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Prom pair march into new territory
Helmut Schmidt
The Forum - 04/20/2007

Prom is about grand dresses, sharp suits and tuxedos, and good times with friends and classmates.

Jakob Paper and Steven Goering hope to add acceptance to the list.

Paper, a Fargo South High senior, and Goering, who is getting his high school degree from the North Dakota Division of Independent Study, plan to attend the South High prom Saturday at the Fargo Civic Memorial Auditorium. The 18-year-olds will do the Grand March together as boyfriends and be introduced on stage in turn with the other couples.

“Nobody’s ever done it as far as I’m aware,” Paper said of two gay men attending a local prom.

Paper has been open about his homosexuality since eighth grade. Goering, who recently moved to Fargo from Mayville, N.D., said he told his parents four years ago. He told most of his friends in January.

“For the people in Fargo and North Dakota, especially, it’s really important to see this. I don’t think it’s been expressed,” Paper said.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Goering said. “I figure it’s going to be a good experience. It’s scary because it’s North Dakota and everybody’s hush-hush about it (homosexuality). But it’s an up-and-coming issue. … People are going to have to get used to it somewhere.”

South officials earlier this year approved a request to allow same-sex couples in the march, said Assistant Principal Jennifer Fremstad.

The principals at South and North High in Fargo and West Fargo High School say they haven’t heard in recent memory of gay male couples taking part in the Grand March. Moorhead officials said their high school hasn’t had same-sex attendees in the march.

Laurie Schlenker, a counselor at South who works with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said it’s not unusual for two young women to walk the Grand March together.

“They may not be lesbians; they just might be friends (showing off their dresses). There’s that weird standard out there. It seems in our society it’s more acceptable for two girls to do it than two guys,” Schlenker said.

West Fargo High Principal Gary Clark said there may have been lesbian couples in past prom grand marches, but it hasn’t been an issue.

“Quite frankly, we don’t think it’s any of our business to ask,” Clark said. “We don’t make a big deal about it.”

Paper and Goering met by chatting online through the MySpace Web site. After they got to know each other, they decided to meet and started dating.

Like any young person getting ready for prom, Paper is excited and nervous.

Nervous, because “we’re still trying to figure out what to wear,” Paper said. Suits and sandals are the leading choice right now.

Goering said he attended prom in Mayville as a sophomore, junior and senior with girls who were friends.

Goering’s mother has known for a while that he will attend prom with Paper. He planned to tell his father Thursday. In some ways, he said, this experience will be liberating and he’s wondering how people will react.

“(Prom is) not new to me. It’s new with a guy,” Goering said. “I’m just going to have fun. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583
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