ROSMY Prom to provide a safe space for all Richmond youth this weekend
Prom is a considered a cultural rite of passage for teens across the nation, yet traditional high school proms continue to have deep-rooted gender binaries that prevent LGBTQ youths from experiencing the special moments that every teen deserves.
And for this reason, ROSMY hosts an annual alternative prom for their youths and allies to be themselves in a safe and supportive environment. ROSMY not only tolerates LGBT youths, but accepts and encourages them to embrace their identities and their alternative prom removes all limits on how a teen should look, act, and who they should date.
ROSMY, founded in 1991, is a community organization that helps encourage LGBT youths to feel comfortable in their own skin. ROSMY offers support, education, and advocacy to LGBT youths through programs offered in Richmond and Charlottesville. These programs feature the opportunity for LGBT youths to learn leadership skills, strategies for social development, and for youths to learn how to improve their confidence while becoming an all around happier person.
This Saturday, May 23 from 7-11 pm, ROSMY will hold their 8th annual prom at the First Unitarian Universalist Church on Blanton Avenue.
The theme is ROSMY Royalty and anyone can attend who is between the ages of 14-20, but must bring an I.D..
Tickets are $5 at the door. Entertainment for the night includes local performer, Natasha Herrington accompanied by two other drag queens.
For this year’s theme, volunteers made homemade decorations, including tiaras, crowns and flowers, which will be handed out to attendees. The inner brim of each royal headgear is an inspirational messages written primarily by an adult in the community who gives his/her full support to LGBT youths.
The hand-written, inspirational messages are ROSMY’s way of getting community members of all generations connected with LGBT youths.
As exceptence for LGBTQ youth grows in high schools around the nation, some might wonder why these kids still need their own prom. But ROSMY’s Executive Director Beth Panilaitis said the uniquely safe space her organization provides is still very much needed.
“Having a place where they can totally be themselves, where they can dress the way they are comfortable, where they can bring or not bring a date, and can totally be themselves is still important,” said Panilaitis. ”We have youths that come to ROSMY prom who will go to their prom, as well. We have youths who are allies that have said that diversity prom just feels like a safer, supportive place even though their not LGBT and that’s where their friends are going.
The past proms have been a success, so ROSMY hopes that this year, with all of the extra community involvement, will be as rewarding as the theme suggests.
As the number of involved youths increase, so does the number of community partners who wish to contribute to the cause. “…60 or so youth groups help make decorations, but about 15 help in the planning,” says Youth Programs Director, Jessica Rathbun- Cook in an interview. “The ideas are all there by the youths, the decorations are designed by the youths. This year we had a number of different community partners who have helped make decorations. So the youths designed them and then talked about what they wanted, in terms of ideas, and we had community partners that helped to actually make them.”
Along with the youths who attend, ROSMY alternative prom will be a night to remember for the organizers who have given their all to make this even come to live yet another year. “It’s exciting to see the youth come and be celebrated and respected and sort of, welcomed in regardless of their date, or what their wearing,” Says Rathbun-Cook. “It feels like something that’s really wonderful to be able to offer to LGBTQ youths in the area.”
Between the inexpensive tickets, lack of social pressure, and the safe and comfortable environment, what can go wrong when attending ROSMY alternative prom?
As an organization dedicated to making sure that Richmond’s LGBTQ youth are safe and supported, ROSMY can guarantee that all youths are welcome this Saturday.
“Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”September 12, 2016
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