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Vanessa Cameron, David Ramos and Christina Mekheil at the Gayla prom held at RFH Friday night. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)


About 100 high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and their straight allies gathered for a dance party in the cafeteria at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional on Friday night.

It was the third annual Gayla!, a prom-like event organized by Make It Better for Youth, a consortium which includes Monmouth County high schools, Jersey Shore PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the county library system, the Two River Theater, and the Monmouth County Arts Council.

“What’s great about this is that you don’t go in feeling pressured to fit into any prom stereotype,” said Ellie Halfacre, RFH senior, member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and event organizer. “It’s not about what sexuality you are, it’s about being with people who accept you no matter what.

“Everyone’s here to have fun and just be themselves,” she said, adding that many friendships had grown out of the prior two Gayla gatherings.

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In a video posted on YouTube in support of an outreach effort for gay teenagers who may be considering suicide, Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich talks about his own sexuality and the presence of bullies in his youth.

Describing himself as “an out and proud councilman elected by the people of Red Bank, New Jersey,” Zipprich recalls that as a teenager, he knew that “by being different, I wasn’t safe, especially when it came to kids who bullied.”

“It was very painful and very difficult to go to school every day in fear that somebody would find out who you really were,” he says in the video, which is featured on the It Gets Better website among those made by average joes and celebrities such as Keith Strickland of the B-52s and comedian Margaret Cho.

“I buried who I was. I knew that who I was wasn’t safe,” he says.

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