Not long ago, a group of advocacy organizations and health programs geared toward helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth in the Baltimore area came together around a singular cause: the prom.
"There's constantly this conversation about safe spaces. What is not part of that conversation is prom," said Anastasia Pierron, a coordinator of care services for HIV-positive youth at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "But when you're talking about what a youth is going through in the sense of their whole journey through life, prom is this huge event."
The advocates decided LGBTQ and allied high school students in the state deserve a prom where they feel safe and welcomed, Pierron said. So they organized one.
The first-of-its-kind LGBTQ Prom is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 15 at the Pier 5 Hotel in downtown Baltimore, open to high-school students from around the state who are between the ages of 14 and 19 and have a state- or school-issued ID.
The event is free, but those who wish to attend must register here.
"Our hope is that youth come as they are, with whoever they want, and that they honestly feel safe, feel included, and feel comfortable to be themselves," Pierron said. "We're really striving for that to be the overall message."
It's a message that can be lost in more traditional prom celebrations, where LGBTQ students can feel ridiculed or rejected, especially if they bring a same-sex date, said Kurt Ragin, a youth services coordinator at STAR TRACK, a sexual health education program for LGBT youth at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"You don't want to be in that environment if you're hiding who you are," he said. "At this event, you'll be able to celebrate your true identity and your true self. That's why it's really important."
The event, titled "A Night Under the Stars," will feature a "mini resource fair" and a ballroom in which a DJ will play music for dancing, Pierron said. There will also be performances by two Baltimore drag queens, a Baltimore vogue dancer and a gay fraternity, Pierron said.
"We're just looking to expose these youth to performances that are very popular in the LGBTQ community," she said. "It's a night we're looking to give to the youth to have a blast."
The organizers are looking for corporate and other sponsors, Pierron said, in part to ensure they will be able to host the event every year.
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- The future of the Baltimore Eagle is entirely uncertain.
- ICYMI: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh wrote a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan saying a law passed this session to protect lesbian couples from discrimination in advanced fertility care in the state may "inadvertently" discriminate against straight couples.
- What happens when parents bully their gay kids?