Queer Prom: ‘Baby, you’re a firework’

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Avoiding harassment and bullying at Davis High School was tough for one gay teenager who  transferred there his senior year. C. McKay Tate moved to Davis from East High School and he may as well have moved into the Stone Age, he said.

“I sat down in one of my classes and the girl next to me raised her hand and asked to be moved. She said she didn’t want to get AIDS. The teacher let her move to the other side of the class,” Tate said.

Attending Davis High was a special kind of hell, Tate said.

“The football team would come up to me in the hall and ask me what it’s like to have butt-sex,” Tate said. “And then the entire team would hold a team prayer in the lunchroom. I guess so God would bless them with more touchdowns.”

Tate’s experience of bullying is not at all that unique, which is why he said he loves the different youth activities.

“Queer prom is one of the biggest gay events of the year,” Colton LeJeune, 18, said. “It is always one of my favorites.”
This will be LeJeune’s fourth queer prom. After attending his high school prom at Hillcrest High, he said the queer prom is more fun, has more dancing and a lot more people.

“The Hillcrest prom was OK, I guess,” LeJeune said. “But everyone should go to queer prom. It really is for everyone.”

This year, the Utah Pride Center will host the sixth annual queer prom. The event usually attracts approximately 700 people, and this year’s celebration looks like it is going to be a blast.

Many gay youth do not have the opportunity to go to a high school dance and feel comfortable, said Myles Davis, a youth program coordinator for the Pride Center.

Which is why the Utah Queer Prom is such an important alternative, he said. The prom offers an opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied youth to feel at ease and still have the iconic prom experience.

“This prom is to help youth be involved in an atmosphere that is supportive,” Davis said. “It helps surround the youth with positive and affirmative influences.”

The Utah Pride Center sponsors the event and uses the opportunity to spread awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and other issues affecting the queer community, Davis said. There are free HIV tests and other information about diseases, as well as resources for gay youth available at the dance.

The first prom was held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in 2006; however, the youth ran into homophobia and just the kind of thing a queer prom is supposed to avoid. Written across the flyers in the convention center were gay slurs, like the word ‘faggot,’ said Jude McNeil, the Center’s youth program director.

The queer prom, while sponsored and supervised by the Utah Pride Center and other volunteers, is planned and executed by the Queers in Action, the Center’s group for queer youth. From the theme, which is ‘Firework’ this year, to the decorations, the youth are involved in every step of the way. The group is also in charge of electing the prom royalty, which happens at the Big, Big Event the night before the prom. The event will conclude the National Day of Silence and includes a talent show and other great activities. During the day there will also be a conference for the statewide Queer Straight Alliance group.

The prom is open to youth age 14 to 20 and is held on April 16 from 8 p.m. until midnight at the Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South. Advance tickets are $5, and $10 at the door. For more information about the queer prom, or any other youth related activities, go to utahpridecenter.org.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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