Saturday's Alternative Prom was themed "Masquerade: Unveil Your True Self."
Saturday night, ROSMY youth wore masks. According to the students planning the event, underneath those masks, they got to be themselves.
Even before the events in Mississipi when Constance McMillen was banned from her prom, ROSMY saw the need for its annual Alternative Prom. Now in its third year, the event is a project of the organization’s Youth Engaged in Leadership (YEL).
GayRVA had a roundtable discussion with the YEL group as they planned the final details for Saturday’s prom.
“It gives an opportunity for people that don’t feel comfortable going to their high school prom to have that experience,” Malori said. “Prom is a once in a lifetime event. It’s that one night where you get to feel beautiful and have fun and hangout with your friends.”
Malori explained that her gay friends decided not to go to their senior prom because they didn’t feel comfortable bringing their boyfriends.
While many in the group have attended their own prom, they also faced adversity from the school. Jamaica said she was the only girl at her prom wearing a tux.
“I wear men’s clothes a lot so it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “It would have been more out of the norm if I had worn a dress. Some of the faculty and staff thought that I would have worn something different. There’s just a certain look you get.”
She said she also brought a date from another school and was fine. She was the only one at her school to bring someone of the same sex.
“It wasn’t that bad because I’m used to it,” she said. “I’m the only out person at my school, so they know I’m gay.”
Shelton is straight and is attends the YEL group in support of her sister.
“I want my sister to have the same opportunity that I do to be happy and have rights,” she said. “I think people think too much when they try to down gays for just being who they are. I don’t think that’s right.”
The youth hope for a future where all would feel comfortable at their school’s prom.
“In the future, it’s going to be okay and public high school proms are going to reflect what ROSMY’s alternative prom reflects,” Justin said. “Our involvement in the community shows us we have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal.”
Jamaica said that many LGBT youth just want to feel normal.
“There’s nothing better than walking into a room knowing that you’re not being looked at,” she said. “It’s good to standout, but sometimes, you want to have your own sense of community where it’s normal to be gay or lesbian or transgendered or bisexual.”