By: Carina Belles
Balloons falling from the ceiling, blaring music and crazy costumes were just a few things to watch out for at ALLY’s annual Queer Prom. ALLY, a student group dedicated to raising awareness of LGBT issues, made it clear from the beginning that this was not a throwback to a typical high school dance.
“Queer Prom is a chance for people to experience a prom where they can bring the date of their choosing, and they won’t be discriminated against for any reason,” ALLY President and senior social work major Nicole Egger said. “Sometimes kids were not able to bring same-sex partners as their dates in high school, and Queer Prom gives people the opportunity to be themselves and experience a prom open to everyone.”
Since its induction in 2004, Queer Prom has become ALLY’s most popular student event, often drawing more than 100 attendees, Egger said.
“A lot of students come out every year, and we even have faculty come and show support,” she said. “I haven’t really talked to anyone who has had a problem with it.”
ALLY’s historian, junior P.J. Scott-Blankenship, said he was drawn to ALLY after attending Queer Prom his freshman year.
“The environment was unlike anything I’d ever felt before,” he said. “It was an open area where you were not only encouraged but expected to be yourself, regardless of what you’d been expected to do or be outside.”
This is a common sentiment among attendees, both gay and straight, who felt limited by their experiences with prom in high school.
“High school proms can be stereotypical sometimes and at Queer Prom you can just be yourself and no one cares,” junior education major Kelly Aker said.
Queer Prom turns the idea of a traditional high school prom on its head. Instead of wearing gowns and tuxedos, students are encouraged to wear whatever they like. Being elected king or queen is no longer a popularity contest, but a random selection that gives everyone a chance to be chosen. Most importantly, students can bring whomever they want to Queer Prom.
“It is a much more open environment,” Egger said. “You can take the date or dates of your choosing, or you can go solo. You can come in a t-shirt and jeans, or you can go all-out in a prom dress or tux.”
Scott-Blankenship said he loves the freedom brought by the Queer Prom experience.
“There is an acceptance and a purity about the entire program that is so much more than just the sum of its parts,” Scott-Blankenship said. “It’s almost like a snapshot of a better world.”
This year, the dance’s theme was “Super Queeros,” and students came dressed as their favorite superheroes, alter-egos, or whatever happened to pop into their heads. Aker said getting ready for Queer Prom is almost as fun as the event itself.
“Picking out a costume is the best part,” she said. “It’s so much better than what I normally do.”
Junior creative writing major Hayley Hoover said the elaborate costumes are probably what sets Queer Prom apart from a high school dance the most.
“I hated high school dances because of the heteronormativity, but at Queer Prom everyone comes together and just wants to have fun, and you get to wear cool costumes instead of stupid outfits,” she said.
ALLY’s Treasurer and senior magazine journalism major Ashley Braxton said that the unification of students at Queer Prom is the most rewarding part of the event.
“It integrates people who may ordinarily not be involved in the LGBT community,” she said. “It creates an inclusive environment on our campus, and it’s a great way for members of the LGBT community and allies to network with each other.”
“Ohio University has a reputation for accepting everyone, regardless of orientation, sex, race or creed,” he said. “Queer Prom, and any other LGBT-related events for that matter, are vital to every community because they promote awareness, if nothing else.”
Egger also said the acceptance of the LGBT community that Queer Prom promotes is important to her.
“OU needs this event to continue to celebrate our diversity and to show acceptance of all people on campus,” she said. “It’s a good way to show that we are sensitive to the issues that people in the LGBTQQIAA community have faced. In high school, things like prom were very painful to people.”
Hoover said she feels a sense of vindication after attending Queer Prom for the past three years.
“The rest of the world is like a straight pride parade and we just like having the night to celebrate being born this way,” she said.
Besides providing a safe place for LGBT youth, Queer Prom also gives straight allies like Aker the opportunity to show their support for the community.
“I think it builds a sense of community within OU, because not everyone who goes to Queer Prom is an LGBT student, but it’s a way for everyone to show support for each other,” Aker said.
Scott-Blankenship said he hopes this is the kind of environment he’s created with Queer Prom.
“Being a member of the LGBTQQIAA umbrella, I definitely want to push the change I want to see in the world,” he said. “I think it’s important to create a safe place where everyone feels welcome and free to be themselves without fear, if only for one night.”
Scott-Blankenship also said he considers this year’s prom to be a huge success.
“Every Queer Prom has been better than the last, this one included,” he said. “It’s amazing to see what a group of people can do when they’re united under a common goal.” —