Kitchener-Waterloo·Photos

Pride Prom gives queer youth in Kitchener-Waterloo place to celebrate their identities

Two youth groups hosted their 10th annual Pride Prom for queer youth in Waterloo region.

'They get to be themselves and feel 100 per cent comfy in their skin,' teen organizer says

Youth attending Pride Prom pose in front of Kitchener's first rainbow crosswalk before the party. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

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. 

Kaitlin Trowhill, the volunteer director of the program, sets up the event with youth from KYAC and OK2BME (Peggy Lam/CBC)
TJ Laurin poses near the entryway of the dancefloor. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

"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. 

A group of friends pose on the dancefloor (Peggy Lam/CBC)
Slow dancers (Peggy Lam/CBC)

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."

Doors opened at 6:30 p.m and the party extended beyond midnight. (Peggy Lam/CBC)
Youth dance under a disco ball. (Peggy Lam/CBC)
The dance party lasted beyond midnight. Waterloo Regional Police Service was present to patrol the auditorium and many youth showed their pride by wearing rainbow flags and neon glow sticks.

"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." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peggy Lam

Reporter

Peggy is a reporter based in Winnipeg. She has worked for the CBC in Vancouver, Toronto, St. John's, Kitchener-Waterloo and Edmonton. Got a story idea? Email her at peggy.lam@cbc.ca or tweet her @peggylam_

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