Same-Sex Prom Dates: What’s the Fuss?
Originally Published: May 15, 2008
Revised: September 5, 2012
Prom is meant to be a fun night for everyone. Right? But what if your school bans same-sex couples? Shouldn’t all couples be able to enjoy prom?
The last thing gay, lesbian or bisexual students need to worry about is having their own school discriminate against them. By banning these couples, schools are sending out a very dangerous message: It’s OK to be intolerant.
Many schools don’t think that they are discriminating against students by preventing same-sex couples from attending prom, and instead they find ways to justify their actions. For instance, some schools claim that they cannot allow same-sex couples to come to prom because then the school would be making a “political statement.” But the only statement they’d be making by allowing students to attend prom regardless of the gender of their partners is one of tolerance. A school is not overstepping any legal boundary by being accepting of all students.
When schools ban same-sex couples to ‘protect’ them, they are not solving the problem of homophobia. They are avoiding it.
Some schools ban same-sex couples from prom as a way to “protect” them. They claim that other students could potentially harm these couples at prom. Prom should be safe, but this is not the way to go about stopping homophobia. Would schools prevent cheerleaders from attending prom because there are also people who don’t like them? And what about really smart kids? The other kids might be jealous, so maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to come, too!
When schools ban same-sex couples to “protect” them, they are not solving the problem of homophobia. They are avoiding it. If schools are really worried that homophobia is an issue, then they should address it on a regular basis. And if safety is a concern, then how about providing parental chaperons and teachers at prom? They can make sure that students are in a safe environment.
One reason my high school was hesitant to allow same-sex couples at prom was because they feared that students would “abuse” the inclusive policy and bring friends of the same sex. (Imagine the “horror” of having friends come to prom!) Plenty of prom couples—same-sex or not—are just friends. But when the couple is a guy and girl, school administration typically doesn’t interrogate them about whether they are “serious” or not. It’s only when same-sex couples try to attend prom that there’s a concern about “abusing” school policy. This just shows how discriminatory banning same-sex couples can be.
It might be surprising to know that this is not a new issue. In 1980, Aaron Fricke, a Rhode Island teenager, sued his school for not allowing him to bring his boyfriend to the senior prom. The courts ruled that Aaron could bring a same-sex date to prom because students have the right to express themselves. Yet some schools claim that this is a new issue that they do not yet know how to deal with. They’ve had more than 20 years to figure it out! And is there really that much to figure out? No.
It’s quite simple: Prom is meant to be a fun night for all. No one should have to sit at his or her prom wishing that he or she could have brought someone special but couldn’t because the school administration said no. Trust me; students have enough to worry about on prom night. Let them worry about walking in their high heels or spilling food on their dress or tux. Let them worry about their hair or what music the DJ will play.
Schools should not put students in a position where they have to worry about being treated unfairly. By treating students fairly and allowing them to express themselves, schools are teaching them the greatest lesson of all: tolerance.
Emily Duhovny, 18, is a Sex, Etc. contributor from New Jersey.
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