The Queer Student Union brings prom to college!

“Queer” Balloons at Queer Prom 2019 source: Samantha Harvey
Photo by Samantha Harvey

For a small group of students at Hunter, Friday night was exceptionally queer. HA. Hunter’s Queer Student Union sponsored a revival of the club’s Queer Prom as a way to demonstrate pride and just show its members a good time. From choreographed dance routines, to the belting out of the lyrics to Ginuwine’s “Pony” when the speaker stopped working, Queer Prom demonstrated that Hunter’s LGBTQ+ community was ready to have some fun. Queer Prom was held in Thomas Hunter 105 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and was attended by about 20 people. The event provided attendees with snacks and sandwiches. No DJ here, the club played music from one person’s phone through a bluetooth speaker.

“I really wanted all of the queer students at Hunter to have a party that’s specifically for them because in high school and college there are all these dances but they’re not specifically for queer communities.” said Kai Whitehead, 19, treasurer of the Gay Man’s Alliance, who planned the event. “[Other events are] just predominantly and assumed to be for straight couples and heterosexual people so I wanted a safe space for the LGBT+ community to come and just be prideful.”

The Queer Student Union, which consists of LGBT student groups Lesbians Rising and the Gay Men’s Alliance, holds several small queer-positive events throughout the year. Two of the oldest LGBT groups on campus, Lesbians Rising was founded in 1971 and the Gay Men’s Alliance in 1978. QSU also held a clothing swap last month. The goal of the swap was to provide students with free clothing to better fit their gender identity. Events like this and Queer Prom are just some of the efforts the union has made to promote LGBTQ+ visibility at Hunter and provide students with accessible and affordable, if not free, resources.

Looking back at high school, prom for LGBTQ+ students was rarely a simple affair. For some it was traumatic, for some fun; some did not even attend to avoid the issue altogether.

“My prom experience was pretty fun,” said Whitehead. “It was basically your typical, what you see in a movie, prom. Lots of straight people,” she continued with a jovial laugh.

In 2017, Buzzfeed hosted its inaugural Queer Prom in Hollywood, California. The event garnered quite a bit of attention online with its YouTube series chronicling eight teens’ preparation for it. The Hunter Queer Prom is not a new idea, but it has been on hiatus for a while.

“There used to be a queer prom back in the day but the QSU went through some hiccups,” said Andrew Shkreli, president of Lesbians Rising. Members of Lesbians Rising and Gay Men’s Alliance often overlap, so the gender identities of the officers are of little concern to the club.

“I’m not a girl, and I’m not a lesbian,” he explained. “Unless someone has a strong preference, we don’t really care about who’s on where.”

The original Queer Prom was held at the beginning of the semester, acting as somewhat of a homecoming. The timing was also helpful in recruiting members. For this iteration, members of the union primarily just wanted to create a fun event – yet something that they see as extremely necessary and important for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“There are a lot of parties on campus, but I don’t feel welcome there if I were to bring a partner there. I just want a place where people can just go themselves and be incredible obnoxious with their partner and no one cares,” he said.

A partygoer, who attended Queer Prom with her partner, says that the experience was fun and made her feel “validated and safe.” She is, “not out publicly in that way, “ and prefers to remain anonymous.

“As a gay person it’s hard to find places where you don’t stick out or feel judged and I think having events like these give people a chance to be themselves with less anxiety and stigma from others,” she said.

The Queer Student Union might rename Queer Prom to “Pride Prom” in order to be more inclusive. In the meantime, the organization can be found on Instagram @hunter.qsu and on Facebook at HunterQSU or here on campus in Thomas Hunter room 309. The room is stocked with free period products, condoms for penises and vaginas, and pamphlets with information about safe sex.

“You don’t have to ask for them. We stock them on the regular,” said president of the Queer Student Union, Cole Dempsey, 20. “Now I have a relationship with Planned Parenthood and they’re supplying us with dental dams and condoms.”

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