Ohio Equality BallPost submitted by Lindsey Clark, HRC Regional Field Organizer

When I was in high school, it wasn't the most welcoming of places. To my knowledge, there wasn't a single out and open LGBT student.

When I came out, I waited until the last possible moment during my senior year, knowing my escape was imminent. Then I unceremoniously left all of it behind, fleeing not only Ohio but also the country, continuing my education far from the lonely hallways of my past.

A few years after I left, my sister Miranda started a Gay-Straight Alliance at our high school. She gave me periodic updates on their progress and although I know everything she does is something special, I had no idea exactly what she and her group were building.

On Friday night, a little under six years after I left Anthony Wayne High School, I returned to something shockingly different. The leaders of AW’s GSA had worked for months to plan their first ever Equality Ball, themed “Over the Rainbow.” They put together a planning committee with representatives from many of the area high schools and teamed up with Equality Toledo, which received the night’s profits as a special donation.

Ohio Equality Ball Almost 200 people representing 21 different area high schools attended the dance. Kids wore what they wanted to wear. They brought whomever they wanted to bring. Although the strict policy regarding visitor forms had been explained to all invitees, when a handful of kids showed up without one, AW's principal, Mrs. Hoellrich, worked diligently at the door calling parents and bending over backward to make sure no one was turned away. At one point, a parent came up to me to chat and commented that the absence of cliques at the event was striking. 

When the DJ played “Same Love” midway through the ball, the crowd of teens spontaneously put their arms around one another and formed a giant circle, swaying and singing in unison. The display left most adults in the room with tears in their eyes. Later in the evening, one of the event’s organizers was crowned Queen of the Ball and his boyfriend surprised him onstage with an equally moving invitation to prom.

It all felt like a dream and in many ways it was. It was a small realization of what felt like an impossible dream for so many of us not that long ago. We have a long way to go yet. Even this young generation is fighting for the ground they dance on.

But for this one night, they locked out the judgment and negativity and everyone came together to create a safer, more inclusive space for all.

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