Teens in suits, teal dresses, and even jean jackets run around, dance, and crown royalty. The music of Lady Gaga, Lorde, Harry Styles bump and echo into the early summer night. It looks and feels just like any other prom, except for the pride flags of all sorts, including the lesbian, asexual, and trans flags
Welcome to Queer Prom hosted by Santa Monica High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
Bo Ryan and their pal Morgan Lind traveled out from the San Gabriel Valley to Santa Monica for the night’s festivities.
“If you're a woman, a minority, or a person of color, you walk into a room, you always have in the back of your head, ‘People are looking at me weird,” says 14-year-old Ryan, who identifies as trans. “They look over, and they probably think that they are looking at a girl or they probably think that they're looking at a freak.”
Ryan says the dances have become a safe space where they can show up and truly be themselves without fear.
“When you're in public, you're cautious going to the bathroom. Even when I'm in safe spaces, going into the men's restroom — it's always like you keep your guard up,” Ryan explains. “These types of events are good because it is a moment where you can let go of that caution. You don't have to have that fear that you keep with you. That can just go away for a little bit. Nobody is going to dehumanize you for your identity.”
Santa Monica High School GSA chair Leo Patel went to his official high school prom just a few weeks ago. But he says the experience just didn’t feel the same.
“I left early. It was just not my scene. It felt very uncomfortable. I didn't feel comfortable dancing, didn't feel comfortably really going all out. I didn't wear makeup or anything,” Patel shares. “And I don’t feel like I [could] be completely my full self [there].”
That’s why Patel says spaces like queer prom are still important. He admits there might be a lot more aceptance in the world for the LGBTQ community, but there is still a long way to go.
“A lot of people nowadays are like, ‘Well, why can't they just go to the normal prom? It's California. It's not a big deal.’ And I feel like at my prom, at my school, especially if you are homophobic, you'd be the one being bullied, which is great. But I feel there's also this environment where it's like, people aren't judging you for being gay. They're judging you for being different.”