Pride Prom 2011
Reprinted excerpts from Friday’s article by Erin Petersen with event update and photo gallery by Brian Jacobson.
At 6 p.m. Saturday evening, a young DJ popped open the cork of dance music in the UW-Waukesha Commons Room, which sparkled with lights, stars, chiffon and a well-polished dance floor. Soon, the floor was flush with high heels and Converse flats, dresses and tuxes and people of all genders. To any outside observer, it looked the same as any other American prom.
It’s been a significant year in the ongoing LGBT rights movement in the U.S. In the face of government opposition and a startling rash of bullying and teen suicides, the grassroots effort to spread a message of tolerance and equality has grown ever stronger. Hundreds of thousands rallied behind the “It Gets Better Project” to give struggling LGBT youth hope for the future — that a world of acceptance and love does indeed exist outside of a potentially suppressive home/town/school.
Last year, a young lesbian student in Fulton, Mississippi wanted to take her girlfriend to the senior prom. The school refused to allow it, and even threatened to cancel prom altogether if the couple showed up. Within days, the story of Constance McMillan was covered by major media nationwide, viral on Facebook and her case was backed by the ACLU.
It was a combination of these events that inspired the Pride Alliance of UW-Waukesha to hold the first annual Pride Prom, open to all students and area high school seniors, as well as parents, teachers and allies.
“One of the things we recognized is that we want [the prom] to be open to anyone who really didn’t feel welcome at their prom,” says Vice President Emma Burgmeister.
Most dressed in formal attire, complete with masquerade wear, which was the theme for the evening. But there was plenty of skinny jeans and fauxhawks as well. While the prom itself was a relaxed and open event, it was also a significant one — especially given its location.
“This is Waukesha…,” says Burgmeister. “It’s a conservative county, and so a prom like this is a big step…I know it’s a step in the right direction.”
ThirdCoast Digest attended the first few hours of Pride Prom, before the space became overrun with happy attendees and we bid a quiet au revoir. You can catch our photo gallery below, or view it on our flickr account here.