Minnesota LGBTQ+ youth celebrate third annual GSA Prom

The third annual Minnesota GSA Prom took place Friday night. Organized by the anti-bullying nonprofit Hate is Wrong, this alternative prom brings together LGBTQ+ students from the Twin Cities and beyond. 

Former NFL player Esera Tuaolo, the founder of Hate is Wrong; came out as gay in 2002 after retiring from football and has used his platform to champion diversity and inclusion in all forms.

Regular school proms are, by and large, rigidly cisgender and heterosexual experiences. Meanwhile, gay, transgender and gender-diverse high school students have to hide part of themselves to fit in and may not be able to be fully out for such a formative life event. Imagine not being allowed to dance with the person you love. 

That brings us to Friday night’s prom at Murzyn Hall in Columbia Heights, the Minneapolis skyline peeking out just beyond the front door bubble-machine bubbles.

Queerness was celebrated on the dance floor, the classic anthems à la Diana Ross and Madonna shuffled in with the Midwest Princess Chappell Roan.

"H-O-T T-O G-O, you can take me hot to go!" the prom-goers chanted, as balloons were being bopped into the air. Sure, there were a few wallflowers, but even they spared no effort putting together unique styles on that night.

And for the folks sensitive to loud sounds and overstimulation — who still wanted to have a good time, of course — a crafts area was up a staircase, away from the majority of decibels. Bracelet production was booming, and a few friendships probably bloomed too.

Coming out isn’t a "one and done" experience. Folks identifying as queer, including this photojournalist, come out to people in stages. Out of consideration for safety and self-preservation, it’s common for LGBTQ people to exclude family or certain family members in order to share their truth.

Not all the kids at GSA Prom are out to all the people in their lives, but if only for one night, they got to disregard that and have an authentic teen experience, a rite of passage. 

Their way.