'Kings & Queens' reigns

Funny and heartwarming book highlights queers at the prom

By D'Anne Witkowski

Ah, prom: the sacred teen rite of passage. It's a nerve-wracking affair: "What will I wear? Who will I ask? Will I lose my virginity in a Sandusky, Ohio motel room en route to Cedar Point?"

For LGBT teens, prom can produce an especially heightened level of anxiety. For many it's the ultimate test of "playing it straight." Though teens who take same-sex dates to prom are slowly gaining acceptance, prom is still, in the majority of high schools, a decidedly heterosexual affair.

"Kings & Queens: Queers At the Prom" captures the queer prom experience in all its awkward, mortifying, and at times sweet and romantic glory. David Boyer presents profiles of real LGBT people in a full color yearbook-style format that is as addictive as it is fun. The book spans 1935 to the present and is organized from Freshman through Senior, with a brief "Mini Mag" in the center that details prom trends and facts from all over the world. The "Mag" is fun and interesting, but does not compare to the richness of the rest of the book.

The photos alone are worth the price of admission, but the stories are what makes "Kings & Queens" a must-read. At times hilarious and other times heartbreaking, the people we meet through their prom experiences are a diverse bunch that will stay with you long after you're done eagerly taking in every page.

We meet the lesbian who grew up to marry a man like she was "supposed" to, gay boys who fell in love in high school and remain committed to this day, the roller disco teen turned porn star, the 80's prom pimp who came out over ten years after his last stint as a straight prom date, the transgender prom king, the homophobe turned homo.

"Kings & Queens" allows us a glimpse of real lives, real heartbreak, and real love. It puts a human face on the issue of what it means to be an LGBT kid at the prom. This book should be required reading for parents, teachers, and anyone who needs to be shown that LGBT teens are often invisible as a matter of survival and that they shouldn't have to be.

For those who have actually survived being queer at the prom or for those who are about to experience it, this book is a testament to that survival, and a damn entertaining one.

{ITAL Kings & Queens: Queers at the Prom

Edited by David Boyer

Soft Skull, 160 pp., $24.95}

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