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On Being Gay: Heteronormativity, Social Norms, and Prom

By Sawyer Hammond in Opinion & Politics

In a society that claims to be so forward and progressive, it sure is incredibly easy to be left out of everything. As an out, gay teenager, I always find myself frustrated with some of society’s accidental walls that are put up. Sure, there are plenty that slip past me and I don’t even really notice because, luckily enough, I’m not part of that specific target group, but I have experienced enough to know the sadness of being left out and the pain of being unintentionally excluded. Time and time again I’m reminded of how tough it is to be gay when school dances roll around. All the other students are so excited, filled with emotions in regard to how much fun it will be to go with a date. Then there are those who sit and complain to me about not having a date. More often than not, it is a really pretty girl who thinks she is doing something wrong. But the reality is, she is just succumbing to societal pressures. You don’t need a date. And while I do understand that initial panic, that feeling of fear, that worry of not fitting in by attending a dance single, I quickly lose patience for any sort of complaint because that rare occurrence in their life is literally my everyday life. Take a second and think about your life in this heteronormative world. According to statistics, only 3.8% of Americans identify on the LGBT spectrum. So, as a straight person, even if you are very picky, you still have roughly 96.2% of the population of all people within your opposite gender identification who have a chance of being attracted to you right back. Now, imagine being just as picky and having a pool to pick from that can be anywhere from 30-100 times smaller. Then try complaining to me about the dating pool. It’s not that I don’t care at all, and it’s not that I don’t think certain people don’t deserve to have a date. If anything, I totally understand where they’re coming from, so much in fact that their problem really irks me and is basically rendered insignificant in my book because to me it’s so normal. By some small chance if I happen to meet someone before prom, decide to ask them, and actually go to prom with this special someone (I have 17 days,) that would stir up a whole ‘nother set of societal issues to be broken. Who pays for dinner? When you dance, who is the grinder and who is the grindee? During the slow dance moment who holds the hips and who holds the shoulders? Yes, all of those are perfectly fine questions to consider and even worry about, but on top of that, how does society treat a gay couple? Let me answer that for you in one word: Shitty. The inadvertent social binaries that society has laid out not only make me as a member of the LGBT community feel uncomfortable, but that I am doing something wrong. When it comes to school dances there is always something about royalty that really irritates me me. This year two things bothered me. I did some digging of my own to figure out why I could only vote for couples. I don’t understand the point at all and I think it defeats the purpose of everyone having a chance to be elected or nominated as royalty. At most other schools royalty is designed around the two individuals who receive the most votes, together they’re crowned prom royalty, given the plastic crowns, and that is that. That was the first issue for me, which I dealt with PROM-ptly (haha) and then carried onto the next issue, which was even more pressing and gives me anxiety to even think about. The ballots that were handed out to all the students are so binary and exclusive. What does a gay couple or a lesbian couple do when they want to write themselves down and there isn’t a select space for that? Only having spaces for King and Queen immediately excludes any non-heterosexual couple that could possibly hope to be nominated for royalty.  I would hope that a smart Fairview student would just write two girls’ names next to the prom queen section, or just write one girl under each of the two. I can’t even imagine the discomfort for a transgender student experiencing the same thing, which one do they write themselves down for? Which one will others write that student down for strictly based off of the student’s appearance? Why don’t we have more open options for all students?  The flow of questions was endless through my head and I wasn’t even voting for myself. I don’t understand why in this day and age, when everyone claims to be so accepting and forward, why we can’t move past creating this gender binary that restricts and inadvertently creates target groups? It would be easier for the LGBT community and even easier for those counting votes. Format it as something requesting for two nominees from each person, and then gather all the finalists, and have people pick two names. No need for gender. The resulting winners are just labeled as prom royalty and that’s all there is to it. I’m one of the many who is comfortable with myself, accepting of my sexuality, and willing to increase the visibility of the LGBT community. But it is the small social norms which we witness every day that totally shut down those who live in the shadows, those who don’t have the confidence to speak out, to stand up, to truly feel comfortable in their own skin. I could write for days more on everything wrong that goes on and the events that only further the oppression, but I want to end on a good note. Things are moving forward quickly, in a way better direction than they have been in the past. I think that the overwhelming support of Fairview High School has really opened my eyes to how much potential our generation has. I only want to ask one thing of people. Next time just take an extra second to think, am I doing my absolute best to include everybody? Is there any group or individual that could potentially be left out? If you’re not sure, please find somebody to talk to about it. I know how it feels to be excluded and forgotten both unintentionally and intentionally. People shouldn’t have to feel that way because of anything that is part of their identity. I sure don’t like how it feels, not one bit. We can never have too much acceptance, too much tolerance, or too much love for people. So let’s end the oppression, the judgement, and learn to be happy with one another. Don’t do it for me. Do it for the people in the shadows.

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