Alternative prom planned for same-sex couples

Dance's `Rainbow' theme to represent inclusiveness

April 23, 1999|By Erika Niedowski and Alice Lukens | Erika Niedowski and Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Gay and lesbian high school students in Howard County will be singing and dancing "Under the Rainbow" next month in Columbia at the first same-sex prom held in the county.

The alternative prom is being sponsored by the Howard chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a national nonprofit organization.

"It's really positive for the kids to know that there's a place that they can go to and have fun like they would at [their high school] prom," said Dorina Stanislaw, 18, a Centennial High School senior from Ellicott City who plans to attend the event with her girlfriend, Jennifer Roorda, 20, a 1997 Centennial graduate.

The prom's theme, "Under the Rainbow," was chosen because the rainbow is widely recognized as a symbol of gay pride.

Schools not involved

Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the county school administration, said the May 8 prom is not associated with the school system, and that same-sex couples are welcome to attend any high school's prom.

"I hope people wouldn't infer that our proms are in any way exclusive, because they are not," said Caplan. "We have a human relations policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation."

Holly, 18, a Centennial senior who asked that her last name not be used, said the nondiscrimination policy doesn't ensure that students will be sympathetic when they see same-sex couples slow-dancing or holding hands.

"It's still very hard, just because the schools can't really monitor other students and their reactions," said Holly, who is taking her girlfriend, Amy, a Mount Hebron senior, to Centennial's prom. "So there is a definite need for it, because not everyone feels comfortable going to their high school prom."

Colette Roberts, co-chairwoman of PFLAG's local chapter, said the semiformal event at the Sheraton Columbia is being funded primarily through private donations but that the nonprofit group is also using a portion of a Health Department grant.

The grant money is being used for HIV/AIDS awareness and self-esteem programs.

PTA and school board members reached yesterday said they support the event.

"I don't want any child to feel left out," said Sandra H. French, a member of the school board.

Barb Langridge, president of the PTSA at Centennial, said everyone should have a chance to "be who they are."

"And if that's who you are, then you should have a chance to celebrate that, and I think that's fine."

Fun, not just a statement

The PFLAG prom is being held less to make a political statement than to give gay students a chance to enjoy an evening out where they feel safe and accepted.

The event is open to college students and members of other area gay-support groups, including Sufficient As I Am of Baltimore and Sexual Minority Action League of Washington.

Students can buy tickets, which are $15, at Columbia Association headquarters and Lambda Rising bookstores.

About 100 tickets have been sold.

Roberts said she hopes the prom will help some students be more open about their sexuality.

"Just the thought of having to live in hiding has got to be very painful for people," she said.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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