Teens organise ‘queer prom’ to create ‘safe space’ for LGBT+ youth

High school student holds prom crowns as she talks about her Queer Prom event to help LGBT+ youth in the local community

Students in northern Utah have thrown an inclusive prom to create a “safe space” for LGBT+ kids to have fun. 

Jocelyn Anglesey, a senior at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts in Ogden, told KSL TV that students in their final year were asked to plan a project to solve a problem. 

So she decided to create an event for LGBT+ teens like her to feel more accepted and provide a safe space for queer youth in the area.

“Dances have really heavy stigmas around them,” Anglesey said. “A lot of schools don’t even allow like same-sex couples to come in.”

The Queer Prom, which took place on Saturday (26 March), was held in the school’s gym and had booths dotted around the event to offer support, makeup advice and fashion tips to attendees. 

“Kids need to be able to have a safe space that’s monitored by parents and a place where they know that there is informational booths that they can talk to if they need anything,” Anglesey said.

Anglesey initially thought the Queer Prom would initially be a small social gathering, but she had been contacted by hundreds of people wanting to attend the event. She said many people were “excited” that the teen was “throwing something that they could come to”. 

Bliss Van Der Venter told KSL TV she previously had the idea when she was a senior at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts last year. But she couldn’t bring the party to life because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

So she mentioned the idea to Anglesey, who she said thought it was the “coolest thing ever”. Van Der Venter said the other teen took the idea and “ran with it”, bringing it to life for the LGBT+ teens in the area. 

“We are all very lucky to live here, and yet a lot of people don’t get the privilege of feeling safe in their own homes or at school,” Bliss Van Der Venter.

Anglesey said “everyone needs that” space where they feel supported, and that “no one should be reprimanded for who they are”. 

Local LGBT+ group Ogden Pride told KSL TV that they were looking into how to keep the Queer Prom going for years to come so more queer kids can enjoy the event in the future. 

The inclusive dance comes as a growing number of anti-LGBT+ bills are being debated in legislatures around the US. 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported that over 320 anti-LGBT+ bills are under consideration across the country, and at least 130 directly target the trans community. Of those, approximately half would ban trans students from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

Republican lawmakers in Utah overrode a veto by governor Spencer Cox on Friday (25 March) and enacted a bill that would ban trans youth from competing in girls’ sports in the state. 

Utah is now the 12th state in the US to ban trans kids in school sports, and it’s the third state to pass such legislation this year alone. 

In a letter explaining his veto, Cox explained that only four of the estimated 75,000 high school students participating in sports in Utah are trans. He said these students aren’t “dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships”. 

Cos said the students are just trying to “get through each day”, try to make friends and “feel like they are a part of something”. 

He noted that trans youth have faced waves of hateful vitriol just for living as their authentic selves, saying “rarely has so much fear and anger been directed as so few”. 

The HRC has vowed to use “every tool at our disposal” to right for trans youth in Utah. The ACLU of Utah said that “litigation” to stop the bill from “taking effect” in July is “now both necessary and inevitable”.