AFTER A THREE-YEAR COVID-19-induced hiatus, the annual Queer Prom returned to San Francisco last Friday.
The event, organized and hosted by the San Francisco LGBT Center, provided an inclusive space for queer youth to celebrate themselves and their identities.
The center chose the prom’s theme, “opulence,” to reflect the unique needs of the queer and trans youth community in the Bay Area. As states nationwide pass legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community, the prom took on an even greater significance.
“With a lot happening across the country, the prom night validates the care and love we have for the community,” said Alyssa Avalos, director of youth services at the center. “We wanted them to feel that luxury for a night.”
Vibrant colors, glittering outfits, and an electric atmosphere radiated through the Rainbow Room, the center’s main event space. There, attendees celebrated a night of resilience, love, and acceptance — a kind of emotional well-being that Ziggy DeBerry, a youth programs specialist at the center, said is essential, especially for Black trans youth.
A haven from hostility
DeBerry, 22, identifies as nonbinary and queer. They said ongoing debates surrounding gender and trans issues created a hostile environment for the queer community. DeBerry said the center continues to be a shelter for scores of trans youth who travel from different states to seek hormonal replacement therapy (HRT).
“In the past couple of months, since I’ve been here, there have been a handful of trans women fleeing different states. We have people fleeing Tennessee, fleeing Texas.” DeBerry said. “These people, their HRT is potentially their safety. Their general safety is at risk.”
Growing up in a church and living in the predominantly white, conservative town of Santa Clarita in Southern California, DeBerry said they actively sought out and built queer and trans communities outside their religious environment.
“In the past couple of months, since I’ve been here, there have been a handful of trans women fleeing different states. … These people, their HRT is potentially their safety. Their general safety is at risk.”Ziggy DeBerry, San Francisco LGBT Center
“That is my goal,” DeBerry reflected, saying prom brings a sense of belonging to trans and queer youth facing homelessness. “We are working and ensuring that queer and trans youth are set up for success.”
Since joining the LGBT Center, DeBerry took the initiative to create a support and community group that amplifies the voices and addresses the needs of marginalized communities within the LGBTQ spectrum. At the prom event, the 22-year-old advised attendees to speak up whenever they needed emotional, financial, or mental help.
An estimated 120 young people attended the event. Unlike previously held formal queer dance nights, this year’s was different. Organizers did not announce a prom king and queen. Instead, they awarded all prom attendees.
“It is a moment to deconstruct prom’s often historical roots in heteronormative and binary-focused traditions,” Avalos said. “To recognize the value of building safe spaces and its power to help queer youth.”