BuzzFeed holds first Queer Prom to promote acceptance for LGBTQ teens

Prom should be for everyone—that’s why BuzzFeed will host their inaugural Queer Prom in Los Angeles this weekend. The event will be not only a fun and rewarding gathering for LGBTQ youth, but, in the words of BuzzFeed Development Partner Eugene Lee Yang, “a cultural imperative that the entirety of our personnel, from our CEO to our interns, strongly believe in.”

For many high school students, the significance of prom cannot be underestimated. Months can be spent planning the event and attire, countless pictures are taken and shared, and it is the subject of what can seem like every springtime conversation at school. Prom is both a major social event and a space to celebrate students and allow them to feel special.

The significance of prom for young people is tangible, and necessarily interacts with one’s sexual and romantic identities. In Yang’s words, prom is “the character-defining moment at the end of life’s first act when we’re expected to formally present ourselves for the first time, not only in dress, but also in romantic preference.” For young queer and trans* people who are not out or do not feel supported in their communities, the deep connection between sexuality, gender identity and this milestone can be very problematic.

Many proms have failed to celebrate or even include LGBTQ young people. Proms are mired in heteronormative and cisnormative traditions—the rigid and often forced expectation of girls in gowns and corsages going with guys in tuxedos and bouttonieres—make many queer and transgender young people feel alienated and excluded.

Yang notes that “for queer-identifying high school seniors, prom can present an incredibly repressive hurdle in someone’s coming-out journey—less ‘rite of passage’ and more just another ‘night of normativity.’” Further, the intensity with which many people feel compelled to uphold prom traditions can and does lead to actively antagonizing and purposefully excluding LGBTQ youth. Still today, students around the country are being barred from bringing same-gender partners as dates. 

Watch BuzzFeed staff talk about their experiences with prom and what this event means to them:

In response to these issues, and his own experience having attended prom as a young and “sexually uncertain” person, Yang began to organize BuzzFeed’s Queer Prom. He hopes that this event will reach not only the young people who will attend, but people across the world. In an article he wrote for Huffington Post, he says of the prom, “it’s a way to show young people all over the world that ‘normal’ is relative and produce a point of reference they may not believe exists.” Undoubtedly, the Queer Prom will provide a space where all LGBTQ youth feel welcome to a tradition and milestone they are entitled to, and safe being their true, authentic selves.

Read more from Yang on BuzzFeed's Queer Prom here.