The Prom Gives LGBTQ Teens Their Own Prom
May 23, 2019
Prom culture is a huge part of high school, and the prom is a classic event that’s often romanticized in cheesy teen-centered films. Being a hopeless romantic that grew up on said films, prom was one of the first things on my mind when I approached junior year. When I told my dad that I wanted to go to junior prom with my girlfriend last year, his first concern was whether it would be safe. After all, LGBTQ teens have historically been left out of events like the prom, discriminated against or even banned. Not to mention, my girlfriend was still closeted to adults and her parents, so she wanted to keep our relationship relatively private. By the time prom rolled around, I realized why my dad was concerned. As couples took photos together and got romantic on the dance floor, I felt forced to keep things more conservative. In fear of parent chaperones and judging eyes, we never truly acted couple-y. I felt like I missed out on the full experience.
The Prom, a new Broadway musical nominated for seven Tony awards, explores a similar conflict, with Indiana student Emma hoping to take her closeted girlfriend, Alyssa, to the school prom but ending up being banned from the event altogether. With the help of four washed-up Broadway actors, the story goes viral and introverted Emma is pushed into the role of an LGBTQ rights spokesperson. The musical acknowledges the struggle so many LGBTQ teens go through and makes them feel seen. Due to its popularity, The Prom is also receiving a book adaptation and a version of the show is being filmed for Netflix.
For our anniversary, I took my girlfriend to see The Prom. It was a fun date but also a way for me to try to experience what my prom experience had lacked. I was surrounded by an LGBTQ audience of all ages. I felt comfortable exchanging kisses with my girlfriend throughout the show and cuddling with her in the cushioned seats. I got a kick out of the Broadway industry-centric jokes and catchy songs while my heart connected with Emma and her story. Her simple wish to dance freely with Alyssa is turned into a political statement.
I held my girlfriend’s hand and didn’t care how tight my grasp might have been. I felt seen on stage and knew that I wanted to channel Emma’s strength. Going into senior prom this year, The Prom helped me feel a lot more confident in myself and my relationship, and it helped me realize that I don’t have to compare us to other couples.