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Friday, June 3, 2011

Gay Couple Elected as H.S. Prom Royalty in Maine

Caleb Jett and Christian Nelsen
Caleb Jett and Christian Nelsen
By Kilian Melloy -

It was only a year and a half ago that voters in Maine repealed a law at the ballot box that would have extended marriage equality to the state’s gay and lesbian families, leaving Maine as one of only two New England states not to make family parity a matter of law.

But GLBT equality issues--including military service and marriage equality--find more support among younger Americans than with the nation’s elders, and the trend seems to hold true even in Maine, where two gay high schoolers were elected as prom royalty.

The two young men--Christian Nelsen, 17, and Caleb Jett, his boyfriend--took the prom royalty crowns at Sanford High School in Sanford, a town in the southern part of Maine, LGBTQ Nation reported on May 31.

The two "decided to put their names in the running as Prom King and Queen to change minds across their community and in their state," the article said.
"The two wore suits and proudly showed off their tiara and crown and shared a King and Queen dance."

"Even though they know not everyone is supporting them, they hope this will get everyone talking about acceptance in Sanford and across the state," local news channel WNTW Channel 8 reported.

"It fits my head perfectly," Christian Nelsen told the news channel as he tried on the tiara. "I think was meant to happen." Christian went on to recount how his write-in campaign succeeded in getting him elected as Prom Queen--and how the room went wild when his win was announced.

"I kinda got voted in because he got queen," Caleb Jett told the news channel. "And it was like, ’Who do we vote for, for king?’ And it was, like, ’Oh, his boyfriend, obviously, because that makes sense.’ "

"It doesn’t matter if it was a guy or a girl who wins Prom King or Prom Queen from now on," said Nelsen. "Anybody can win," Nelsen continued, "any type of person ... anyone who is bullied, or even just under the radar can win this type of thing."

"Though some are very supportive of the two young men," the news report continued, "news of an openly gay couple being crowned king and queen did not sit well with some in this small town."

The reporter added that though the news team had talked with "dozens" of Sanford residents, "and those who were against crowing a gay prom king and queen did not want to go on camera. In fact, one person told us he was afraid something he might say might offend someone."

Not everyone in the GLBT community was happy, either.

"Look, we get it," a May 27 Queerty posting said. "Hooray for bucking patriarchal traditions while raising awareness about equal rights and gender equity!" However, the posting added, "the idea of a gay guy denying a young woman a shot at the tiara just to make a point has always seemed odd, over-privileged, and even a tad misogynist..."

A May 27 posting at Gaywrites, however, hailed the event as "Better than Glee."

GLBT youth have made headway in recent years with respect to the issue of finding greater acceptance in schools, but social events such as proms still see starkly contrasting results; indeed, proms have become something of a flash point in the anti-gay culture wars. In some cases, as with last year’s imbroglio involving Constance McMillen, at that time a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi who wished to escort her girlfriend to the event, the issue can lead to pitched controversy. McMillen’s school canceled prom rather than allow the teen to bring a same-sex date, and then reportedly hosted two proms--one attended by the school’s popular set, the other, to which McMillen was shunted, not.

In Massachusetts, the annual Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (BAGLY) Youth Pride Day and prom have been the target of anti-gay group MassResistance. The group infiltrated last year’s event with a 20-year-old anti-gay activist and college student, who then wrote a report labeling the BAGLY event an effort to "recruit" youths into a "cult" of homosexuality.

The spying episode was reminiscent of a ploy in 2000, in which the group sent a mole to a confidential discussion for gay teens, made a recording of what was said, and then took the recording to a local radio station where it was aired. The group claimed that the discussion included detailed discussions of sex acts, and dubbed the manufactured scandal "Fistgate."

But, as a newly minted catchphrase says, "It Gets Better." Acceptance of GLBTs is climbing rapidly in America, and schools are starting to catch up to the young people who attend them--youths who are increasingly supportive of the GLBTs among them.

Meantime, those who reached adulthood only after a long and painfully closeted adolescence--or teen years filled with pain and rejection--have found avenues to redress the things they were unable to enjoy in their teens. One example: Capital Queer Prom, an event in Washington, D.C., where adults can have the dance they wanted as high schoolers--and be themselves while they are at it.

Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

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