by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Everyone remembers their Prom night. And everything leading up to it - choosing the dress, coordinating tie and corsage colors, deciding where to go for dinner, picking up the suit from the drycleaner, the obligatory home photos taken by a teary-eyed mother. Memories that never quite fade away.
But this school-year-ending dance is rooted in straight tradition: boy asks girl, girl wears a pretty gown, boy sports tuxedo, and a varsity team jock is crowned prom king, while a popular cheerleader gets the tiara. It's an event that leaves many Gay teens feeling out of place.
But for high school students in the Aloha state, the opportunity to celebrate this momentous occasion amongst peers with similar backgrounds is now a dream come true. Now in its third year, the GSA Hawai'i Gay Prom brought LGBTQ couples and dates, along with many straight allies, to party the night away under one roof on May 31. Over 300 kids attended the dance at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel on the island of Oahu, which took on this year's theme of 'A Kiki in Wonderland.'
'We had, I would say, over 30 different schools represented in one night,' said Kaulana Chang, GSA Hawai'i Coordinator, reached at his office in Honolulu. 'And as small as our island is, it's rare that these kids get to meet each other, who are part of the LGBTQ community, and also their straight allies.'
Besides the obvious, a prom intended for Gay youth, the event stuck to the formalities of a regular prom.
'I would say the biggest difference is that you're able to meet each other,' explained Chang. 'We all have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but to be able to meet someone face to face and talk to them, who are going through the same things you are as a Gay youth, Lesbian youth, or Transgender - that's the big difference, to bring these kids together from all these schools.'
The Gay Prom faced no opposition this year, in fact Chang noted that several businesses stepped up to sponsor the gala or donate items, such as prizes (i.e. gift certificates) that were given away.
'Every single year, the Sheraton (Waikiki) has been our main sponsor,' stated Chang, who confirmed that the hotel has already given notice of its interest to host 2015's festivities. Aside from holding last weekend's prom inside the Kauai Ballroom, the hotel also opened its doors to the LGBT community on December 2, 2013 when Hawai'i began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Six couples were wed in the Sheraton's Leahi Club Lounge, and additional couples could register for licenses on computer stations, provided by the hotel, and tie the knot right then and there. The Sheraton also hosts Phoenix, an LGBT social gathering happening monthly at RumFire Waikiki restaurant-lounge.)
At the Gay Prom, a DJ from one of Honolulu's radio stations and 247danceforce, featuring local talent Mark Kanemura, who has performed with Lady GaGa and appeared on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' entertained attendees, as did members of the drag community, who dressed up as various characters from Alice in Wonderland. Food and snacks were offered during the event, and guests could purchase soft drinks and juices from beverage stations in the ballroom.
Many straight allies, some associated with the state's Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) chapter, supported their fellow Gay students by joining them at the dance, along with a few proud parents.
'We had one father who drove his daughter from the other side of the island, Chang said. 'He waited in his car the entire time.'
Anyone that might consider going to Oahu next year for the fourth GSA Hawai'i Prom can get more information at www.gsahawaii.org.
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