Prom is a special time of year, but unfortunately, the memories gained from a prom aren't always balloons and ball gowns for everyone.
prom (n): a formal dance held for a school class toward the end of the academic year [syn: promenade]
Every year, as millions of students around the country prepare by finding dresses and tuxes, renting cars or planning after-parties, thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are left waiting for it all to be over. All to often, memories gained from proms by LGBT students range from facing harassment and discrimination, feeling alienated and/or forced to take a date other then their partner, or even sitting at home alone, missing out on the activities all together. Others, usually living near a more progressive city, instead attend LGBT community proms, specifically held to provide a safe and inclusive place
for all students. And while such LGBT events can be empowering events in their own right, they often can't compensate for the feeling of isolation felt from not being able to share in their own school's prom. Even more important, though LGBT community proms can be found in most major cities around the country, the majority of LGBT students continue to find themselves left without.
Then there are inclusive and safe proms--ironically unique--that welcome and embrace all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Though exceptions, and not the rule, they're becoming more common, and students are leading the way.
So what makes a safe and inclusive school prom? Of course, a prom can only be as inclusive as the students who attend it are, but here are some steps other students have taken, are taking, or would like to see taken, in order to create safer, more inclusive and more respectful school proms. Check in your school who you'd need to work with to have the following done, either through a prom committee, the school administration, or the entire school district.
- Prom Policies
Work to ensure that policies are inclusive of same sex/gender and non-partnered couples. This way, students can attend with anyone they wish, or alone, regardless of another's sex/gender.
- Dress Codes
Work to ensure that dress codes are inclusive by allowing students to adorn the prom attire of their own desire, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
- Prom Activities
Find other activities or celebratory ceremonies to conduct other than the naming of a prom king and queen, as this alienates students who may not fit the traditional heterosexual King and Queen roles. Some tactics include numerous, self-nominated "kings" and "queens," with each category open to anyone, regardless of gender identity, and not paring the groups afterwards as "couples." Other groups have found other fulfilling activities and awards events such as "best dressed," which allow for more students to fully participate.
- A Night Without Hate Pledge
Upon picking up their prom tickets, at the prom entrance or in school during the month before the prom, students sign a pledge towards creating a safe space for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
- Chaperone & Staff Training
Discuss with, and provide trainings for, staff and chaperones who'll be supporting the prom event, ensuring they understand and will treat all students equally, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or that of their partner.
Is your school discriminating against LGBT students? Won't allow same-gender partners to attend? Won't allow you to express your gender identity in a way that's comfortable for you, or in a way you desire?
Read how Aaron Fricke won the legal right for students to attend the prom with a same-gender partner.
Network with other students who've started, or are starting, gay-straight alliances towards creating safer schools.
Find your chapter and learn new ways to make your school a safer place using the GLSEN Chapter Locator