Dancing to a Different Beat

Suburban high school plans its first gay dance

Ah, the high school dance.

It's almost a rite of passage: the fretting over what to wear, the kitschy decorations, the ever-scrutinizing eyes of parent-chaperones. The student mixer tonight at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire will be just like any other, except for one detail: it's a dance for gay students.

Stevenson's Gay Straight Alliance was founded five years ago amid debates and controversy. Members were harassed by both students and parents, but the teens remained steadfast. When their club posters were torn down, they laminated them and put them back up. When they were called names, they handed out lollipops saying "Discrimination Sucks."

The dance will be the most public event the group has had, and while they want to make a statement about the openness of their group, they also just want to have fun.

"We're working on a disco ball and disco lights," senior Aliya de Grazia, 17, the club's co-president, told the Chicago Tribune.

"Full kitsch. People love kitsch," said co-president David Norman, 17.

Some people have argued that the school should remain neutral on the subject of sexual orientation and should not sponsor the students' club or its events.

But Joseph Kosciw, research director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), disagrees.

"Students who feel they are more part of a school do better in school," Kosciw said. "The [Gay Straight Alliance] is part of that, having a teacher you can talk with is part of that, and for that matter, so is a school dance."

Principal Janet Gonzalez has said the dance will be governed by standard school rules, and an approximate half-dozen adults will be present to oversee the event.

Matt Bartosik, former blogger of The Chicago Traveler and editor of Off the Rocks'next issue, wishes he could forget his first school dance.

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