Does your school host dances? Whether they are in honor of a homecoming game, a senior prom or just because, many schools throw a few dances every year.
Though they can be really fun, a lot of GLBT teens find the experience kind of nerve-wracking or just plain confusing. As one teen lesbian writes:
"There's a school dance today that I'm going to. While I love dancing, these can be kind of annoying because I want to do a slow dance but I can't walk up to people and ask them their sexual orientations until I find someone lesbian!"
This girl isn't the only one with such a concern. So here are five tips on handling a school dance.
- Don't expect it to be romantic. A 16-year-old girl says: "My best guy friend (who's gay too) and I made sure we'd get to dance together and we had a lot of fun. I really don't ever go to dances with the intent of having an even semi-romantic dance. I just danced with him and all my straight girl friends. It was really fun. I wouldn't expect to dance with a lesbian, but you can still have a really nice time.
- Think of it as a place to have fun with your friends. A 20-year-old college guy says: "Personally, I wouldn't mind dancing with a girl. I could still have for for the sake of having fun and not think of it as this "boys and girls in love dancing." Just go dance with a friend of yours ( boy or girl) and both go as singles. It could work and you can still have fun. School dances feel less and less romantic as you get older.
- Stay safe. Know your environment. If you think dancing with your boyfriend or girlfriend could put you in danger, a school dance might not be the best place to do so.
- Consider whether this is where you want to come out. As the Guide to Gay Life says, "If you're not out and plan to stay that way during high school, you may want to reconsider taking a same-sex date. It will be terribly hard to avoid coming out to the entire student body while slow dancing with another guy."
- Know your rights. Teens should know that if they go to public school in the United States, then they are legally allowed to bring a same sex date to a school prom. The right to do so is actually protected under the First Amendment as a right to expression. Additionally, teens have a right to protection and an environment free from sexual harassment at school. This is protected by something called, Title IX.
Unfortunately, not all public schools follow the law and teens have been told that they are not allowed to bring a same sex date to their prom. If you are told that you can't bring a same sex date to prom, there are a few places you can turn for help. The first thing to do is to find an adult who supports you. Ideally this would be a teacher or administrator in the school as well as your parents. You can also contact your local school board and file a complaint. Another option is to get in touch with your nearest GLBT community center. Finally you can contact the ACLU, a legal organization which has fought cases like this on behalf of teens around the country.
Hopefully, you will never have to face these challenges and the nervousness about the dance you might feel is about what you will wear and who you will dance with, and not about an upcoming legal battle!