knew - and, like those of my generation, did not completely understand it, but knew enough not to make it public. And since, in those days, you didn't take a same-sex date to the prom, this senior was not participating. It simply was not who I was.

Through the years, I often thought about what would have happened at the prom. Who would have been my date? Like everyone who comes across that fork in the road, you wonder what would have happened if you chose the other road; but in this case, I just wondered about the prom experience I missed.

Enter The SeniorLAW Center and its major event of the year, "The SeniorPROM." Like all fundraisers, it has speeches and awards. About a month before the prom, the organizers informed me that I'd be receiving the Senior Advocate of the Year Award. Since my work on the LGBT-friendly affordable senior-living facility (the reason for the award) was taking up so much time, I didn't give it much thought. About a week before the event, it dawned on me that this was the prom I never went to and it was my opportunity to have that personal moment ... even though I'd have to hope the audience, prom attendees, appreciated it.

So in my acceptance speech, after thanking the organization and the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, I explained how many of my generation never had a chance to go to the prom. Many were actually terrorized by the concept; others stayed home in sorrow and loneliness. I told them I was one of those who did not go. Then I reached for a box I had hidden and said, "With your indulgence, I'd like to correct that now."

Walking over to my boyfriend, Jason, I took the yellow rose boutonniere out of the box and, standing in front of him and the audience, I said, "Will you be my prom date?" He smiled, which was a relief, and said "Of course," and the audience went wild.

Later we danced. And, no matter what you tell me, we were king and king of the prom.

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