Daniel Weiderstrom, dressed to resemble Barbie, does his best to please the judges during the celebrity look-alike contest at the ?G80s? queer prom Friday night at MoJo Rising.



Photos by Sarah Hale | For the Tidings. See more in the .

Even though Adam Sorensen is 23 years old, the prom he attended Friday night at Mojo Rising in Ashland was much more like that special night high school students dream of than the prom he didn't attend at Grants Pass High.

"Being that my partner wasn't a woman, they wouldn't let us buy a ticket," he said, dressed not in the traditional prom tuxedo, but rather in an outfit meant to make him look like Elton John. "We were pretty pissed off. We spent the evening sitting at my house while everyone else was at prom."

Sorensen, who is gay, had been out of the closet for some time when he was prevented from taking his partner to his high school prom.

"It was my first experience with discrimination," he said. "There was a time when women didn't have rights, when black people didn't have rights, now gay people don't have rights. But we're catching up."

He said depending on what the state Legislature does this year, he and his boyfriend, Jaimmie Roberts, plan to marry this fall.

Not Straight, Not Sure, an area support group for homosexuals and people exploring the bounds of their sexuality, hosted Ashland's second-annual Alternative Prom. Organizers designed the event for people like Sorensen, whose sexual preference prevented them from participating in the high school rite of passage.

"I get to take my boyfriend to prom and we get to have fun," Sorensen said. "We don't have to worry about being seen dancing together."

In many ways, Not Straight, Not Sure's version of prom was not unlike the version most high school students attend: a DJ played out-of-style pop songs as some people danced and others huddled around the punch bowl. The biggest difference being the only people wearing anything remotely like a prom dress were the men: one was dressed as Cher; the other as Barbie.

"There are more drag queens this year," said Jordan Goodin, who wore fishnet stockings and cutoff Daisy Duke denim shorts.

Last year's event, which Goodin was crowned king of, was called "Brokeback Prom," a take-off on the movie about two homosexual cowboys. This year's event, planned to coincide with Gay Pride Day in Medford on Saturday, was termed "Back to the G80s." ("G80s" stands for Gay '80s).

In keeping with the themes, many attendees dressed as their favorite gay or bisexual star of the 1980s pop scene. There were several Madonna costumes, a Boy George look-alike and a juvenile dressed as Doogie Howser. Patrick Harris, the actor that portrayed Howser on the '80s-era TV show recently came out of the closet.

"I don't dress like this all the time," Goodin said, noting that he will begin to study to be a police officer at Southern Oregon University in the fall. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall, which he says has insulated him from some of the scary experiences some gay men might go through in public life.

Goodin lamented the fact that there are not more opportunities in the Rogue Valley for gay people to party together in public, saying the two bars in the Valley that have weekly events for the gay community &

Ground Zero in Medford and the Vinyl Club in Ashland &

both happen Thursday nights.

"The more events we have like this, the less people will be afraid to come out [of the closet]," he said.

Scott Clay, a 54-year-old gay man, brought both his boyfriend and his 17-year-old daughter to the prom.

"Ashland is a pretty supportive and open community," he said. Clay and his boyfriend, Dennis Bickoran, host a TV show on Rogue Valley Community Television called "Wilde Life," a reference to gay writer Oscar Wilde. "But having gay functions, even in Ashland, is still pretty unique."

He said events like this one help bring the gay community together, which is still relatively stratified among age and socioeconomic barriers. "It's about breaking down barriers; being out, being open and being festive," he said.

His daughter, Amelia Clay, a South Medford High School student, said she is proud to accompany her father to his prom, which was open to all ages.

"It's definitely different, and something I had to get used to," she said, between dances with her male date. "I found out on accident. He was ordering a book called 'Out of the Closet' over the Internet. I asked him what it was and he told me that night. I didn't have any gay people in my life before that. All of his friends that I have met are incredibly nice and incredibly open. I like that, but I still never know how people are going to react when they find out."

Jason Nance, 25, like Sorensen, never went to his prom, and he was glad to have an opportunity to partake in the ritual with people who are accepting of his sexuality.

"I know I'm not going to get hurt for hitting on the wrong person," he said. "I get pretty uncomfortable going into a new bar."

He said Not Straight, Not Sure's version of prom is "a safe place to come and be, or ask questions and find out what's going on."

Brianna Miller, a bisexual who has had a boyfriend for four years, pointed out a more simplistic reason for attending.

"Gay people are always the life of the party," she said.

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