Students arrived to an arch of rainbow balloons, dimmed lighting with a disco ball of flashing colors, streamers twirled like the end of a pigtail as the music reduces the ability to hear clearly. The room heated up when students and guests arrived and as everyone moved to the beat of the bass.
Queer Alliance’s Big Gay Prom was a night to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and allow members of the community to express themselves in a comfortable space. High school proms are usually a heteronormative focused event that is not inclusive. Queer Alliance was working with the biggest budget they’ve had and wanted to make sure everything was free so students could enjoy themselves.
This was an opportunity for students who aren’t out to their families or did not get to experience their high school prom with their partners to enjoy a night of music and fun in a provided safe environment.
Not only did Queer Alliance put on upbeat music with a spacious dance floor, they had a photo booth for attendees to snap small moments of fun to take home. They also provided their guests with food and beverages.
Groups of friends, couples and individuals lined up at the photo booth with feather boas and silly props as they exchanged laughter in between shots.
“Anyone can attend, it’s all free,” Queer Alliance Vice President Frances Guzman said. “We feel really good [about the outcome], we know that this is the biggest budget we’ve had within the past several years. And we feel we really used it up to its full potential and allowed people to come. It’s not just PCC students…there’s high school students, it’s just really a broad diversity of queer students and allies supporting us.”
The guest attendance surpassed board members of Queer Alliance’s expectations, making members proud of the work and effort they put into planning this event, even when they faced a few hiccups here and there. Queer Alliance were not disappointed because in the end everything came together.
“Honestly I am very happy about the outcome, I was here last semester when we had another Big Gay Prom and unfortunately the turn out wasn’t as great as today,” said ICC Rep Katelyn Mclellan. “We have a lot of students from Cal Tech, the Foothill Campus as well as the Rosemead Campus.”
Events like Big Gay Prom are created in the aims of students of the LGBTQ+ community to feel more included and provide a more comfortable environment. Queer Alliance is working towards creating a better community for their peers here at PCC.
Events that are focused on the LGBTQ+ community creates a better environment for students who want an open space, with no judgement and where they can express themselves with others who can empathize.
“I definitely feel safety is a big factor when going out in queer relationships, I didn’t feel comfortable in my high school,” said secretary Michelle Morillo. “No one’s going to judge you, harass you.”
Morrillo feels it’s important for allies to accept all forms of genders to build a stronger and more supportive community.
There was high security present at Big Gay Prom that made some students feel like it was more of a hostile environment rather than feeling safe with campus police sending an excessive amount of officers to patrol the area.
“It doesn’t help that they have such a large police security walking through, it makes people uncomfortable,” said student Sean M Kelley. “I know it’s there for security… but we’ve already had 30 different police officers walk through. It just makes you uneasy, you don’t want to hang out, you don’t want to dance and you don’t know who’s watching you.”
Another ICC Rep and Safe Zones Liaison, Daniel Erdody, believes the club has had amazing turnouts in meeting attendance lately. As one of the largest clubs on campus, Queer Alliance has had a lot of influence when Associated Students (A.S.) and Queer Alliance recently met with the new President of PCC and were able to communicate their goals and the direction they want to head for on campus.
“It’s always going to be a process and often times a slow process, but PCC has been really open towards moving in the right direction,” said Erdody. “We did ask campus police to have a large presence at this event, just as we have at all our other Queer Alliance events and that’s suppose to be more for safety than to make others anxious.”
Erdody also mentioned that all the campus police have had some training towards marginalized communities specifically LGBTQ+ and undocumented students through the Safe Zone program such as Ally-ship training. These programs teach campus officers how to deal with certain situations in an ethical manner.
“I think [Big Gay Prom] is important because it makes LGBTQ+ people feel more equal to everyone else because there’s regular prom and then there’s our prom…” said Celeste Jaramillo. “I look forward to it every time.”
Jaramillo enjoys Queer Alliance because they always try to inform meeting attendees about the history of the LGBTQ+ community. They look forward to more upcoming events just like Big Gay Prom.
“Queer high schoolers usually don’t have prom for themselves, it’s usually their straight friends that go. It’s really straight centered,” said Guzman. “Asking your girlfriend to prom or asking someone else, maybe your boyfriend, it’s not normal or not seen as often. It’s hard and awkward if you were to do that for the first time without anyone before you.”
Queer Alliance put their best efforts into creating a memorable night. While everyone was individually in charge of something, together they created something special to them. As a club, together they continue to put in the effort to improve the LGBTQ+ community around them at PCC.