All ages find tolerance, fun at GLSEN prom

It happened when a local CEO called Brooke MacDonald looking to buy prom tickets for his son. The co-chair of Cincinnati's Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) felt like the event had turned a corner.

The GLSEN prom, a night where young adults can bring whomever they want to their prom, has long been an important GLSEN effort. Spring 2011 marks the third year that the Contemporary Arts Center downtown hosts the event, which a party for the over-21 crowd upstairs and a chaperoned affair downstairs for guests 21 and under.

"The kids are so excited," says MacDonald, 32, who grew up in Chicago and moved to Cincinnati almost five years ago.

The May 7 prom, while free for the underage crowd, acts as GLSEN's biggest annual fundraiser. Adults pay $50 for a chance to relive happy prom memories or create brand new ones. "A lot of adults never had an opportunity to bring who they wanted to bring to prom," MacDonald says.

As for the under-21 prom-goers, the theme is simple: "Bring who you want. Dress how you want. Love as you want."

"We've had tons of parents emailing us about tickets," says MacDonald, who adds that funds raised at the event support GLSEN's Healing our Homeroom kits. The kits, like GLSEN, promote "basic tolerance of anybody that is different from you."

Key findings from the 2009 national GLSEN's School Climate Survey illustrate that tolerance remains a critical issue for young people. National data showed that nearly 85 percent of LGBT students had been verbally abused and 40 percent had been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation.

As GLSEN plans its hip and popular prom, it also continues an innovative story project, collecting video oral histories about school experiences involving sexual orientation and gender identity. A preview of the documentary is slated to be shown at the prom.

Do good:

• Get your groove on. Get your tickets today for the prom, Saturday, May 7, from 7 p.m. until midnight at the Contemporary Arts Center.

Make a gift. Donate to Cincinnati's GLSEN online.

Find out more. Make a friend of the GSLEN on Facebook to hear what the group is doing next.

By Elissa Yancey

Prom photo courtesy of GLSEN Cincinnati

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