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Anuja Thapa: queer prom first chance to be out and proud for some

Student Life

By Anuja Thapa

On March 30, Memorial’s student union and Memorial’s Sexual and Gender Advocacy Resource Centre are holding a queer prom night.

Queer Prom is an opportunity to create a safe and affirming space for the local queer community and allies to meet, celebrate and have a night of fun without fear of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ discrimination.

As well, many 2SLGBTQIA+ groups and supporting organizations have been invited to help connect folks to local resources and groups.

Bravery and courage

Let’s take a look at the history of prom.

The tradition of prom started in the late 19th century as a banquet for graduating classes at more established universities.

During the 1920s, proms became common in American high schools. However, queer people were banned.

In 1979, an openly gay couple Randy Rohl and Grady Quinn attended a prom in Dakota.

This milestone event remains important decades later as it displays their commitment to the cause, as well as their bravery and courage despite the risks they faced.

A gay couple attending prom took place much later in Canada, specifically 23 years later.

In 2002, Marc Hall, a high school student in Oshawa, was refused his request to take his boyfriend to the school prom.

As a result, Marc went to court against the Durham Catholic District School Board.

The school maintained that while Marc had the right to be gay, bringing his boyfriend would send a message that the church supported his homosexual ‘lifestyle.’”

However, justice prevailed.

On the day of the prom, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Marc was allowed to take his boyfriend to the prom.

Celebrate and promote inclusivity

The goal of events such as queer proms is to create safe spaces for people who have typically been excluded from such traditional events.

Events like this help to celebrate queer people, as well as promote inclusivity for both queer people and allies. Queer proms also give people a redo, specifically for proms that may not have made them feel welcome.

I spoke to the organizers of the event to gain more insight to find out the main differences between a traditional prom and a queer prom. This is what they said:

“It’s not exactly like a traditional prom for those graduating high school. Queer prom is for all ages and all educational backgrounds. It doesn’t have many of the traditions and ceremonies of a traditional prom. There is also the fact that queer prom is split into two parts, an all-ages event and a 19-plus section afterward. Both do share many elements such as dancing, music, entertainment, refreshments, celebration and the opportunity to dress up to the nines.”

When I asked why queer prom is important, the organizers said that many 2SLGBTQIA+ folks did not get the chance to go to their high school prom out and proud and that this is their chance.

“For some, they do not even get to experience being out safely or meet other openly queer folks until after high school or even moving away from home. Queer prom gives folks a chance to experience prom as their true and authentic selves, with their community and the folks that support them. It shows queer students and the queer community at large that there is a place and there are folks that celebrate them and affirm who they are.”

Event details

The night is being hosted by drag queen Shavonne, along with performances by Tara Nova, Stella Starlet, Jada Graves, and Larinda Mood.

Queer prom will take place on Thursday, March 30, at The Breezeway in the University Centre on the St. John’s campus from 6:30-9:45 p.m. for all ages and 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m. for those 19 and over.

To enter, one must simply donate a pay-what-you-can to the Social Justice Co-operative N.L. Mutual Aid Fund.

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