Local LGBTQ Legend: Aaron Fricke
In honor of the approaching prom season, we thought it would be fitting to look back on a little bit of prom history that involves both our great state of Rhode Island, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. Since the late 19th century, prom has been a quintessential part of the high school experience. The elaborate invitations, the glitzy dresses and suits, the posed pictures, the limos, the flowers, the fancy dinner, and of course, those butterflies you get in your tummy when you’re finally slow dancing with your date as the lights twinkle around you.
For far too long, this romantic night that high school students dream of was not in the stars for LGBTQ+ students, because it was forbidden for same-sex couples to attend prom together.
In 1980, things changed when Aaron Fricke, a native Rhode Islander, became fed up after he was told he could not take his boyfriend to Cumberland High School's Senior Prom. Knowing that the LGBTQ community was being unjustly ostracized and something needed to be done, he boldly challenged his high school in district court, with principal Richard Lynch representing the school for the case. Lynch argued that the primary reason same-sex couples weren’t allowed to attend prom together was a concern for safety; he was worried other students at prom would harass or harm the couple. Although Fricke understood this was a legitimate concern, he said being the first students to attend prom as a same-sex couple was necessary as a political gesture that he hoped would ignite change.
He wanted the world to see that love is love and same-sex couples should be able to celebrate it openly rather than only behind closed doors. He said to Lynch in court, “I feel I have the right to attend. I feel I want to go to the prom for the same reason any other student would want to go.” The judge ultimately ruled not only that Fricke be allowed to attend senior prom with his boyfriend, but also that they would be provided with extra security just in case harassment occurred. The case gained significant national recognition and ended up encouraging schools around the country to change their policy and make it possible for LGBTQ students to have the prom of their dreams as well. Fricke went on in life to continue his activism as well as publish two books, Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story about Growing Up Gay, and Sudden Strangers: The Story of a Gay Son and His Father.
We love activists like Aaron Fricke that throughout the years have fought for inclusion and diversity. There is still so much work to be done, and even you can help by attending this year's Born This Way Prom, a magical evening for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies! All proceeds go towards Youth Pride Inc.
Photo and Info on Aaron Fricke comes from Washington Post as well as lgbt.wikia.org