Tim’s first prom started off like many others. He had a rented tuxedo, a beautiful boutonniere – blue to match his eyes – and he waved goodbye to his mom as he drove away. He picked up his date who was dressed in a short, black skirt and tight black tank top. Her eye shadow was dark and she greeted him with a peck on the cheek.
They held hands as they walked to his car and he opened the door for her.
“I’ll never forget what her mom said as we got in the car,” Tim said. “She stuck her head out the door and yelled, ‘Have a great time at the gay prom!’ I had always wanted my mother to have the same kind of attitude, but she thought I was going to a regular prom, not the gay one.”
The couple made their way to the Salt Lake City Library and joined the more than 700 hundred other teens who were there to dance, hang out and just be together in a nonjudgmental and safe atmosphere.
“It was the first time I had been to a gay event. I couldn’t believe how many people there were who were just like me. It was just so amazing to be able to hang out with so many other gay people,” Tim said.
Although he is out to a few of his friends, the high school junior is not open about his sexuality with his parents. He said he is waiting until he graduates high school and moves away for college where he hopes to study veterinarian science before he drops the bombshell on his parents.
“I just don’t know how they would react. I think they would be really, really angry with me. They’ve talked about gay people before and it’s never been pretty,” he said. “But until then, I am going to keep going to the prom and other activities. It helps me get by.”
Just like Tim, hundreds of students gather each year for the queer-inclusive prom celebration. It is the culmination of a weekend’s events that include a Youth Empowerment Summit and a Day of Silence. This year’s prom and YES Summit are sponsored by the Utah Pride Center and held April 20-21.
The YES Summit will have three sections of workshops; one for high school students, one for college students and a third for parents, families and friends, said Danielle Watters, the Center’s director of community support and wellness services.
The summit will attract youth and families from around the state and will be held at Westminster College. Kicking off at 9:30 a.m., the summit is a gathering place for queer student alliance members and others interested in being involved. The queer and ally support group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays will also be participating and offering workshops during the summit. Although many of the classes will be specific to an age group, lunch and other breaks will give everyone a chance to mix and mingle, Watters said. From 4:30 p.m. until the dance opens, volunteer estheticians will help prep youth with their makeup and hair.
Queer Prom will be chaperoned and alcohol- and drug-free at the Salt Lake City Library on April 21, 8 p.m. A live disc jockey, food, free HIV testing and just an overall welcoming environment for all queer and allied youth will make this gathering the party not to miss. People ages 14-20 years old are invited to attend.
“This year’s theme is Indestructible, based on the song by Robyn,” Watters said. “I think the song and theme really demonstrates the attitude that we all dare to survive and resist in our own ways. Rather than hope and wait for something better to come, we’re in the fight now.”
For more information and to purchase tickets in advance to the YES Summit and Queer Prom, go to utahpridecenter.org.