The high-cost, prescribed clothes and traditions all vanished at the SF LGBT Center as it opened its doors last week to host Queer Prom for more than 100 young people.
“I’m really excited to be around my own people,” said Eley, a 21-year-old, who recalled how their mother had pushed them to wear a dress and makeup to their high-school prom. No matter that the theme last Friday was “opulence,” Eley was going their own way, ebullient in a suit with minimal makeup.
Forgoing the traditional prom king and queen titles, competitions included “Proudest Peach,” where participants showcased their distinctive Pride-inspired ensembles, and “Best Beat,” which celebrated the artistry of makeup and beauty, reminiscent of walking contests seen in queer ballroom culture. Local drag artists Helixer and Piss E. Sissy performed.
It was a “chance to relive the formative times with the happiness that we should’ve had, and in a space safe for true self-expression,” said Jamie, who attended with friends, Clay, Eddie and Luca. The quartet emphasized the accessibility of the event, which offered free admission, alleviating the expenses associated with costly tickets, attire, and other costs associated with a traditional prom.
Open to anyone between 16 to 24, Queer Prom was designed to offer a space for LGBTQ+ youth to redefine their prom experience in a safe and free setting.
Bynnie and Robin described their high school proms as revolving around and catering exclusively to “popular straight people.”
“I can now be queer inside and out,” said Bynnie. Robin added, “It just feels really comfortable being here; people are just like me.” They noted the presence of people of color and the need for greater representation and inclusivity within queer spaces.
“No one here is boring!” Bynie said.
Alyssa Avalos, the SF LGBT Center’s director of youth services, added, “Queer Prom is important, because it gives queer and trans folks a way to experience prom in an affirming and joyful way.”
The Center said it took great care to foster dynamics of respect and accommodation, including equipping stations with art supplies, playing lo-fi music for those with neurodivergent needs, and making pronoun stickers available throughout the venue. All catering services were selected from queer-owned establishments, further amplifying support for the community.
Alongside the delectable mocktails, infectious music, and spirited dancing, attendees said the standout feature of the event was the sheer excitement of “meeting all the gays!”