Dancing with pride

Anthony Abbondanza
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First annual 'Gay Prom' night a first for West Island

The West Island’s first ever ‘Gay Prom’ night is May 23, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Beaconsfield United Church.

After missing his high school prom because of his sexual orientation, one Pierrefonds man will finally get the chance to dance with his partner for the first time.

Adam Seward, 28, is set to attend the West Island LGBTQ Youth Centre’s ‘Gay Prom’ night –a first for Montreal.

The youth centre volunteer said the night, held on May 23 at the Beaconsfield United Church, will show the LGBTQ community in the West Island “they’re not alone.”

“There is a place for them to hang out, with people similar to them and not afraid to be themselves,” said Seward.

After being outted as a then 16-year-old gay teen at Riverdale High School, the Pierrefonds resident was discouraged by teachers, guidance counselors, and fellow students from enjoying what is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most teenage children.

“It was scary because a lot of people found out and I was bullied of course,” said Seward, adding he couldn’t escape the consistent harassment that ensued.

Twelve years later and Seward’s high school experience is the source of inspiration behind the gay prom, an event which is likely to gain much media exposure for the West Island youth centre.

It’s an institution, said the LGBTQ Youth Centre’s prom coordinator, that’s willing to assist more than just the 25 to 30 kids who drop by regularly.

“Our main goal is to provide kids a safe space,” said Dane Robertson. “We said, ‘you know what, why don’t we create an environment where people can dance and be who they are.’”

The youth centre estimates the West Island’s gay youth (14-24) population at 5000.

While the social landscape within high schools have changed since he graduated 12 years ago, Seward said there’s “still that fear” of being outted, or deliberately coming out. As a result, the youth centre’s gay prom night bears more significance.

“It’s still the case where people feel like it won’t be the same if they go to prom with their significant other. It still might cause problems,” he said.

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Organizations: West Island LGBTQ Youth Centre, Beaconsfield United Church, Riverdale High School

Geographic location: West Island, Pierrefonds, Montreal

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  • JF Gauthier
    May 16, 2014 - 10:00

    (This comment was sent to the school board commissioner as well as the principal and the LGBT center) I just read the article in the Chronicle (May 14th P6-7) about the first Gay prom party and I just dont get it. I truly don’t understand the reaction of teachers and guidance counselor, as stated in the article, as well as the reaction of the LGBTQ youth center. I work as a mental health professional and for me this situation is similar to any kind of bullying. When people get intimidated because of their skin, their hair, the way they look, what was the reaction: Do we put them together behind closed doors to make them confortable? Is that the way to make them integrate in the society? Of course not! In a case of a bullied’ red hair boy, all TEACHERS and GUIDANCE COUNSELOR will stand up with the boy, confront the bullyer, do any kind of actions to make the kid have a normal life IN school, not OUT of it. Why react differently with a sexual oriented bullying? If what is said in the Chonicle regarding the teachers and the guidance counselor is true (discourage the kid to attend his prom party with his boyfriend) is truly not acceptable. On the other part, the reaction of the LGBTQ organization sounds also awkward to me. Maybe I don’t get the reality of a gay person because i’m not, (Remark: I intentionally do not use the expression « gay community » because we are just one whole community) but how could you expect gay people to feel included and free to be part of the society by making parallel event like this Gay Prom party? Why fight the fear to be excluded by others by self excluding themselves? Why the LGBTQ do not organize a support group and bring all the kids to the Riverside Prom? That way they could feel just like the other kids and be supported at the same time. It’s not even a manifestation or a revolution, it will be just a bunch of NORMAL students going to their Prom Party !! The fact of discouraging gay students to attend their prom party in a PUBLIC establishment with their boyfriends, brings the west island community back in times where black peoples where not allowed in the front row of the city bus ! Jean-Francois Gauthier