A special couple celebrated at the Big Gay Prom in Gananoque

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If you ask anyone what was one of the most memorable high school events, you’ll probably hear it was prom. The clothes, the music and the gym decorated with a fantasy theme. The clothes, your main crush to get you out for the night of your life – all the things that make this event so special.

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Now imagine showing up at the door with the love of your life and being told that you are not allowed to enter. Yes, you have your tickets. Yes, you are wearing a fabulous evening outfit. Perfect flowers in bodices, dazzling shine on your shoes, your hair has been styled to the ultimate degree. So why the refusal?

“‘We don’t allow it here’ was ingrained in society at that time,” said Big Gay Prom event organizer Sam Crosby. “Atypical couples were not only frowned upon, but they were also rejected and shunned by so-called “normal” society.

It was 1994 and the rules were very strict. Boys could not wear dresses, girls could not wear tuxedos, and same-sex couples were strictly prohibited. Many people still firmly believed that sexuality was a choice, not something people were born with.

The couple were disappointed that they weren’t allowed to go to their prom, but that didn’t stop them from being and staying in love.

Thousand Islands Pride Ms. Tanya King co-hosted the Big Gay Prom celebrations on July 8, as part of the Pride Week celebrations being held in Gananoque.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network Photo by Lorraine Payette /For the postmedia network

Then they saw a notice about 1000 Islands Pride Inc. and the eight days of Pride celebrations in Gananoque. The Big Gay Prom was there from the opening. Could this be the opportunity to catch up on this night lost so many years ago? They bought tickets and took the risk that this time it was real, this time they could have their magic night.

The theme for the Big Gay Prom was “The 80s” and it brought out all the wild clothes and big hair people remembered so well. Not only did “the girls just want to have fun”, everyone was ready to “whip it” and “walk like an Egyptian” dancing the night away.

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When our couple arrived at the table to hand over their tickets, they weren’t sure what to expect. What if nothing had really changed? What if it was all a bad joke and they still couldn’t get in?

They were greeted with smiles and open arms. People were happy to see them. No one was upset by their presence. In fact, they were so welcomed that they couldn’t resist telling someone about that night so long ago.

It took a few seconds for the announcement to be made

Mr. Thousand Islands Pride, Ben Dover, co-hosted the Big Gay Prom celebrations on July 8, as part of the Pride Week celebrations being held in Gananoque.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network
Mr. Thousand Islands Pride, Ben Dover, co-hosted the Big Gay Prom celebrations on July 8, as part of the Pride Week celebrations being held in Gananoque.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network Photo by Lorraine Payette /For the postmedia network

, and everyone congratulated them. The dance floor cleared and, in their honor, the DJs started playing “The Time of My Life”. They knew the choreography and danced divinely, even approaching the lift that was so essential to the whole piece in “Dirty Dancing.” They seemed to be floating in the air for the rest of the evening.

“It was wonderful to see how happy they were,” Crosby said. “Think they had to wait that long to be allowed to really be themselves in public.”

All participants were well behaved and really enjoyed the evening. The ball featured several drag performances by Pride Queen Tanya King and Pride King Ben Dover, as well as a very active lip-syncing contest. Many vendors were on hand selling all kinds of event items, from soaps to toys to clothes, and everyone joined in the fun.

“Next year we will have to change the name,” Crosby said. “Big just isn’t big enough – maybe Colossal or Stupendous would be better.”

Pride celebrations continue with different activities throughout the week, including a series of luncheons and learning sessions from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Topics covered will be polygamy, Mind 2, dragging, boundaries and safety in relationships, and a wrap-up with an “ask us anything” session. The whole event will end on Saturday with the parade taking place at 11 a.m., plenty of entertainment and a pub crawl. Everyone is welcome to get out, participate and have fun.

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