Pride Prom gives queer youth in Kitchener-Waterloo place to celebrate their identities
'They get to be themselves and feel 100 per cent comfy in their skin,' teen organizer says
More than 130 youth danced the night away at a prom in the auditorium at 44 Gaukel Street, in Kitchener, Ont., on Friday night
But this prom was not your typical high school dance.
Pride Prom — in its tenth year running and organized by the OK2BME youth leadership program and Kitchener's Youth Action Council — is intended to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth and their friends to come party and dance.
"It's just a matter of being able to express yourself," said TJ Laurin, a non-binary high school student and member of the OK2BEME youth group, who uses the pronouns "they" and "them."
"[At] my actual prom, my parents are forcing me to go in a dress and so I know that, for some people, events like this are the only time they get to be themselves and feel 100 per cent comfy in their skin and feel safe," Laurin said.
Washington Silk, the coordinator and counsellor of the program, said the event was sold out.
"When you feel your best in life, you feel celebrated and loved, so it's more than just about safety. It's about celebration, love, support and affirmation and being able to come and dance and hang out," Silk said.
Ethan Vallis, a member of KYAC, said he has been attending Pride Prom since 2013 — when he was in high school.
Now, in his early twenties, Vallis still comes back as a volunteer to help organize the event.
"It started out back then as a safety thing," Vallis said.
"Now it's a lot more of a celebration, people come here to have just a lot of fun and it isn't just an escape from their own prom."
"My favourite part about Pride Prom is watching people leave at the end of the night with a smile on their face," said Laurin.
"It's the most overwhelming feeling — that I can give that to someone by helping organize something like this [and] that people can feel that kind of joy."