Kristen Foery

June 1999

Masquerade. (Warning: I am not politically correct.)

First, housekeeping: My apologies for no column last month.

Spring has sprung, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and... I am utterly disgusted with the world at large. From the windows of my computer room, I can see the flowers and trees that are blooming. Spring... life, rebirth, whatever. My problem with spring is that it reminds me too much of rampant, unchecked heterosexuality.

I should get to the point of this article. This weekend I got to experience the joys of my first prom. Prom is, according to my mother, the defining moment of a high school student's life. It is a night of magic, pageantry, makeup, music, and getting completely wasted and having meaningless sex. (Oh, wait, I think those last two were my cynicism slipping in.)

The prom I went to was not my own high school's. I went with one of my closest friends. The fact that I went with one of my closest friends is a given, because I simply will not wear a dress for most people.

The evening was wonderful, actually, until we got to the dance. It is a given that at every high school dance ninety-nine percent of the music will either lack a melody, good lyrics, or both. This one was no exception. My wonderful date and I didn't dance for the entire evening. What we did do was sit at a table and people watch.

As I was sitting there, with the only other openly gay people at the dance, I began to wonder several things. What if I had taken up the other queer girl's offer and danced with her? What if two boys had danced together? What would the crowd have done? I suspect we would have been beaten up within thirty seconds. I found myself wishing that my girlfriend was with me, so that we could simply go to Rehoboth and dance on the beach.

One of the most frustrating things about being a gay teenager in Sussex County, or for that matter, anywhere, is the utter lack of safe things to do. It's one thing to go to a dance surrounded by rampant heterosexuals and talk loudly about being a lesbian. It's another to do something 'overtly gay'.

My girlfriend and I only hold hands when it's dark, or we have a jacket covering us. We would never dream of holding hands while we're walking, even in Rehoboth. It's far too risky- someone from school might see, and people talk. Kiss with other people around? Forget about it. Even going to a movie together is risky.

The simple truth of the matter is that there isn't anywhere safe in this county. Sometimes I doubt that there is a safe place to be gay in this world. It's especially hard for teenagers, though. When one is a sixteen year old high school student, one must interact with the same people every day. Escaping one's peers is impossible. And oh, how people talk. I have been romantically linked to virtually all of my female friends, which is a source of endless amusement. High school rumor mills are extraordinary things: if one believed what goes around, I've been pregnant, have had a very *interesting* sex life, and am an all star "recruiter". (I want my toaster oven, yes indeedie.)

I would like to suggest that a gay teen dance be organized. I say this, though, knowing that the turnout would probably not be spectacular. Were I in the closet, I would avoid such a dance like the plague. And even though youth activities are a wonderful idea, organizing such things would do nothing to alleviate the rampant homophobia that is found in high schools.

Homosexuality is not often discussed in my school. In some schools it is forbidden to be discussed. All sex education is about heterosexual sex- except for when we get to the section about AIDS. I think that high schools like to pretend that there's no such thing as a gay teenager. They must think that the rainbow fairy comes to visit the moment a gay person becomes an adult. I can see myself on my 18th birthday: "Yes, mom, and then I became gay!"

What is there to do? I'm not sure, and I'm not going to pretend that I have all of the answers. However, acknowledging that gays and lesbians exist would be a good start for schools. Even simple things, such as talking about how Walt Whitman's homosexuality greatly influenced his poetry when reading his work in an English class, would be wonderful. I would even settle for something as trite as a "gay history week". Something. Anything. I want to hang a rainbow banner on my locker that has WE EXIST written on it in blinking neon. I want to be able to throw rainbow streamers down the hallways and have an "I'm with gay" shirt with an arrow pointing to the right. I want to flap my arms and fly to the moon.

Many people I come out to who are teenagers tell me that I'm the first gay person that they have ever met. This baffles me. I know for a fact that we're everywhere; my gaydar is fairly good. This comment, however, probably illustrates that for much of the heterosexual world, queers are not people. We are this large block of faceless, nameless people whom they are vaguely disgusted with. I don't want to be idealistic and say that the world can be changed if everyone comes out, but one's perspective on homosexuality is greatly changed when "gay people" suddenly morphs into "Aunt Gertrude" or "my friend Steve".

Prom was a fun night, despite the pathos. I hated sitting there, surrounded by couples grinding. I hated that I was pretending to be heterosexual, that I didn't seem to have too much choice in the matter.

One of these days, I will dance with my girlfriend at a public dance. I will hold her close to me. And perhaps there will be people surround us who aren't gay... and they will not care that we are dancing.

Not much harm in hoping, eh?

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