On prom night Derek Bolton will be stepping out in a dress. He said he wouldn’t likely be able to do this without untold harassment, if it were the regular prom he was attending. But Bolton, 21, is one of an expected 50 people who will be going to the 2nd annual gay prom in Prince George on April 5.
He said all students deserve to spend that celebratory night feeling comfortable and among their peer group.
“I just know it wouldn’t be the same if I went to the regular prom. You could probably bring a partner but I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around holding his hand,” said Bolton, who graduated from Prince George Secondary last year.
He attended Prince George’s inaugural gay prom last year and was named the 2002 Miss Gay Prom Queen. This year he will turn over his title to someone else and do his final walk down the runway in drag.
Bolton, who came out when he was 15 years old, said surviving high school has made him strong enough to face the rest of the world.
Negativity, harassment and stereotyping are like a second skin that society forces upon gay people, and until it’s shed having events like a separate gay prom are essential, said Bolton, so all students can enjoy the much-anticipated rite of passage that marks the completion of high school.
“Ideally all proms should be held under one roof, but we’re not there yet,” said Dan Seibel, a 19-year-old from Prince George who also graduated last year.
“Differences are still too extreme, people don’t look for the similarities. We’re not there yet.”
Seibel would have graduated with Jamie Lazarre, the gay aboriginal teen who committed suicide last Spring just a month before graduation.
“He faced the added pressure of racism too,” said Seibel, who came out when he was 16 but immediatly dropped out of high school due to the harassment he faced by undiscerning peers.
Prince George’s Youthquest chair Shawn Peters said the community has come together very strongly so homophobia can be properly addressed in schools and in the community and so such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.
“The gay prom, which will be held on the same weekend as Pride Days, will mean a lot to the gay community who come down to celebrate,” said Peters.
Gay prom will be held at St. Michaels Church and is open to all ages, so gay adults who may not have been able to celebrate grad with their partners in the past can attend as well, Peters explained. Tickets are $15 and available at Mosquito Books and Extreme Adult.
The City of Prince George recently signed a proclamation for Pride Days following a Human Rights case which was launched by Youthquest back in September.
“I am glad we have the option of attending the gay prom. There are a lot of judgemental people out there, which presents a safety issue for us,” said Bonnie Miller, a 19-year-old lesbian who didn’t come out until after she graduated because she didn’t want to be labeled by others.
“This way we will feel welcome, anyone is welcome. It’s a hate-free zone.”