October 11th was National Coming Out Day, but for Alexander Duarte, 17, a high school senior at Valley High School in Santa Ana, CA this day had a whole different meaning. For Duarte, October 11th meant the day he had long awaited—to ask high friend Erick Pineda, 17, to their school’s homecoming dance (You'll see the video below!)
Pineda, who is straight and the captain of the football team, was pleasantly surprised when he walked out to lunch on Thursday to see crowds of students lined up waiting for him to make his way down a long corridor that lead to a huge closet that read “Out of the Closet”. Next to it, his friend Alexander who appeared from behind a colorful and vibrant sign that read “I know I’m GAY, but can I take you STRAIGHT 2 HOMECOMING?”
The crowds cheered for Pineda as he approached Duarte with Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” playing in the air. In the video, students are heard saying “You go, Erick! You’re my hero!” When Pineda reached Duarte the two friends embraced in a hug and Pineda asks him if he will accompany him to the school function—to which you see Pineda accept.
You may have seen viral videos of ‘promposals’ or dance proposals before, but for Duarte it was important to show the world that this proposal was unlike any other. Pineda has been a tremendous support system for Duarte. “He’s been there for me through some really hard times,” Duarte says. To attend a dance together represents an acceptance of everyone on their campus and in a community that is predominantly immigrant, Latinx, and Spanish-speaking.
Duarte and Pineda have been friends for over three years and have a history of not being the best of friends. In fact, it is their differences that have helped them grow and become closer.
Pineda shares more about this experience with Instinct Magazine:
It’s very important for me to be going to Homecoming with Alexander because I’m setting an example for not only my school, but also my community. I was definitely excited to be asked to homecoming because I knew how important this was for my friend and seeing the support from the staff and students was amazing. I’m very grateful to be the captain of the football team. The team is very supportive and multiple teammates have approached me to congratulate me and have given me “RESPECT” for my actions.
In an interview with Instinct Magazine, Duarte has shared more about his inspiring experience asking the captain of the football team to the homecoming dance:
Why did you decide to ask Erick to Homecoming?
It all started as a joke. One day he said to me, “Yo, take me to homecoming!” so I knew that if I did it I would have to set the bar and be extra.
Were you afraid he’d say ‘no’?
I guess I was a little bit because growing up I have become just a bit wary and cautious of what others may say. Plus it didn't really help that some people were like had me wondering if he would say ‘no’.
Why is it important that you two go to a dance together?
Well for me it was really important because I have never had a date to a dance and this is my senior year so something clicked inside and inspired me to actually ‘ask Erick’. For me it was also about setting an example for others on how to go all out on their proposals and, more importantly, that it is ok for a brown boy to ask another dude.
How much effort went into your Homecoming proposal? What did it include?
It was a huuuuuuuugeeeee effort. It took one week of brainstorming and 2 weeks of working on it. It took approximately 20 minutes to set up. The big poster took 2 hours to complete small poster an hour. It was a bit hectic because I am part of the Associative Student Body and we had a meeting prior to lunch on the day of the proposal.
In the video, after Erick accepts your homecoming proposal the two of you talk for a little on camera, what did he say to you?
Well the thing is we weren't always the best of friends my freshmen year. He apologized for his actions his freshman year. It was kind of emotional for me because we have grown so much closer and as people in general. He grew to be more accepting of the LGBT community and has been there for me during the highs and lows. He also said that he loved me and that he will always be there for me if needed.
What do the students at your school think about your proposal and you and Erick going to Homecoming together?
People were nervous for me and I was nervous behind that poster. When I stepped out I didn't expect so many people to be there. When all was done there was so much support from everyone and it was truly a wonderful experience.
How do you think other parents or teachers might take the news once they find out you two are going to homecoming together?
The teachers were so accepting as they have always been. My Spanish teacher was the most accepting as she was in the video saying, “you're my hero” to Erick. Parents for the most part will be accepting. Of course they know I’m gay and we have to remind people we are going as friends and that he is straight.
What would you say to another queer young person who wants to attend a school dance with someone of the same gender?
Go for it. And if someone tries to stop you call me I will have the ‘chancla’ at the ready. Plus to know that for every hater you have tens, if not hundreds, who have your back.
Now, for the important question: What are you wearing to Homecoming?
OOOOOOO Gurrrrlllll, I havent gone shopping yet, but I know for sure I will be wearing heels, a nice navy suit and getting my nails done.
The two will attend their senior year homecoming dance on October 20th in Anaheim, CA. We hope they have the time of their lives!
Watch these two students shatter barriers in this adorable homecoming proposal:
Responses to questions have been edited for clarity.