Reinventing Prom for the Queer Community

Last Saturday, Colorado College’s Queer Community Coalition hosted their annual Queer Prom, which “aims to create a space for people who were not able to attend their proms and be their true selves due to their sexual/gender/romantic identities,” explained Dereka Thomas, ’20.

Photo courtesy of Bridget Galaty

This year’s Queer Prom theme was “We’re Here; We’re Queer+; Get Used To It.” It had the highest attendance of any queer prom to date.  “We got a lot more money this year for Queer Prom than we’ve ever gotten before,” said Breanna Conwell, the junior in charge of decorating for the event, among other tasks. “It’s the only queer event on campus that’s substance-free, and we don’t have a lot of sponsored queer events in general.”

The event, held in McHugh Commons above the Preserve, featured typical “prom things,” like a photo booth, music, dancing, and the crowning of prom royalty.  “The top three people who got voted got crowned,” said Conwell, who received a crown themself, which they described as “very unexpected but very cool.” They also described their own experiences with prom in high school, and emphasized why Queer Prom is such an important event.  “Going to prom as a queer person in rural South Carolina was not fun,” they said. “You either go alone, or you go with a beard or something, but you’re just never super comfortable. It’s great to be in a room full of queer people that just want to have a good prom time that they didn’t ever get to have in high school.”

“Queer Prom is open to all members of CC’s LGBTQIA+ community,” Thomas said when asked about the inclusivity of the event. “Members of the community are also welcome to invite friends/partners/family members who may not be a part of the queer community, but who would make the night a little more special for those who are.”

“We think that, especially given that most CC parties are very cis and heteronormative, we just hope that the memo gets out that this is the one space that we have for ourselves, so we’re hoping that it’s just queer people,” Conwell added.

As mentioned before, the theme was “We’re Here; We’re Queer+; Get Used to It,”  and Conwell described the “plus” as “trying to be more inclusive of the people who may not be comfortable falling under the identity of “queer.” “Queer is a word of reclamation, but some people are comfortable using it, and some people aren’t, so we just try to be as inclusive as possible,” Conwell said.

The theme was very intentionally formulated to acknowledge the uniqueness of each student. “The planning committee, and those who submitted their theme ideas, felt that it was necessary to celebrate all of the identities that make up the queer community, especially in this political climate,” said Thomas. “We decorated the event space with pride gear and gave attendees the opportunity to decorate a ‘What Being Queer+ Means to Me’ poster.”

Though Conwell described Queer Prom as the only strictly substance-free event on campus, both Conwell and Thomas talked about other queer events put on by various CC organizations. “Last semester, QCC and the Queer People of Color Collective collaborated on ‘Queek,’ a week-long celebration of CC’s queer community,” said Thomas. “The week kicked off with a film screening, and during the week there was a barbeque, a QCC dinner, an event for National Coming Out Day, and a Queer Homecoming dance. We hope to bring back Queek next year as well.”

A large portion of attendees this year were first-years, which gives Conwell high hopes for the future of queer prom moving forward. “At least in my three years of being here, there’s been a growing and waning period of people wanting queer spaces and queer events and not wanting them,” Conwell said. “It just depends on the vibe of what people feel, but every year we have more and more freshmen that want those spaces.”

Queer Proms are hosted around the country—and “perhaps even all around the world,” as Thomas added—by colleges and by large queer rights organizations. “Eventually, I’d love to see CC’s Queer Prom become an event that students from other colleges in the area attend as well,” Thomas said.

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