Rose Gebhardt never attended prom in high school, but not because they didn’t want to.
The freshman undeclared BFA major is agender, meaning they don’t identify their gender as either male or female. Because the gender binary is closely associated with traditional proms, Gebhardt said they avoided the discomfort and hassle of prom at all costs.
But for the first time on Friday, Gebhardt was able to attend prom where everybody knew their gender identity, and they could dress the way they wanted—both were huge factors in their decision to attend.
The Queer Student Union hosted the “Come As You Are Prom” on Friday night in the Owl Cove in Mitten Hall. About 150 people attended the free event, including both LGBTQIA students and allies.
“For people who generally don’t fit under the [traditional] umbrella of what prom looks like, being able to finally go to a prom that suits their needs and suits their ideas, that’s really exciting,” Gebhardt said.
This event also aimed to bring visibility to QSU on Main Campus, and to invite new members to attend weekly general body meetings.
Come As You Are Prom has been in the planning stages for more than a year, said Anthony Sanchez, QSU’s external events coordinator and a junior sociology major.
“Come As You Are Prom is letting people be themselves at a formal event,” Sanchez said. “It’s to make up for a missed opportunity they probably had in high school when it came to a dance or a formal event, and they were restricted by certain rules that a school district put on them, whether that be the style of dress they wear, the date they bring and anything of that nature.”
“It’s a safe space for them to be themselves and to have a good time,” he added.
Before changing its name to Queer Student Union, the organization went by the name of “Common Ground.” Common Ground held a similar event to the Come As You Are Prom once a semester, but this event hasn’t been held in the last five years.
“The main difference of Come As You are Prom [compared to traditional proms] is it is more accepting,” Sanchez said. “However someone identifies … however you are as a person, you are free to be that person at prom.”
QSU member and sophomore English and biology major Tyrell Mann-Barnes said he never had trouble fitting in at his high school prom as a bisexual male, but he thought the event was put together well by QSU.
“I think [Come As You Are Prom] is very necessary,” Mann-Barnes said. “[It’s important] to have a place for inclusivity, where people can relive the [prom] experience that is so pivotal for so many people in high school, and they can live it how they genuinely are, how they genuinely want to.”
As attendees signed in to the table, they were asked to fill out a nametag with their name and preferred pronouns to eliminate confusion. The prom’s theme was “Paint the Night.”
Some allies attended the prom to show support for the LGBTQIA community at Temple.
“I had a couple friends who couldn’t bring the people that they wanted [as dates to high school prom],” freshman advertising major and ally Morgan Pivovarnik said. “I think this is a really good opportunity to redo your prom experience if it wasn’t what you wanted.”
QSU plans to hold inclusive proms like this again in the future, Sanchez said.
“I think the fact we have queer prom to begin with is an exciting concept,” Gebhardt said. “I think queer spaces and this prom being one of them is really big. It’s a big step in the right direction for having safe spaces for everybody.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Gill_McGoldrick.
Video by Linh Than.