Jack Wilding ’13 and Adam Lange ’13 pinned boutonnieres on each other’s lapels and posed with their arms around each other at pre-prom, but Wilding said he doesn’t think any parents at the event assumed they were a dates. The boys went together as friends and while Lange identifies as gay and Wilding as bisexual, Wilding who has had girlfriends throughout his time at high school said he thought people were surprised to see him going with a boy.
“It shows how little you should assume about anything no matter what your experience tells you,” Wilding said. “It felt cool. I felt like I was pushing boundaries.”
Wilding said that he felt totally comfortable going with another guy and didn’t feel any pressure not to do so, but still thinks prom is structured for heterosexual couples.
“I feel like hetero-normative culture is part of prom, but also a part of Harvard-Westlake,” Wilding said. “On the other hand I feel like Harvard-Westlake would be at the forefront of combating that, but I don’t know why I should be happy with relatively better.”
Both Wilding and Maya Broder ’13 cited the Sex in College senior transition seminar as an example of the heterosexual culture of Harvard-Westlake. Wilding’s single-sex class only discussed straight interactions and Broder’s class for girls was completely focused on relationships with guys.
For her senior prom Broder first considered taking her ex-boyfriend and then thought about taking a female friend from out of school. She ultimately decided to go stag. Broder believes that if she took a girl as a friend people would assume they were a couple, whereas if she took a male friend people would not.
“If I did take a girl would people look at my prom pictures differently?” Broder said.
Had she been dating a girl, Broder said she would have liked to escort her girlfriend to prom.
“The hard thing for me with come to terms with being bisexual was realizing that it would be easier on me in my life if I ended up with a boy,” Broder said.
She said she knows the whole world may not be as comfortable with her sexuality as the school’s community.
Danielle Strassman ’11 said her experience prom experience was typical until she and her date went to take their professional prom picture. Strassman took Meli Flores ’12 her senior prom. Strassman is a lesbian and Flores is bisexual, but they went as friends.
“The photographer posed us in this really awkward, buddy, acrobatic picture,” Strassman said. “We asked if we could get something more romantic and he said ‘I don’t know any other poses.’”
Strassman was sure this would not have been the case if she had gone with a boy, even just as friends.
Director of Studies Liz Resnick went to prom with her twin brother’s best friend. She remembers the event fondly, but felt pressures during high school that kept her from coming out.
“I still think it’s hard to come out, whenever one does it, and especially in high school,” Resnick said. “Given the dominant culture is heterosexual, being gay is more challenging. I do think society is more accepting than it was 25 years ago, but pressures still exist.”
Like Resnick, chemistry teacher Nathan Cardin was not openly gay during his senior year of high school. At his public school in south Florida in 2001, Cardin invited a girl to his senior prom. He had come out to her and a few close friends at the time, but not his parents.
“I don’t think I would have had the guts to be fully out in high school, even if I were in a tolerant, more liberal place like LA,” Cardin said.
“Even though it’s only been 12 years since I graduated high school so much has changed. I am incredibly proud and impressed by the courage of the openly gay students.”